Recent events signal need to prepare for climate change

This year’s Tasman fires and last year’s Cyclone Gita are giving the New Zealand public a taste of what could be coming as our climate changes, says Dr Judy Lawrence, Senior Research Fellow at the Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington.  This is part of the message she will be delivering to The New Zealand Agricultural Climate Change Conference 2019, to be held in Palmerston North on April 8-9.

New Zealand’s most important agricultural conference on climate change for two years will bring together scientists, government policy advisors, farmers and industry leaders to discuss the theme of meeting the challenges of climate change with respect to farming.

Dr Lawrence was the co-chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working group that reported to Government in December 2017 and May 2018 with a stock-take of adaptation action and recommendations on adapting to climate change.

She says events like the Tasman fires and Cyclone Gita are a possible indication of things to come.

“Before that in 2017 the south of New Zealand experienced a very heavy rainfall event that stretched our resources. Coastal properties in low-lying roads have been flooded in Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the West Coast.

“In Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel, estuary margins are increasingly being flooded. These events will become more intense and, as the seas keep rising, flooding will be permanent in some areas and occur also on sunny days.”

Dr Lawrence says these ‘events’ underline the urgency of getting organised to deal with the changing climate risk profile that confronts this country.

She will outline several actions that can be taken to adapt to the challenges ahead, on the second day of the conference.

The conference, organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, will be held at the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre, 354 Main Street.

Presentations will be given by New Zealand science, industry and policy leaders.

The programme will draw on published scientific work and the research projects being conducted by the Agricultural Gas Research Centre, the Pastoral Green Gas Research Consortium and by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research Programme.

Attendance is free but registration is required. For more information or to register please go to https://www.nzagrc.org.nz/conference.html

Separating cars from cows in climate policy

Long-lived atmospheric pollutants that build up over centuries, like CO2, should be treated differently from short-lived pollutants which disappear within a few years, like methane, an international team of researchers is arguing.

The collaboration involved Victoria University of Wellington researchers.

The Government should pay heed to the team’s recommendation before further regulating New Zealand’s biggest industries in the agricultural sector.

Current policies tend to treat all pollutants as equivalent, the researchers say. But methane should be treated differently and a separate climate change policy is needed to regulate methane emissions.

Scimex reports a press statement from Victoria University of Wellington HERE.

A new collaboration between researchers at Victoria University of Wellington, the Universities of Oxford and Reading in the United Kingdom and the Centre for International Climate Research in Norway shows a better way to think about how methane might fit into carbon budgets, the statement says.

“Current climate change policy suggests a ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with emissions,” says Professor Dave Frame, head of Victoria University’s Climate Change Research Institute.

“But there are two distinct types of emissions, and to properly address climate change and create fair and accurate climate change policy we must treat these two groups differently.”

The two types of emissions that contribute to climate change can be divided into ‘long-lived’ and ‘short-lived’ pollutants.

“Long-lived pollutants, like carbon dioxide, persist in the atmosphere, building up over centuries,” says Dr Michelle Cain, from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford.

“The carbon dioxide created by burning coal in the 18th century is still affecting the climate today.

“Short-lived pollutants, like methane, disappear within a few years. Their effect on the climate is important but very different from that of carbon dioxide, yet current policies treat them all as equivalent.”

The research collaboration proposes a new approach to climate change policy that would address the effects of these different emissions.

This would be particularly relevant to New Zealand agriculture.

“We don’t actually need to give up eating meat or dairy to stabilise global temperatures,” says Professor Myles Allen from the University of Oxford, who led the study.

“We just need to stop increasing emissions from these sources. But we do need to give up dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Climate policies could be designed to reflect this.”

Under current policies, industries that produce methane are managed as though that methane has a permanently worsening effect on the climate, says Professor Frame.

“But this is not the case. Implementing a policy that better reflects the actual impact of different pollutants on global temperatures would give agriculture a fair and reasonable way to manage their emissions and reduce their impact on the environment.

“Implementing a policy like this would show New Zealand to be leaders and innovators in climate change policy. It would also help New Zealand efficiently manage their emissions, and could even get us to the point where we manage them so well we stop contributing to global climate change at all.”

The research can be seen in npj/Climate and Atmospheric Science HERE.

Source: Scimex

Chilly welcome for climate change sceptic

New Zealand’s top climate change scientists have rallied together to challenge a British sceptic who is touring the country to proclaim global warming as a myth that should be ignored, the NZ Herald reports (here).

Lord Christopher Monckton, a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, is on a 16-venue nationwide speaking tour telling New Zealanders they shouldn’t be worried about rising temperatures or sea levels.

He says carbon taxes and emissions-trading schemes should be scrapped because they are too expensive.

But government scientists and academics have warned that Lord Monckton’s views are not based on science, and go against all the research they have done and read.

Dr James Renwick, associate professor of physical geography at Victoria University, dismissed Lord Monckton’s views as “rubbish”.

“He’s a great showman and speaker, and climate change is a vehicle to self-publicise.

“But he has no training and has studiously avoided learning anything about science, I would say.”

Niwa principal scientist Brett Mullan has criticised Lord Monckton’s views as “very damaging” for public perception.

Professor Dave Frame, director of the Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University, described him as a “vaudeville act” to be ignored.