Govt’s seeks feedback on blueprint for adapting to a warmer world

New Zealanders can have their say from today on a proposed National Adaptation Plan to help communities across the country adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

Reforming resource management, bringing in laws to support managed retreat, and updating how the government handles emergencies are among the top priorities in the draft plan.

The plan aims at bringing down emissions and helping prevent the worst effects of climate change, but must also support communities already being hit by more extreme and more frequent weather events, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said.

Central Government does not bear all the costs under the proposal.  The consultation asks how best to share risks and costs between property and asset owners, insurers, banks and local government as well.

It also asks for views on managed retreat and flood insurance, to ensure a joined-up approach to climate change adaptation. Continue reading

Agriculture and climate change combined can halve insect populations

Interplay between historical climate warming and intensive agricultural land use is associated with a reduction of almost 50% in insect abundance, reports a paper in Nature.

Climate change and land-use change are known to affect insect biodiversity, and these factors can act synergistically; for example, removing natural habitats to make agricultural land can alter the microclimate and increase temperature extremes. But the effect of interactions between these factors and insect biodiversity is less well understood than for other animal species.

To address this gap in knowledge, Charlotte Outhwaite, Peter McCann and Tim Newbold combined data on temperature changes and land-use changes with data on insect biodiversity in more than 6,000 different locations around the world, with the data spanning a 20-year period. Continue reading

Relocating farmland could turn back clock 20 years on carbon emissions, scientists say

Scientists have produced a map showing where the world’s major food crops should be grown to maximise yield and minimise environmental impact. This would capture large amounts of carbon, increase biodiversity, and cut agricultural use of freshwater to zero.

The reimagined world map of agriculture includes large new farming areas for many major crops around the cornbelt in the mid-western US, and below the Sahara desert. Huge areas of farmland in Europe and India would be restored to natural habitat.

The redesign — assuming high-input, mechanised farming — would cut the carbon impact of global croplands by 71%, by allowing land to revert to its natural, forested state. This is the equivalent of capturing twenty years’ worth of our current net CO2 emissions. Trees capture carbon as they grow, and also enable more carbon to be captured by the soil than when crops are grown in it. Continue reading

Global warming is amplifying the water cycle much faster than expected

The global water cycle – the constant movement of freshwater between the clouds, land and the ocean – plays an important role in our daily lives. This delicate system transports water from the ocean to the land, helping to make our environment habitable and soil fertile.

But rising global temperatures have been making this system more extreme: water is moving away from dry regions towards wet regions, causing droughts to worsen in parts of the globe while intensifying rainfall events and flooding in others.

In other words, wet areas are getting wetter, and dry areas are getting drier.

Until now, changes to the cycle have been difficult to directly observe, with around 80% of global rainfall and evaporation happening over the ocean.

But a new University of New South Wales-led study, published this week in Nature, has used changing patterns of salt in the ocean to estimate how much ocean freshwater has moved from the equator to the poles since 1970. The findings show that between two and four times more freshwater has moved than climate models anticipated – giving us insights about how the global water cycle is amplifying as a whole. Continue reading

Wheat shifts its pest defenses under future climate conditions

Higher CO2 levels under future climate conditions may cause wheat to shift its pest defence strategy, according to Australian research.

When the researchers grew wheat under higher levels of CO2, they found it switched from silicon-based defences (these reduced by 19%) to carbon-based defences.

The good news is that the plants were still able to resist the cotton bollworm, a global wheat pest.

The switch wasn’t enough to change resistance to this pest, but it may impact resistance to others, so applying silicon fertilisers may help maintain pest resistance in future climates, the authors say.

Just three grass crops – wheat, maize and rice – provide 42% of human calories. Continue reading

Discussion paper outlines carbon farming threat to sheep and beef sector

A discussion paper released today calls for urgent national policy changes to ensure the increase in carbon farming to meet New Zealand’s climate change obligations does not come at the expense of the country’s rural communities.

The Green Paper by former Hastings Mayor and MP Lawrence Yule, titled Managing Forestry Land-Use Under the Influence of Carbon, calls for a more strategic approach to planting trees and outlines policy areas for urgent investigation to address the issue.

The paper has been released ahead of a workshop next month involving a range of key stakeholders including Forestry Minister Stuart Nash, councils, forestry interests, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) and Local Government New Zealand.

Mr Yule said the paper outlines the real risk that short-term land-use decisions will be made to the detriment of long-term land-use flexibility, rural communities and export returns. Continue reading

Key crops face major shifts in response to global warming

The BBC has reported the results of a new study which finds the parts of the world suitable for growing coffee, cashews and avocados will change dramatically as the world heats up.

On the other hand, New Zealand is among the countries where growing areas will become more suitable for coffee.

The research has been published in the journal Plos One.

Key coffee regions in Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam and Colombia will all “drastically decrease” by around 50 per cent by 2050.

Suitable areas for cashews and avocados will increase but most will be far from current sites of production.

The authors say that greater efforts must be made to help farmers adapt. Continue reading

How climate change is affecting the way plants grow

Plants are changing the way they grow in response to a warming climate, but what’s happening above ground doesn’t necessarily match what’s happening under the surface, according to international experts.

The team analysed 88 studies on the impact of climate change on plant growth, and found herbaceous plants were beginning and ending their growing seasons earlier above ground. However, the researchers say the activity underground for the same plants was unchanged.

In woody plants the researchers say they found the opposite – growth patterns didn’t change above ground but the growing season underground was extended.

The researchers say more data is needed to understand the difference between above and below-ground changes.

Their paper on plant responses to climate change may differ above and below ground as been published in Nature Climate Change.

A press statement announcing the research says:

The timing of plant life events — such as the emergence of spring leaves, flowering and the loss of leaves in the autumn — is crucial for their fitness and survival and has important implications for human food resources, ecosystem functioning and carbon cycles worldwide. Climate change has led to shifts in various plant life events, as demonstrated by above-ground changes. However, changes that may be occurring in the soil have been under-investigated — despite the important role of root systems in plant growth and terrestrial ecosystem productivity.

Xuhui Zhou and colleagues analysed data from 88 published studies, revealing a mismatch between above- and below-ground plant responses to climate change, which differ depending on the type of plant investigated. Herbaceous plants, for example, were found to have an earlier start and end to their above-ground growing season, resulting in no change in overall growing season length; however, below-ground responses remained unchanged. By contrast, in woody plants, climate warming did not change above-ground responses but did extend the below-ground growing season.

In their conclusion, the authors emphasise caution in interpreting these results given the study’s small sample size. This is owing to available data constraints, in particular, the limited availability of studies focused on below-ground changes, which can strongly influence plant growth and terrestrial carbon cycles. Subsequently, they suggest  there is an urgent need for further research

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41558-021-01244-x

Source:  Scimex 

World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree attracts new scholarships

Tower is pledging $45,000 over three years to support students in a world-first Bachelor of Climate Change degree at the University of Waikato.

The three-year degree offers a combination of scientific knowledge, socio-economic understanding, and cultural diversity of climate change issues. Students will not only learn from expert researchers at the University, but also get the chance to see real-world cases where climate change is impacting groups and individuals.

Tower’s contribution will help the University nurture a workforce with a comprehensive understanding of climate change to lead New Zealand’s transformation towards a zero-emissions society. Continue reading

Consultation document opens opportunity to shape NZ’s first Emissions Reduction Plan

The Government today invited New Zealanders to inform the country’s first Emissions Reduction Plan with the release of a consultation document containing a range of policy ideas to decrease the country’s emissions.

The Emissions Reduction Plan will set the direction for climate action through to 2035 prescribing action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across a range of areas, including energy, transport, waste, agriculture, construction and financial services.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

 “Over the last four years we have laid the foundations for a prosperous, low-emissions economy with the passing of the Zero Carbon Act and the work of the Climate Commission. Today’s discussion document gives New Zealanders the chance to say what policies they want in order to reach our climate targets.

“Tackling climate change is a job for everyone. Be it school children or business leaders, I hear from a range of New Zealanders about the opportunities a low carbon future offers our country, so I encourage everyone to have their say,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 The Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, said the discussion document released today is not a draft of the Emissions Reduction Plan. Rather it is an opportunity to hear feedback on what should be included in the plan. Continue reading