Posts Tagged ‘Professor Richard Bedford,’

Broad range of research topics covered in Royal Society lecture series

The Royal Society Te Aparangi has announced a nationwide lecture series hosted by its branches to demonstrate the range of research being carried out throughout New Zealand.

The lectures are part of the society’s 150th anniversary activities.

Each talk will include a presentation and video celebrating the society’s past and looking to the future, led by Professor Richard Bedford, the society’s president.

Topics range from human heat stress due to rising temperatures and humidity in response to climate change to future food and developments in pest management for pipfruit crops.

Gene editing to improve the national dairy herd is another of the topics.

Professor Bedfored describes it as “a broad and intriguing collection of research we can be proud of.”

The events are free but a donation to support branch activities would be appreciated.

More details can be found HERE.


Professor Hendy raises questions for scientists about the disservice done by their silence

Professor’s Shaun Hendy’s just-published “Silencing Science” (Bridget Williams Books, $15) has been widely discussed in the science community in the past week. According to the Spinoff Review of Books, which describes it as “a slim book of essays on the social and moral responsibilities of scientists, it was the sixth-best seller at Wellington’s Unity Books.

Professor Hendy essentially says many scientists in New Zealand are being constrained from sharing their expertise and speaking about many topics of public importance.

Peter Griffin, at Sciblogs, says the book highlights some recent examples of where scientists have been missing in action when the public needed their knowledge and insights the most.

“I can personally relate to this. During the Fonterra botulism scare, the 2014 Yersinia outbreak and for periods in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, we struggled at the Science Media Centre to find experts who were willing to offer commentary to the media about what was going on.”

People with the expertise and the media training to handle media queries were either instructed not to speak to the media or opted out so as not to upset their management or funders.

Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, is among those to have commented on the book.

Ensuring the public is informed by reliable evidence-based information, especially in times of crisis, is a serious issue and one that deserves our attention, he agrees.

And many of Professor Hendy’s observations about science communication are very relevant for members of the Royal Society of New Zealand, especially as it finalises some guidelines for researchers when engaging with the public.  Professor Hendy contributed to the consultation process associated with these guidelines.

But Professor Bedford challenges some of Professor’s observations about the Society’s independence:

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Royal Society report says NZ is vulnerable to climate change in six ways

A report released today by the Royal Society of New Zealand highlights how New Zealand will be impacted by climate change.

It finds that climate change, already under way, will almost certainly accelerate this century unless drastic action is taken to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases.

It identifies six areas where global climate change could have significant implications for New Zealand’s prosperity and well-being. These are risks to:

  • our coastal margins
  • flooding from rivers
  • availability of and competition for freshwater
  • changes to our surrounding oceans
  • threats to unique ecosystems
  • flow-on effects from climate change impacts and responses elsewhere, which will affect New Zealand through our strong international connectivity.

Increased pressure on water resources is almost certain in future. Decreasing annual average rainfall in eastern and northern regions of both main islands, plus higher temperatures, are projected to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts and the risk of wild fire. At the same time, urban expansion and increased demand for water from agriculture will result in increased competition for freshwater resources.

Changes expected to impact New Zealand include at least 30cm and possibly more than one metre of sea-level rise this century – the report finds it likely that the sea level rise around New Zealand will exceed the global average, which will cause coastal erosion and flooding, especially when combined with storm surges.

“Many New Zealanders live on the coast and two-thirds of us live in flood-prone areas so we are vulnerable to these projected changes,” says Professor James Renwick, Chair of the Expert Panel who wrote the report.

Even small changes in average conditions can be associated with large changes in the frequency of extreme events, he says.

“With a 30cm rise in sea level, the current ‘1 in 100 year’ extreme sea event would be expected to occur once every year or so in many coastal regions. Along the Otago coast for example, the difference between a 2-year and 100-year storm surge is about 32cm of sea level.”

Changes in rainfall patterns where the ‘wet gets wetter and the dry gets drier’, together with more frequent extreme events, will put pressure on our housing, infrastructure and industry, especially if changes are rapid, the report finds.

Freshwater resources will also likely be put under pressure, with decreasing annual average rainfall in eastern and northern regions of both islands, plus higher temperatures and increased demand from urban expansion and agriculture.

Fire danger is also predicted to increase in many parts of New Zealand.

Changes in the oceans, including water temperature, acidification and currents will have impacts on New Zealand’s marine life, including aquaculture. On land, existing environmental stresses to New Zealand’s unique species will likely be exacerbated, with increased ranges for animal pests and weeds predicted.

The report also considers New Zealand’s international connections and how trade relationships and migration patterns could change.

Royal Society of New Zealand President, Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford, says the report was sought to provide a clear summary of the scientific evidence and projections of climate change and to identify the key risks these changes pose to New Zealand.

“It is critical to communicate clearly New Zealand’s sensitivities to climate change and the need for responsive systems to address them. All New Zealanders will be affected and must be involved in the discussion. We hope this report can act as a basis for a wider national conversation.”

This report will be followed up soon by another expert panel report on how New Zealand can mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Copies of the report and supporting resources can be found at

Professor Jean Palutikof, director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility at Griffith University, Queensland, was a special guest at the launch at the Royal Society premises in Thorndon, Wellington, this morning.

Professor Palutikof previously managed the production of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report for Working Group II (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability).

He will give a public talk in Wellington tonight.