Report Reveals NZ’s Most Urgent Climate Risks

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Report Reveals NZ’s Most Urgent Climate Risks

The National Climate Change Risks Assessment (NCCRA) is New Zealand’s latest and significant report on climate change. A panel of experts and consultants leads this inquiry with engagement with the Māori/iwi and stakeholders.

The report shows New Zealand’s most significant risks and sectors under these five domains – natural environment, human, economy, and built environment, and governance.

Climate risks are ranked according to the degree of consequence (exposure and vulnerability to extreme events) and degree of urgency. Risks that scores high on both categories – consequences and urgency are labelled as the most significant risk – risks that needed the most urgent response or “further action within the next six years”.

New Zealand’s 10 most significant climate change under the five domains

  • Coastal and indigenous ecosystems – including estuaries, dunes, coastal lakes, wetlands due to sea-level rise, extreme events and increase of invasive species due to climate change.
  • Community well-being due to displacements and, inequality to adapt to climate change due to the differences in age, race, socio-economic status, literacy, etc.
  • Economic costs from lost productivity, disaster relief costs. Extreme climate events will affect livelihoods, widen socio-economic gaps, and the economy as a whole.
  • Availability and supply of potable water, the risk to buildings and infrastructures (wastewater and stormwater, ports, etc) due to sea-level rise and other severe climatic events.
  • Maladaptation of governments because climate change is not accounted for or integrated into the legislative (laws and statutes), funding mechanisms, and government policies.

The purpose of the NCCRA

New Zealand is already experiencing the effects of climate change and the report mentioned those events that have occurred within the last 10 to 20 years, and those predicted to happen in the near future or by 2050 and in the long-term at 2100 to 2150.

Another purpose of the NCCRA report is to identify the potential of maladaptation and make sure to address it in the National Adaptation Plan (NAP). The NCCRA intends to create a holistic and thorough adaptation plan that address the risks, hazards, and opportunities from climate change.

Opportunities from climate change

The report revealed a few opportunities from climate change. These are opportunities to provide services and goods for adaptation.

Warmer temperatures will: allow South Island to grow Kiwifruit, increase the yield and size of apples, timber plantation will grow quicker due to high concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but faster growth rates can also result in reduced timber strength, reduce deaths due to cold temperatures, and lower heating bills.

The report is cautious about these opportunities as it assumes that water supply is plentiful and does not include the potential spread of pests due to warming weather. Also, increased crop yields will add to water demands.

Cascading effects

Climate change will have a cascading effect on other sectors of society because of the interconnectedness and interdependencies of things around us. On consultation of the Maori and iwi, they have highlighted the interconnection of the natural environment, people – its culture, well-being, structures, and prosperity.

Cascading effect means that a primary event threat will give rise to many more or a sequence of unfortunate events. For example, a flood (main event) can damage roads and disrupt electricity and water supply; this will affect tourism, work, and household activities.

If flooding and the sequence of events continues, over time, the impacts on the community will intensify and will affect other sectors of society like governments, health, insurance, etc.

Gaps in knowledge

The report identified some gaps in knowledge and more data on the following:

  • inventories and data on ecosystems and species,
  • the relationship between social vulnerabilities and social heritage,
  • climate change effects on banking and insurance,
  • consistent hazard information to assess the built environment’s exposure to climate change, and so on.

Research opportunities will arise to bridge these knowledge gaps and findings enhance the national climate adaptation plan.

The climate risks that the NCCRA revealed will help New Zealand and its communities prepare and build resilience against the present and future challenges of climate change.

Click on this link to read National Climate Change Risks Assessment (NCCRA), Main report.

Source Citation:

National Climate Change Risk Assessment for New Zealand. (2020, August) Ministry for the Environment. Retrieved from https://www.mfe.govt.nz/sites/default/files/media/Climate%20Change/national-climate-change-risk-assessment-main-report.pdf

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