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The Climate Chap: July 2022: What a month!



8 Aug, 2022


SteveGreen-134July 2022 will go down in history as the time when the Climate Crisis stopped being a potential future problem and became a truly global phenomenon. It’s here!

Sure, there are still a few climate deniers out there. Yes, there is the odd scientist who still believes that recent global warming is just part of the ups and downs of weather patterns, but the vast majority of our climatology experts have been predicting that significant and ongoing climate changes will inevitably be based on the increased emissions since the start of the industrial revolution, and especially the past 70 years where emissions from fossil fuels, methane gases and nitrate-based fertilisers have become widespread.

Every nation shares the goal of striving to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2050. Regrettably a rise of around 1.2C is “already locked in” and is now causing the recent and vast changes to the global climate. Even the most positive of scientists believe that restricting a rise to 2.0C will be hard to achieve, and many suggesting that based on the minimal progress achieved over recent years, the increase will likely be approaching 3.0C by 2050. Heaven help us.

Many scientists have looked towards 2050 being a time of excessive heatwaves, droughts, floods and forest fires to a scale never before experienced. Reflecting on July’s climate, they now conclude that “what we were expecting by 2050 is now already here!” Asked if he was now worried, a leading British climate expert replied “not worried, scared!”

Chances are that you have seen the TV coverage of how the climate change has impacted nations during July: England and parts of Europe having unbelievable record-breaking 40C days, 50 percent of central Europe experiencing drought conditions, rivers in Italy running dry, China having record heatwaves and record floods at the same time, incredibly floods in Sydney, record rainfall in Canterbury, and America’s wonderful national parks Yellowstone and Yosemite hit by record floods and forest fires.

Perhaps we in Aotearoa are somewhat fortunate in not being part of an enormous landmass and therefore less likely to be impacted by the heat bombs behind these amazing temperatures. But July was also a profoundly significant time here. Two news items, both related and both in the South Island, should be an alarm call for all of us. The first was the massive slaughter of King Salmon in the Marlborough Sounds and the subsequent dumping in the local landfill, this having a huge impact on production and one of our most valuable export trades. The second was the tragic number of dead seabirds now being regularly washed up on the beaches of Kaikoura.

How are these two disasters related? Simply that the temperature of the sea water has risen to a level where the King Salmon cannot survive, and where the krill that seabirds need to feed is now located in colder water further from the surface and therefore beyond the reach of these birds.

There is every evidence that the warming of the seas will impact New Zealand way beyond the simple potential rise in sea levels. Increasing water temperatures are likely to impact fishing stocks, bird life and migration, and increased acidity that may find its way into our artesian wells impacting the quality of drinking water.

These tragedies in Marlborough Sounds and Kaikoura suggest that climate change has already arrived here.

July has also been a terrible month from the political point of view. The terrifying war in Ukraine has resulted in many European countries reverting to coal and oil-based electricity generation, whilst accelerating plans to install industrial solar and wind power. Positive for them, but chances are that New Zealand will have to wait for its turn to enhance our renewable energy capacity for many years to come. Furthermore, Jo Biden’s climate program to rescue America is dead in the water.

What can we do? What should we do? Simply double down on achieving our emission reduction goals for 2030 and 2050. Us Kiwis have no excuses to offer, and a rare chance to show the rest of the world what our team of 5 million are capable of.

Asked if he was now worried, a leading British climate expert replied “not worried, scared!”

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