Get­ting cli­mate-change re­tal­i­a­tion in early key to suc­cess

The New Zealand Herald - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

Judy Lawrence com­ment

There has been a lot of talk about cli­mate change this hol­i­day sea­son, and with good rea­son. Many will re­call the im­ages of se­vere flood­ing in the Coro­man­del, dam­aged roads, dis­rupted com­mu­ni­ties and dis­placed tourists.

“Medium-scale ad­verse events”, or droughts in farmer’s terms, have oc­curred twice al­ready this year, in the west and now the south. And there is no short­age of re­ports about the record heat. “Heat wave” has en­tered the news and its ef­fects on our well­be­ing.

Last year was odd be­ing the fifth warm­est year on record, with the pair­ing of both high rain­fall and se­vere drought. Why are we re­act­ing to these as they hap­pen? We have known about the pos­si­bil­ity of them for decades. What can be done to shift our ac­tions from re­ac­tive to more planned adap­ta­tion?

Well, change is start­ing to hap­pen. Take coastal haz­ards and sea level rise, for ex­am­ple, the im­pact of which is al­ready be­ing felt. Coun­cils, iwi and com­mu­ni­ties such as Hawke’s Bay and Dunedin have started com­mu­nity-based projects to dis­cuss what can be done. But they will not be able to cope alone. The Gov­ern­ment’s cli­mate change adap­ta­tion tech­ni­cal work­ing group has un­der­taken a stock­take of cur­rent adap­ta­tion to iden­tify where the gaps are in our in­for­ma­tion, or­gan­i­sa­tions and tools we have to ad­dress what will be on­go­ing chal­lenges.

Those chal­lenges will be at the coast, on flood plains, in our na­tive forests and ecosys­tems, on farms, in ur­ban ar­eas and the trans­port, water and other in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices. .

We need to be bet­ter pre­pared for more se­vere weather events, ris­ing sea lev­els and ground-water lev­els, and the ef­fects of higher tem­per­a­tures on nat­u­ral and hu­man sys­tems. And we need to act now.

The re­cently re­leased re­vised Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment “coastal hazard and cli­mate change guid­ance” sets out a 10-step de­ci­sion process and tools to as­sist coun­cils and com­mu­ni­ties as­sess what is hap­pen­ing, what mat­ters most, and what can be done about it.

Col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort is re­quired and there is progress to re­port. The Clifton to Tan­goio coastal haz­ards strat­egy process has been un­der way since Jan­u­ary last year. The coun­cil, iwi, af­fected and wider com­mu­ni­ties sup­ported by the Liv­ing Edge (re­silience sci­ence chal­lenge) re­searchers, have com­ing to­gether to find a way through the on­go­ing coastal change.

Adap­tive tools like those set out in the coastal guid­ance have helped. This her­alds a new planned ap­proach by think­ing out “at least 100 years”, the time­frame re­quired by the New Zealand coastal pol­icy state­ment.

Af­ter all, our land uses and in­fra­struc­ture live that long so they will be ex­posed to in­creas­ing cli­mate hazard risk. We do not want greater im­pacts that could have been avoided.

The good news is that we’re not start­ing com­pletely from scratch. The stock­take re­port laid out the ex­pected im­pacts of cli­mate change, ex­ist­ing work un­der way, and the gaps in knowl­edge and work pro­grammes across cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor.

The group’s sec­ond re­port on how we might ad­dress adap­ta­tion, and sup­port­ing ac­tions to en­able this, is un­der way.

The key now in­volves com­mit­ment, col­lab­o­ra­tion and ur­gency. The bet­ter and ear­lier pre­pared we are, the eas­ier it will be to adapt and re­duce the ad­just­ment costs.

Dr Judy Lawrence

is co-chair of the Gov­ern­ment’s cli­mate change adap­ta­tion tech­ni­cal work­ing group and se­nior re­search fel­low at the Cli­mate Change Re­search In­sti­tute at Vic­to­ria Univer­sity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.