Climate change and nature in crisis
The storms that hit New Zealand earlier this year, devastating some communities, are starting to reveal what climate change means for humans. But what about nature? The species that make New Zealand so special – from kiwi to kauri, tuatara to to¯tara – have evolved to live in New Zealand the way it has been for thousands of years.
But things are changing. New Zealand is already more than 1-degree Celsius warmer than it was at the start of the 20th century. This has been caused mainly by humans burning fossil-fuels like coal and oil, and releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
And at the rate things are going, by the end of the century the world will probably be 4-degrees warmer – warmer than it has been since humans made their first appearance.
The climate has changed in the past, but it has been more gradual, giving species time to make adjustments like moving north or south to find new places that have the conditions they are used to.
But because of the changes we have already made, our native species – already under severe threat because of humans – haven’t got the resilience and physical ability to withstand the impacts of climate change.
These impacts include the destruction of forests, warming and acidifying oceans, droughts, the arrival of new pests and diseases and the spread of those already here, rising sea-levels, and more intense and more frequent storms.
And then there’s the tuatara, New Zealand’s dinosaur relic that has been here for more than 150 million years, but could be extinct within 400 years as a result of global warming.
The sex of baby tuatara is determined by prevailing temperatures when they’re in the egg. As the temperature warms, more males will be born, to the point where the population will cease to become viable.
To learn more, come to the Forest & Bird Manawatu talk by Adelia Hallett, Forest and Bird’s climate advocate, at the Globe Theatre on Tuesday, November 14 at 7.30pm. The meeting is open to the public.
A tuatara at Wellington’s Zealandia sanctuary, the first natural site on New Zealand’s mainland to reintroduce the reptiles.