Ten things you need to know about climate change

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The Paris climate change summit is upon us. Next week the Morgan Foundation is supporting coverage from Paris by sponsoring the NZ Herald’s science reporter Jamie Morton.

To ‘warm up’ for the event, here is a ‘guide for beginners’ – ten things you need to know on climate change, covering the science, the politics and the yawning gap between them.

1. 2015 is the hottest year on record. In fact the last five years are the hottest five year period on record.



2. Climate change will affect our way of life in New Zealand. Sure, it won’t be as bad here as it will in the vast poor areas of the world that will be hit by droughts, floods, fires and sea level rise, but all those issues will hit us here in New Zealand too. This weather forecast from 2050 shows us how.

3. This year carbon dioxide broke the 400ppm barrier. The last time this happened was around 3 million years ago, and back then the sea level was 10 to 20 metres higher. This indicates that the West Antartic ice shelf and Greenland ice sheets melted, plus some of East Antarctica.

Carbon dioxide levels can be seen climbing steadily in Scripps data from the last 55 years. SCRIPPS INSTITUTION OF OCEANOGRAPHY, UC SAN DIEGO

Carbon dioxide levels can be seen climbing steadily in Scripps data from the last 55 years.

4. We know that West Antarctica and Greenland are already melting but we thought East Antarctica was safe – until recent evidence came to light that parts of it are also melting.

5. Sea level rise in particular will impact on New Zealand’s way of life – costing us at least $9b and swamping 9,000 homes in the within the next 50 years. Check out the maps on the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s site to see who is affected.

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6. Politicians and scientists have agreed that we should aim to keep warming of the planet to 2 degrees. This video demonstrates how much time we have before that threshold is struck

7. So far the politicians haven’t been able to live up to that vision. Laggard countries – such as New Zealand – have targets that aren’t in line with what is needed to keep the planet below 2 degrees.

8. Without any action by governments the planet is headed to a temperature increase of 4.5 degrees by 2100. Based on current policies we should be able to restrict to around 3.6 degrees. If the pledges put forward at Paris are actually delivered, we should be able to keep it to 2.7 degrees.

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9. Currently, New Zealand has no feasible plan to reduce emissions in order to reach the weak targets we have in place.


10. Despite what the politicians say, there are ways for New Zealand to reduce emissions, we could even be a leader if we had the will.


Ten things you need to know about climate change was last modified: December 15th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan
About the Author

Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.

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