A New Zealand climate scientist used the following phrase today to describe the extreme weather battering New Zealand: “picture of the future”.
Christchurch is experiencing a one-in-50 year rain storm, high winds and power cuts are affecting other parts of the country and conversely, dry conditions continue to hamper farming in the Waikato.
Arguably, the future is already here. These extremes of weather are fitting the models and chiming with predictions.
Climate change is not some distant threat. It is happening now in the form of extreme weather events and it is costing communities.
Yet the National Government remains asleep at the wheel, implementing neither strong mitigation policies, nor appropriate measures for adaptation. New Zealand’s emissions continue to climb, and there are no real strategies in place to deal with the increasing threat of extreme weather.
Insurance companies paid out $174m in costs for weather-related events in New Zealand last year, one of the worst years since 1968. At a global insurance summit in London this week, climate change was identified as one of the major issues affecting the industry.
The Green Party is calling for a National Environmental Standard or National Policy Statement on climate change adaptation. Local authorities need a clear mandate and some base parameters to plan for more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, and for rising sea levels
As parts of New Zealand battle high winds and heavy rain, searing temperatures are setting new records across the Tasman, and a new report shows temperatures in Australia are on average 1C warmer than they were a century ago. Australia is a “burning, drying” continent, according to the report.
The Government needs to get its head out of the sand and get serious about a changing climate.