• iceberg
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  • planet eclipse
  • solarsystem model
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  • teens in physics class
  • Rainbow Clouds

    Refraction and diffraction of light through ice crystals in the clouds

  • Philippa On The Ice

    Philippa On The Ice Philippa Werry at an Antarctic research camp 2016

New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Curriculum/Scientific Literacy

Ill-prepared for Earth’s warmer future

Scientists respond to the latest climate change report findings.

The latest report released by the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in late March, 2014 highlights a warmer future for Earth, and we are ill-prepared for its consequences, the authors say.

After lengthy talks, scientists and government representatives meeting in Yokohama released the final version of IPCC's Working Group 2 report,Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

The IPCC report makes up the largest body of research and evidence about global climate change. This second report involved collaboration between 309 coordinating lead authors, lead authors, and review editors, drawn from 70 countries, were selected to produce the WGII report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.

Their findings make grim reading: the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans and global systems are not well prepared for this. While there are opportunities to respond to such risks, with high levels of warming, this is becoming increasingly difficult.

"Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,'' IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told the press conference at the launch of the report. 

Experts respond

The Science Media Centre gathered together some New Zealand exerts to comment on this latest report. Dr Andrew Tait, NIWA principal scientist for the climate and New Zealand lead author of the Australasia chapter, says the Working Group 2 report is a good chance to re-emphasise the climate change adaptation issues that we already face. He says the purpose of the report is to ensure decision-makers at every level of society have access to a reliable robust scientific assessment.

“It provides a comprehensive understanding of the current state of science in relation to climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation,” he says.

Professor Tim Naish is director of the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington. He emphasises our own country’s under-preparedness and signals a significant “adaptation deficit” in the context of the projected impacts and risks from an average global warming of +2 to 4 degrees Celcius by the end of the century.

"Extreme weather events, such as droughts and flooding, will become more frequent as the wet regions in the west of New Zealand can expect more rainfall and the already dry regions of Canterbury the far North and the East Cape become drier with significant implications for water resources, increased risk for our climate sensitive primary industries such as agriculture and horticulture and challenges for hydro-electricity generation,” he says.

Professor Alistair Woodward, School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, is a lead author of the WGII report. He highlights concerns about human health and productivity in a warming climate.

"Some scenarios project warming of 4–7°C (on average) over much of the global landmass by the end of the 21st century,” he says.

"If this change happens, then the hottest days will exceed present temperatures by a wide margin and increase the number of people who live in conditions that are so extreme that the ability of the human body to maintain heat balance during physical activity is compromised for parts of the year and unprotected outdoor labour is no longer possible." 

Free stakeholder workshop

Following last year’s Stakeholder Workshop: ‘The Physical Science Basis’ in October 2013 (full web-cast available), the Royal Society of New Zealand will be hosting another event, focusing on New Zealand-relevant responses to climate change.

The workshop will be relevant to all: whether researchers and scientists, central and local government policymakers, NGOs, students, media or the general public.

This workshop is to be held on 30 April 2014, 9am-5pm and will include:

  • Welcome (Richard Bedford, Royal Society of New Zealand council member)
  • IPCC overview (David Wratt, IPCC WGI Vice-chair)
  • Summary for policy-maker presentations for WGII(Chris Field) & WGIII(Ralph Sims)
  • Key chapter findings from IPCC lead authors(Andy Reisinger, Paul Newton, Andrew Tait, Lesley Hughes, Alistair Woodward, Ralph Sims, Harry Clark, and Adam Jaffe)
  • Additional chapter presentations from non-lead authors(Cliff Law, Dan Zwartz and Pene Lefale)
  • Q&A.

Workshop registration and coffee will begin from 8:30am. Attendance is limited to 150, so early registration is recommended. For those unable to attend, it will be streamed online via a webcast (see here for more information about this option.)

Please select whether you wish to attend the WGII morning (9:00am – 12:30pm) or WGIII afternoon (1:30pm – 5:00pm) session, or both. A light lunch will be provided for those attending both sessions.

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