Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels – Understanding the Science

Climate change science and its implications (especially for New Zealand) is explained simply and clearly in this latest easy to read report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that came out on Thursday.

Highly recommended reading.  Click here to read the full report.

Rising sea levels over the next few decades has serious implications for New Zealand’s coastline and fresh water resources. We need to be planning for this more seriously than we are.

The primary focus of the report is on rising sea levels and what this means for the coastline, storm surges, infrastructure and fresh water resources.  This is the single most important threat facing New Zealand right now and for the future.

Sea level rise is not the only consequence of a warming world, but it is a particularly sobering one since many millions live just above the high tide mark. New Zealanders are not as vulnerable as those who live on low-lying islands and in river deltas, but as a coastal nation the impact on our beaches, buildings, roads and other infrastructure, and on our communities will be considerable.

Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

The clear message of the report (beyond a basic scientific explanation of the mechanisms driving climate change) is global warming is well under way and we need to both prepare for specific  impacts and reduce the activities causing further, accelerated warming.

Over many millennia, the Earth has moved in and out of ice ages with warmer periods in between known as ‘interglacials’. The current geological epoch is an interglacial called the Holocene.

Over the last 7,000 years the climate has been relatively warm and stable.

The impact of human activity on the climate has now become so significant that it has been suggested that the Holocene epoch has come to an end, and the Earth is now entering a new epoch dubbed the Anthropocene.

Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment


The report only really focuses on carbon dioxide, and only briefly mentions methane.

News Articles Commenting on the Report

Sea Level Rise Reports in the News (Science Media Centre)

Science Alert: Experts Respond (Science Media Centre) 

  • Prof Martin Manning, Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington
  • Rob Bell, NIWA Principal Scientist, Coastal and Estuarine Physical Processes
  • Assoc. Prof Nancy Bertler, Joint Antarctic Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington / GNS Science
  • Dr Paul Denys, Lecturer in Sea Level Studies, School of Surveying, University of Otago
  • Dr Stephen Flood, Post-Doctoral Fellow, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences
  • Dr James Crampton, Palaeontologist, GNS Science

The relevant experts are pleased with the how the report lays out the ‘story’, and hope that government and councils will see it as a basis for immediate long-term planning and action.

Further Reading

New IPCC report busts climate change myths – Roger Jones (based on a full reading of the IPCC report, rather than the more watered down summary of the report.

UN climate report offers stark warning for New Zealand (TVNZ) within the news report is an exclusive focus on fossil fuels.

Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health (Nature)

Diets link environmental and human health. Rising incomes and urbanization are driving a global dietary transition in which traditional diets are replaced by diets higher in refined sugars, refined fats, oils and meats. By 2050 these dietary trends, if unchecked, would be a major contributor to an estimated 80 per cent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and to global land clearing. Moreover, these dietary shifts are greatly increasing the incidence of type II diabetes, coronary heart disease and other chronic non-communicable diseases that lower global life expectancies. Alternative diets that offer substantial health benefits could, if widely adopted, reduce global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, reduce land clearing and resultant species extinctions, and help prevent such diet-related chronic non-communicable diseases. The implementation of dietary solutions to the tightly linked diet–environment–health trilemma is a global challenge, and opportunity, of great environmental and public health importance.

The co-producers of the documentary film “Cowspiracy” discuss the environmental impacts of animal agriculture – and why mainstream organizations have been silent about it –   November 20, 14

But we still have this problem!!!

The environmental problem New Zealand is so reluctant to take seriously.
The environmental problem New Zealand is so reluctant to take seriously.

John Key defends dairy industry’s climate change record


One thought on “Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels – Understanding the Science”

  1. Save taxpayer’s money AND defund climate change and environmental destruction by ending the enormous subsidies and tax breaks for animal agriculture!

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    Step by Step Guide: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet


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