The threat of nuclear war was a very real fear for me when I was a teenager in the 1980s, and I can imagine climate change (even though a very different type of risk) could also be a very significant fear for today's teenagers. Seeing that things are being done to prepare for the changes ahead will make a big difference to our mental health.
I hope the upcoming report progresses these options for immediate action (listed in the ministerial briefing on page 13):
It won't always be up to councils to be the bearer of bad news to property owners affected by climate change. I learnt last week that a homeowner in an area increasingly affected by coastal hazards has been told that insurance will cover their recent damage from Cyclone Gita, and only one more event in future. Then they will be unable to make further claims.
That means anyone buying that property in future is unlikely to be able to get insurance, and will therefore be unable to gain a mortgage associated with that property.
The quote above fits squarely into the 'easier said than done' category, but MfE guidance is now available for councils to take action at a local level. Debate is also happening on whether the upcoming Climate Commission will cover mitigation and adaptation, or just mitigation.
While the Environmental Defence Society welcomed the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's report on A Zero Carbon Act for New Zealand, Gary Taylor also made the following comments: “One issue that we find a little underwhelming is his open-ended attitude to adaptation. He agrees there’s a need for a national strategy but not sure who should do it.
“Given New Zealand’s vulnerability to the effects of climate change – increased floods, droughts, storm surges and other extreme weather events – we think that a national strategy is enormously important and should rest firmly with the proposed Commission."
While the MfE guidance for councils on adapting to climate change highlights quality technical data and community engagement as essential elements in developing successful adaptation plans, that doesn't mean every plan needs to have a huge consultancy budget or include an extensive series of public meetings.
Individual staff members in district and unitary councils who need to plan for climate change adaptation related to stormwater, flood risk, land drainage or another specific issue have the option of adopting the lower cost approaches to coastal hazard assessments (such as reviews of existing reports and problems, and discussions with experienced staff), and less resource-intensive options for community engagement (such as interviews with key people).
This is a really difficult one. Irrigation may initially be provided to help communities become more resilient to drought. However, land use in areas supplied by irrigation will almost certainly become more intensive in order to pay for the costs of the irrigation.
The climate change stocktake report (page 18) likens this risk to structural protection works which "may also build a false sense of security and further demands for protection thus locking in exposure to risk over the long term."
Anyone who has worked for a large organisation will know how easy it is for different departments to get out of synch with each other, especially when dealing with complex issues such as climate change. Using a cross-agency approach to provide coordinated advice on meeting our greenhouse gas emission targets seems like an excellent way to manage this risk.
While the consideration of a number of different sea level rise scenarios will be important for very long-lived assets, the following more specific guidance (from MfE's December 2017 coastal hazards and climate change document) is also useful.
In the near term (eg by 2050), the projected global mean sea level rise (SLR) range for all ‘representative concentration pathways’ (RCPs) is relatively tight (0.2–0.4 metres). Sea-level rises of up to around 1 metre are ‘very likely’ over a planning timeframe out to the next 100–130 years — it is just a matter of when a specific SLR occurs. (From page 98 of the MfE guidance.)
For more detailed information over longer timeframes, a useful table of anticipated sea level rise under a wide range of different scenarios is provided on page 107 of the MfE guidance.
GLOBE-NZ is a cross-party group of 35 members of the New Zealand Parliament. This group commissioned a report (published in March 2017) on how New Zealand could achieve long-term low-emission pathways. Here's a link to the report summary.
On reading the finding above, it's tempting to say maybe climate change adaptation should all be managed at a national level rather than tackled by regional and district councils. However, the most recent Ministry for Environment guidance on coastal hazards and climate change (December 2017) stresses the importance of local government involvement in climate change adaptation.
(From page 37): "For climate change, in particular, consultation or engagement involves the translation of international and national knowledge, projections, trends and scenarios to local levels."
"Ensuring there is balanced and responsible community input into the response options for current and future generations will be an important and ongoing role for local government."
These are the posts I have shared on social media, all in one place for easy access.