Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Like it or not, climate change is going to drive significant changes with energy use, transport, travel and food. In other words, to the way we live.

Newshub – Climate Change: What New Zealanders have to change and when

Newshub Nation explores what will be different about how we get our energy, how we get around, how we shop, how we travel and what we eat.

Energy:

The Government has set a target of being 100 percent renewable by 2035. Currently, 82 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources – mainly hydropower.

“We’ve obviously got lots of wood lying around and the problems we had in Tolaga Bay – you can imagine that would have been much better used as a source of energy if we’d had the supply chain set up,” says James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change.

Another potential solution to the storage problem is using renewable sources to produce hydrogen gas, which acts a bit like a battery.

“Hydrogen plants can make a lot of energy at short notice, and that’s a really key capability that we need to push the last bit of coal and gas off the grid and get to 100 percent renewable,” says Katherine Errington, Helen Clark Foundation executive director.

Transport:

Transport accounts for 19 percent of the country’s emissions, mainly because New Zealanders love their cars.

We imported 319,662 light vehicles in 2018. Of that total, just 5,542 or 1.7 percent were electric or hybrid cars according to the Ministry of Transport.

This needs to change and fast. By 2030, the Productivity Commission says 80 percent of NZ vehicle imports need to be electric and by 2050, nearly every vehicle will need to be electric. As at March 2019, electric vehicles (EVs) made up just 0.3 percent of our fleet.

Drive Electric’s Mark Gilbert says the quickest way to get more EVs into the market would be through adjusting the fringe benefit tax, to incentivise businesses to transition their company fleets.

For trucks, trains, ships and planes, green hydrogen offers a potential climate-friendly solution.

Air Travel:

Aviation is one of the trickiest areas to reduce emissions. It currently produces about 859 million tonnes of carbon each year or around two percent of global emissions. However, by 2050 it is expected to emit more than any other sector.

solution put forward by the UK Climate Commission is having industries like aviation pay to remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere. It estimates the cost of this at $20b-$40b in the year 2050, with that cost likely passed on to consumers. This means the price of flights will start to increase from 2035 as emission removals are predicted to scale up.

Shopping:

Online shopping can actually be better for the environment than traditional shopping, because it means people aren’t driving their cars to and from the store.

However, US research found online shopping is only better when consumers choose regular delivery rather than express shipping, which creates nearly 30 percent more emissions.

Food:

This is probably the most controversial area to make changes, but with the world’s food system accounting for nearly a quarter of all emissions it is one of the areas we need to adapt.

In New Zealand, agriculture makes up half of our emissions – mainly from livestock burping methane. This gas breaks down in the atmosphere after 12 years, unlike carbon, which can hang around for hundreds of years. However while it is shorter lived, methane is 25 times stronger than carbon when it comes to warming.

“There are ways to try and reduce methane which are being researched – what you feed the animal on, how you breed the animals to produce less methane,” says Ralph Sims.

“But if we can increase the productivity [e.g. more milk from each cow] then that’s a better alternative than having to reduce stock numbers.”

Sims also says that the potential of vegetable protein is something that New Zealand’s agricultural sector should keep an eye on.

The world may change significantly as a result of climate change.

I think there is no doubt how people live will change significantly regardless. Climate change as well as population, resource depletion and pollution will all at least need to be adapted to, one way or another.

The end is nigh for Planet Earth?

Pat Baskett considers what it feels like for young people to face turning their lives around to save the planet from environmental collapse

If I were 14 instead of 74 I would be pretty depressed after last week. Another 220sq km of good food-producing land in Taranaki is to be potentially wrecked so that we can continue to drive, fly and live the way we always have.

My 14-year-old’s eyes would have been caught by the title of the conference, the Just Transition Summit, at which these new permits for oil and gas exploration were announced. She understands that we need to go through a transition period but her impatience for this to start is obvious. New permits – on land as opposed to the ban on new ocean permits – seem like a step backwards.

She also understands the positioning of the word “just” because she understands that climate change is linked to the rise of inequality and economic injustice.

Ten years, the most likely time we have to turn our lives around, seems a mere blink to me. For teens, it stretches ahead like an open road leading they know not quite where.

 

Response to introduction of climate change bill

This is a big deal for the Greens.

Edgeler has been unusually critical of the Claytons binding referendum on cannabis law reform.

“Landmark action on climate change” bill introduced to parliament

The Government has announced today that the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill has been introduced to Parliament:


Landmark climate change bill goes to Parliament

The Government is today delivering landmark action on climate change – the biggest challenge facing the international community and New Zealand.

“To address the long-term challenge of climate change, today we introduce the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill to Parliament,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’ve built a practical consensus across Government that creates a plan for the next 30 years, which provides the certainty industries need to get in front of this challenge.

“In March this year, tens of thousands of New Zealand school students went on strike to protest the lack of decisive action on climate change. We hear them. The Zero Carbon Bill outlines our plan to safeguard the future that those school students will inherit,” Minister for Climate Change James Shaw said.

“The critical thing is to do everything we can over the next 30 years to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and the Zero Carbon Bill makes that a legally binding objective.

“Carbon dioxide is the most important thing we need to tackle – that’s why we’ve taken a net zero carbon approach.

“Agriculture is incredibly important to New Zealand, but it also needs to be part of the solution. That is why we have listened to the science and also heard the industry and created a specific target for biogenic methane.

“The split gases approach we’ve agreed on is consistent with that commitment.

“The Bill sets a target for 10 per cent reduction in biological methane emissions by 2030, and aims for a provisional reduction ranging from 24 per cent to 47 per cent by 2050.

“That provisional range will be subject to review by the independent Climate Change Commission in 2024, to take account of changes in scientific knowledge and other developments.

“The independent Climate Change Commission, established by the Bill, will support our emissions reduction targets through advice, guidance, and regular five-yearly “emissions budgets”.

“The Bill also creates a legal obligation on the Government to plan for how it will support New Zealand towns and cities, business, farmers and Iwi to adapt to the increasingly severe storms, floods, fires and droughts we are experiencing as a result of climate change.

“New Zealanders have made it clear they want leadership and consensus on climate change legislation.

“We’re delighted that the three Government partners have reached an agreement over such a significant piece of legislation after lengthy consultation.

“I also want to acknowledge National Party leader, Simon Bridges, and National’s Climate Change spokesperson, for conducting negotiations in good faith and setting politics to one side while we’ve worked through the Bill.

“The fact that, across Parliament, all parties have engaged constructively in this process signals mutual interest in creating enduring climate change legislation that will stand the test of time and deliver long-lasting commitment to action on climate change for future generations.

“But the work’s not finished. I urge people to engage with the Zero Carbon Bill as it passes through Parliament. Have your say in the select committee process.

“All of us have a part to play our part in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global temperature increases.

“That includes New Zealanders making their contribution to see the Zero Carbon Bill become law by the end of this year,” James Shaw said.

 

Little ‘transformational’ about Government so far

Jacinda Ardern promoted her Government as being transformational, but apart from transforming Winston Peters and Shane Jones into well funded promoters of their own interests these is not much transforming going on.

Ardern opened her year claiming that this would be her Government’s year of delivery, but what they have delivered so far has been underwhelming.

The just announced welfare ‘reforms’ have been paltry – see Welfare advisory group – 42 recommendations, 3 to be implemented.

Tim Watkin: Government is running out of chances to be ‘transformational’

Strike one: Capital Gains Tax. Strike two: Welfare reform. The Labour-led government is running out of chances to be the “transformational” administration Jacinda Ardern promised in the 2017 election campaign.

Today the Welfare Expert Advisory Group handed the government a radical blueprint to not just tinker with welfare, but – in their words – to make “urgent and fundamental change”.

It was scathing about sanctions against beneficiaries, saying evidence shows they do little but create more harm to those already at the bottom of society. And it recommended a massive 47 percent increase in current benefit levels.

Those would be hugely controversial reforms… or, you could say, transformational. And they are not of the cuff ideas.

The current and previous Children’s Commissioners have urged such substantial benefit increases as the most effective way to tackle child poverty.

What people seldom consider though is that since then wages and salaries have continued to grow. Super, linked to wages, has grown to. But other benefits – with any increases linked to inflation, not wage growth – have not been increased nearly as much. Until, that is, Sir John Key and Bill English famously raised them in 2015. So the gap between work and welfare has grown since the 1990s.

That’s why the report today says, “The level of financial support is now so low that too many New Zealanders are living in desperate situations”.

In sum, the argument in support of this radical prescription is that you can raise abatements here and offer support there, but the best and least bureaucratic way to tackle poverty is to – wait for it – give the poor more money.

So as part of their coalition deal, Labour and the Greens commission this report. They get the transformational advice most of them would have wanted. How do they respond?

Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni agrees the welfare system is not working.

Marama Davidson agrees the welfare system is not working.

And then they commit to ignore the report’s big recommendations.

They say no to up to 47 percent benefit increases, preferring “a staged implementation”. The call for “urgent change” is rejected. Remarkably, Ms Davidson has put her quotes into the same press release, tying the Greens to this approach, when they could have been dissenting from the rafters.

The political and institutional reality is that no government can make these changes overnight. But the cold water thrown on this report underlines what we’ve learnt about this government in its handling of tax, its debt level, labour reform and more.

It is not just incremental, it looks timid.

If the Ardern administration wants to be the transformational government she and her allies think they are in their hearts, they are running out of issues.

A lot of transformation has been limited by NZ First, who seem to have got most of what they want while limiting Labour initiatives (like the CGT) and hobbling the Greens.

Much may depend on what the Government come sup with on climate change, the issue Ardern describe as the nuclear free issue of the present time. Announcements on climate change have been delayed months already. There have been further delays, but promises for next week.

RNZ: NZ First voters will be happy with Zero Carbon Bill deal – Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says his party’s voters will be happy with the deal he’s struck with the Green Party over the Zero Carbon Bill.

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw this week delayed the release of two reports from the Interim Climate Change Committee until the government makes a decision on how to respond, which will contribute to the final climate change legislation.

Mr Peters wouldn’t be drawn on what the specifics of the bill are but did give an inch when RNZ asked whether his voters would be happy with the legislation, replying, “yes”.

That won’t be encouraging for those wanting transformative action on climate change.

Mr Peters said he couldn’t comment on when the bill would go to Cabinet because that was a matter for the Prime Minister but he understood it would be “sooner rather than later”.

Asked if it would be on the agenda at Cabinet on Monday, Mr Peters said he couldn’t answer that question.

Ardern and Shaw will have a lot of questions to answer if they fail to measure up on climate change. Their reputations are depending on actual transformation.

The future of the Greens in parliament may well depend on this one.

 

‘Startling’ climate related changes in bering sea

TVNZ: Pace of Bering Sea changes startles scientists

In February, southwest winds brought warm air and turned thin sea ice into “snow cone ice” that melted or blew off. When a storm pounded Norton Sound, water on Feb. 12 surged up the Yukon River and into Kotlik, flooding low-lying homes. Lifelong resident Philomena Keyes, 37, awoke to knee-deep water outside her house.

“This is the first I experienced in my life, a flood that happened in the winter, in February,” Keyes said in a phone interview.
Winter storm surge flooding is the latest indication that something’s off-kilter around the Bering Strait, the gateway from the Pacific Ocean to the Arctic Ocean.

Rapid, profound changes tied to high atmospheric temperatures, a direct result of climate change, may be reordering the region’s physical makeup. Ocean researchers are asking themselves if they’re witnessing the transformation of an ecosystem.

The Bering Sea last winter saw record-low sea ice. Climate models predicted less ice, but not this soon, said Seth Danielson, a physical oceanographer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“The projections were saying we would’ve hit situations similar to what we saw last year, but not for another 40 or 50 years,” Danielson said.

The Bering Sea and the Bering Strait.

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Bering Sea and Strait

IFL Science:  Shocking Images Released By NOAA Show Just How Little Ice Is In The Bering Sea Right Now

Ice coverage between the Bering Strait and the coast of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in the most recent photo is, at best, scant. This, says NASA, could soon be the “new normal”.

Climate specialist Rick Thoman, from the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said that this year’s maximum ice extent is the lowest on record. Lower, even, than 2018’s – which, at the time, was deemed “unprecedented”.

As IFLScience reported at the time, ice cover at the end of April 2018 was at a measly 10 percent of normal seasonal levels.

Inside Climate:  Global Warming Is Pushing Arctic Toward ‘Unprecedented State,’ Research Shows

Global warming is transforming the Arctic, and the changes have rippled so widely that the entire biophysical system is shifting toward an “unprecedented state,” an international team of researchers concludes in a new analysis of nearly 50 years of temperature readings and changes across the ecosystems.

Arctic forests are turning into bogs as permafrost melts beneath their roots. The icy surface that reflects the sun’s radiation back into space is darkeningand sea ice cover is declining. Warmth and moisture trapped by greenhouse gases are pumping up the water cycle, swelling rivers that carry more sediment and nutrients to the sea, which can change ocean chemistry and affect the coastal marine food chain. And those are just a few of the changes.

The researchers describe how warming in the Arctic, which is heating up 2.4 times faster than the Northern Hemisphere average, is triggering a cascade of changes in everything from when plants flower to where fish and other animal populations can be found.

Together, the changes documented in the study suggest the effects on the region are more profound than previously understood.

One of the risks with earlier climate predictions is that they could have easily under-predicted degree and rate of climate change effects as they could have over-predicted them.

 

Student ‘strikes’ to protest climate change

The student strikes to raise awareness of the dangers to the planet of climate change have already been very successful. They have received a lot of publicity.

The protests will take place today around the country. I’m sure they will get a lot of media attention. More success guaranteed.

The big challenge for students who take part will be to make this more than an event. They somehow have to sustain the attention and pressure on politicians to actually make some sort of a difference in the medium term.

The media may or may not keep feeding the protests.

There were major protests against the TPPA, but they turned out to be ineffective while National were in Government (to an extent they were protests against the Government with the TPPA just a topical excuse. And those protests faded right away when Labour took over Government along with the Greens and NZ First, and when the TPPA morphed slightly into the CTPPA and took effect.

And that was quite a specific target.

Today’s protests seem very general, so it will be easy for politicians to make general nods of support whole doing little to make much difference.

Some young person on RNZ just said he read something from the UK that they are running out of fertile land in thirty years and faced starvation – I wonder if he realises that all the fertile land is not going to suddenly become unfertile. There are legitimate concerns about increasing population and growing demands for food, but food production is unlikely toi suddenly stall.

There has been months of build up, but students need to realise that there protests today are really a beginning, and not a solution.

Climate change protests versus school

More in the build up to Friday’s climate change protests that have already been effective at raising attention.

@BenThomasNZ:

If anyone is still interested in “should kids go on the the climate strike” takes, this one by a teacher I know is probably the best

If it’s a one-off or occasional thing I have no problem with children (teenagers) taking a bit of time off school to take part in an organised protest. It is likely to inspire them a lot more than just another day at school.

Mātauranga providing indigenous answers to climate change alongside science

I was somewhat sceptical of this at first, but after reading through I see some merit in working with indigenous people  on climate change, using local knowledge to combat the possible effects of climate change.

It is alarming how narrowly some scientists view world problems like climate change.

Stuff:  Climate change scientists look to Māori and other indigenous people for answers

They are not looking to them for all the answers, but for valuable local knowledge.

In the Māoriland Hub in Ōtaki, north of Wellington, an exhibition details how bad climate change will get for locals in the Kāpiti Horowhenua region, where the frequency of heavy rainfall, flooding, erosion and landslides is already on the rise.

It includes a striking set of maps that draw on Māori knowledge systems of whakapapa (genealogy), hīkoi (walking) and kōrero tuku iho (ancestral knowledge) in combination with scientific data and intuitive design, to show what the local landscape will look like 30 and 100 years from now.

What it could look like in 30 and 100 years. No one knows exactly how landscapes will lok decades or a century ahead.

It’s part of a Massey University project co-led by Professor Huhana Smith (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Raukawa ki Te Tonga) that aims to combine knowledge from Māori researchers, architects, artists and scientists.

Huhana explains that climate change is not being communicated in a way that relates to the Māori communities who are most at risk from its impacts. This has a knock-on effect on national vulnerability, so her project seeks to forge a new way of sharing knowledge about climate change, based on “mātauranga.

Mātauranga is the body of traditional and contemporary knowledge about the world – both physical and spiritual – held by Māori. It is also the process by which information is observed, tested, interpreted, built upon and handed down. It is inseparable from Māori culture, values and beliefs. Māori consider themselves part of nature and within it, and mātauranga reflects this.

It is useful knowledge to have, but not the only knowledge required.

“Māori consider themselves part of nature” – in general perhaps. Some will more than others. And non-Māori as well, especially those who have lived and worked on the land and water through generations.

This knowledge was developed over millennia and brought here hundreds of years ago by Polynesian explorers, with successive generations of Māori continually adding to it. Because it dates so far back, mātauranga can reveal things about Aotearoa – including what its climate was like before Europeans arrived – that science alone cannot.

I think that science will be by far the main source of accurate historical knowledge.

At last year’s Asia-Pacific Climate Change conference in Manila, speakers from Indonesia, Vanuatu, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and the Philippines discussed the merits of coupling data with the kind of knowledge held by indigenous communities to develop policies that are “local to global”.

Around the world, scientists are increasingly looking to work with indigenous communities on climate change initiatives. A large-scale report that sought to quantify the contribution of indigenous forest guardians in 37 tropical countries concluded that the cheapest and most efficient way to protect forests and sequester carbon was to protect or expand the land rights of indigenous people.

Abuse of indigenous land rights of is causing major problems in places like Asia and the Amazon. I think we are largely past this now here in New Zealand.

In New Zealand, Niwa, Lincoln University, Massey University, and Landcare Research have all added mātauranga strands to their work, and the government’s Deep South Challenge, which will allocate more mātauranga funding in July, currently has eight Maori-led projects on the go. Together these represent the largest ever Māori-led research into climate change.

Dr Jane Richardson, Massey University’s Sustainability Project Manager and Research Portfolio Co-ordinator at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, says that mātauranga has broadened her mind. “At first I found this project challenging as I had to learn how to adopt a more unstructured, multidisciplinary way of thinking,” she says.

“As a scientist, I’m trained to think in a very structured, linear way with quite rigid planning and methodology. But the greater fluidity of mātauranga creates space for ideas and answers to emerge.”

Climate scientist Professor Martin Manning at Victoria University recalls the first time he saw the value of having different perspectives, at a meeting for developing a major international scientific report on climate change.

That sounds rather alarming. I would have thought that an essential part of good science was considering different perspectives.

“We had to decide the most important questions to cover,” he says. “Some of us said that it was cloud height changing, others said that the fate of the Amazon forest was critical, and so on. But then a scientist from Vancouver said this was all minor compared to the real question, which was how society responds to major changes. There was a bit of a stunned silence, because most of us had never thought about that before.”

I’m a bit stunned too. Societal effects and responses must be a major factor in addressing climate change.

Climate scientists are turning to indigenous communities, partly because they have often been in the same place for centuries. “Indigenous people who live in really cold places like Alaska are talking about unusual changes in their environment – like how local lakes are thawing out much faster than they used to,” says Dr Pauline Harris (Ngāti Kuhungunu, Rongomaiwahine), a lecturer at Victoria University who chairs the Society of Māori Astronomy Research and Traditions (SMART). “When I heard this, I started to wonder whether Māori communities might be seeing similar changes in our environment too.”

Dr Harris and her team of researchers are visiting iwi and hapū throughout the country to capture mātauranga about many different plant and animal activities – such as feeding, reproducing and hibernating – to find out if these are now happening earlier or later than in the past. “We’re asking whānau if they’ve noticed anything changing in places like forests over the last 50 years, capturing this using voice recorders and writing it down,” she says.

That should not be confined to Māori  whanau.

I have noticed local changes over the last 20 years. There will be many gardeners, especially those who have kept diaries, who will have useful knowledge about seasonal changes.

Māori have a deep understanding of what wildlife activities happen when, and how these activities synchronise with the Sun, Moon and stars throughout the year. They have used this knowledge to create the maramataka – the Māori calendar – by which they also plan activities such as planting, hunting and fishing. When the kōwhai blooms, for example, this is a sign for some communities that it’s time to plant the kūmara.

Liliana Clarke (Ngāti Porou, Waikato, Te Rarawa, Ngapuhi) is a maramataka specialist at SMART, working on the same project as Harris.

“The maramataka is not just for sustenance but also travelling, cultural activities and rituals, and predicting energy levels for certain activities and species. It’s something that we live our entire lives by,” she says.

Clarke adds that a lot of people are starting to go back to having maramataka-based food gardens, or māra kai, because they want local, sustainable food, which supermarkets aren’t supplying.

There are other people doing this in different ways.

There is potential for mātauranga and science to work together on making larger-scale food production more sustainable, particularly as climate change alters the environment of many crop-growing regions.

Large scale food production is modern and quite different to sustainable farming, but could learn from small scale production experiences.

Dr Apanui Skipper (Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Raukawa) and Niwa scientist Darren King (Ngāti Raukawa) have been capturing knowledge from Māori communities about signs in the environment that can be used to make short-term and long-term weather forecasts. Their most recent work is with Ngāi Tahu in the South Island.

“The weather and environment is very different there compared to the Coromandel and Eastern Bay of Plenty where we researched earlier, so it’s important we capture knowledge from that region too,” Skipper says.

Metservice and other weather forecasters have become very good, but you need to apply local knowledge to their big picture forecasts. In Dunedin sou-westerly weather can be fickle, because fronts coming from that direction hit the bottom of the South Island and split around the land mass. Sometimes the weather comes up to coast and blasts Dunedin, sometimes the worst of it is deflected out to sea and swings back in further north. That’s why Canterbury can get heavier snow than coastal Otago.

Metservice is usually very good at predicting temperature changes and the timing of fronts hitting particular locations, but is less accurate about the severity of wind or amount of rain, because this can vary a lot locally.

Māori weather forecasting uses the maramataka and involves paying attention to animal behaviours and plant activities that happen when specific weather patterns, such as heavy rainfall or strong winds, are imminent. It also includes atmospheric indicators – such as the shape of volcanic plumes, cloud formations and Sun or Moon halos – along with specific smells and sounds, such as a particular bird cry.

Skipper explains that Māori weather predictions are, like science, consensus-based – where the more indicators that point to a particular scenario, such as a long hot dry summer, the more confident the prediction and the more prepared communities can be.

While worth considering any types of weather predictions is worth doing some scepticism is still required. ‘Red sky at night/morning’ does have some scientific basis but is not always accurate – it can be a warning but is not a promise (like scientific weather forecasts).

Experts in weather forecasting once could predict flooding months ahead with such accuracy that it makes European meteorology look error-prone. But since Europeans arrived, much of that knowledge has been lost, along with many indicators – such as trees that have been cut down.

I’m very sceptical about “with such accuracy”. They may well have been able to predict increased likelihood of certain weather patterns like heavy rain, but would not have been able to predict specific weather events months in advance.

A problem with verbal knowledge and human memory is that it can be quite selective. It’s quite likely that over say a twenty year period flooding is predicted for five of those years but it only actually floods once – there will always be someone who says ‘I told you that would happen’, but rarely do they say ‘I was wrong again this year’.

Skipper also asked communities whether they had noticed any changes over time and what they thought about climate change.

“Everybody I interviewed agreed without a shadow of a doubt that climate change is definitely here,” he says. “The weather now is different from what their grandparents and great-grandparents had seen. Back then, the extreme weather events were predictable, short and sharp – but now they’re a lot wilder.

It’s easier to remember sharp or extreme weather events. I remember a particularly hot and dry summer in 1972/73 – but I was working outside all summer and remember only having one day off in four months for rain.

It’s normal to forget most weather.

And it’s normal to remember recent ‘wilder weather’ than from long ago.

I’ve noticed fewer and less hard frosts and milder winters over the last few years, which could be a sign of climate change, but have not noticed that the weather is getting ‘wilder’.

Kaumātua told Skipper about seeing baby tītī (muttonbirds) starving because their parents cannot find food in the warmer water. Others pointed out that years ago, it would have been impossible to grow kiwifruit and grapes in Invercargill, yet these fruit are now thriving that far south.

That could be due to better selected sites with favourable microclimates.

We have several grape vines and have struggled to get good grapes, and have struggled with tomatoes, but last year I built a hot house around one grape vine and grow tomatoes in it and they are doing very well. It’s still not good for growing stone fruit where I am – but got four apricots on a stunted tree planted ten years ago. Apples and pears haven’t been great either, but two trees planted in a different place – more sheltered – are doing better.

Climate change is also creating more favourable conditions for the spread of pests and diseases into new areas. Researchers are in a race against time to stop kauri dieback before it completely obliterates our unique kauri forests.

Is that because of climate change, or because of the timing of the introduction of the disease? WHAT IS KAURI DIEBACK DISEASE?Phytophthora agathidicida, the pathogen that causes kauri dieback disease, was only discovered in 2009, and formally named in 2015 (previously it was known as Phytophthora taxon Agathis). It is not certain how long the pathogen has been present in New Zealand. We have records that show it has been in New Zealand since the 1970’s and there is some anecdotal evidence that suggest that the disease has been killing kauri since the 1950s, perhaps a lot longer. There is some research to suggest that it came from overseas (probably somewhere in the Indo-Pacific), however the true origin of the disease remains unknown.”. That is contradictory.

Climate doesn’t create pathogens, but it can make conditions more favourable for them to become established. Modern travel makes it far quicker and easier for pathogens to be moved around the world.

While it seems clear that Pākehā and Māori knowledge can work in synergy to create more effective solutions, organisations first need to learn to value Māori expertise.

It pays – literally – to pay attention to mātauranga. “New Zealand thrives on this clean, green and wholesome image,” Black says, “but in actual fact we’re really not. We’ve got crappy rivers, crappy lakes, and now we’ve got dying forests. You’ve got to ask yourself – what tourist is going to want to see dead forests?”

There is more than climate change involved in this. And effects will vary – some forests may struggle more, some could thrive more with changing temperatures and precipitation.

As much knowledge as possible should be gathered and considered – including mātauranga and other local knowledge.

And it should be remembered that not all local knowledge is of equal accuracy and worth.

 

Substance versus rhetoric on climate change

The prime minister frequently says climate change is her generation’s nuclear issue. But so far there has not been much substance beyond the rhetoric. Certainly oil and gas exploration has been stopped, and conservation has got more funding. Meanwhile James Shaw talks a lot about climate change, and many of his suggestions scare the right of New Zealand politics. In any event if climate change is a central issue the policy can hardly be driven by a minor party. The leadership has to come from the top, from the prime minister herself.

Is there an opportunity to develop a set of climate change and environment policies that will genuinely take New Zealand into a new future? Not policies that set one section of society against the other but are seen as much more uniting than that? Such policies can’t be primarily about telling us how bad we are, but rather need to appeal to our more optimistic natures.

There are indications that a unifying approach is possible. Todd Muller of National, a supporter of the Climate Change Commission, seems to envisage that. Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has spent his life thinking about these things.

In other countries such as Denmark, Finland and Israel, where the innovation challenge was thought about much more seriously than in New Zealand, there was a unified approach that lasted beyond any one government. But the principal credit belonged to the prime minister who was in charge at the inception of the challenge and who was seen as the principal motivator and organiser of the key policies.

It is already clear that the same opportunity exists with climate change and the environment. Most New Zealanders know things have to change, and they are comfortable with the notion that New Zealand should be a leader, not a follower. It is part of our nation’s ethos.

When there is a $5.5 billion surplus, you might expect a more serious government commitment, say doubling the environment-focused budget to $2 billion. Sure, there are lots of competing priorities for the surplus, but the prime minister has put climate change and the environment among her highest priorities.

As Ardern has said, this is the year of delivery for the Government. She has to start delivering on her own rhetoric soon. Her talk versus walk is becoming a common observation.