Threats of sea level rise, security implications of climate change

An Otago University research paper warns that the effects of sea level rise will impact most on vulnerable people (that’s likely), while a Defence Assessment “identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time”.

While it is still debatable how much the sea level is likely to rise there is no doubt it has been (slowly) rising over the past half century.

Some still say nothing should be done about climate change, but academics and officials are at least thinking and writiing reports about possible effects and implications.

RNZ:  Sea level rise threatens major NZ infrastructure – report

The burden of sea-level rise will weigh on the most vulnerable unless a new approach is developed and legislated, a new report says.

The paper, written by University of Otago Associate Professor Lisa Ellis, is part of research from the Deep South National Science Challenge. It looks at how New Zealand distributes the risks of sea-level rise.

It proposes an “ethically robust” policy to adapt to the risks of climate change.

Tens of thousands of buildings, infrastructure including airports, railways, and roads, and more than 100,000 residents are at risk of serious loss and damage associated with sea-level rise within the next century.

Dunedin’s airport is low lying, and has already flooded.

Image result for dunedin airport flooded

Flooding on the Taieri Plain, 1980 (airport in lower half of photo)

Rising sea levels and predicted more rain and storms would make this sort of ‘100 year flood’ more common.

South Dunedin in also low lying (it is reclaimed swamp) and has flooded in recent years.

Prof Ellis said sea-level rise was entirely predictable but if New Zealand was proactive about adaptation to climate change, peoples’ wellbeing would not be threatened.

But she said it was possible existing inequality would be exacerbated and the cost of adapting to climate change would rise if the status quo remained.

Her report recommended a government resource about adapting to sea-level rise nationwide, so community resilience did not vary with ratepayers’ ability to pay.

At local level the public should be engaged as early and deeply as possible.

Also from RNZ:  Sea level rise threatens major NZ infrastructure (audio)

Local Government New Zealand: Young and vulnerable shouldn’t shoulder sea-level rise burden

A report released this morning by the Deep South National Science Challenge supports LGNZ’s call for a national framework to deal with sea-level rise, saying that New Zealand’s youngest and most vulnerable are at risk of shouldering the burden if we don’t act now.

“Preliminary findings from our upcoming sea-level rise report shows that billions of dollars of local government roading, water and public transport infrastructure is at risk from as little as half a metre of sea-level rise.  That’s not including private buildings and houses, including potentially billions of dollars in residential real estate,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“Areas like South Dunedin illustrate just how difficult it is to adapt to climate change without hitting lower socio-economic families in the pocket, so we need a national plan that doesn’t leave anyone behind.”

“Local government stands alongside our communities on the front line in the fight against climate change, but we can’t do it alone – we need central government to set stronger, national rules around risk and liability to property owners in the path of sea-level rise.”

Research from NIWA reveals that sea level rise in New Zealand has increased from 1.7mm a year over the past century, to 4.4mm a year since 1993, which is higher than the global average.  In combination with more severe weather events, storm surges and king tides, sea-level rise presents a huge problem for coastal businesses and residents.

“We need to treat sea-level rise the way we do earthquakes, and that requires a national strategy that gives councils a stronger platform on which to make decisions about building in high-risk areas.”

Ministers of Defence, Climate Change: Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security Released

Minister of Defence Ron Mark and Minister for Climate Change James Shaw have today released a Defence Assessment on the security implications of climate change.

The Climate Crisis: Defence Readiness and Responsibilities explores the implications of climate change for New Zealand Defence Force operations.

It identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time, and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand’s neighbourhood.

“This Government is committed to ensuring New Zealand does its part to address climate change,” says Ron Mark.  “This means both contributing to mitigating climate change itself, and working with our international partners to respond to the intensifying impacts climate change will bring.

“Earlier this year the Government’s Strategic Defence Policy Statement recognised climate change will have a big impact on Defence operations, particularly in the Pacific.

“It proceeded to highlight that disruptive weather patterns are causing an increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes such as cyclones, rainfall events, droughts, and flooding from sea level rise. In addition, the state of the Southern Ocean is changing, meaning our current vessels are getting close to the limits of being able to operate safely.

“Therefore it stands to reason that we needed to look deeper in order to better understand the social and security implications of climate change, and what our Defence Force will face when it responds to these weather events.

“The Coalition Government already has a work programme underway to help alleviate the effects of climate change.  This includes re-energised Pacific policy settings, the development of a new climate change law, and the commitment to make 100 per cent of New Zealand’s electricity renewable by 2035,” says James Shaw.

The assessment has been produced by the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the New Zealand Defence Force, other New Zealand agencies, Pacific partners and academics.

https://www.defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/the-climate-crisis-defence-readiness-and-response

There is certain to be a lot of ongoing talk about the possible effects and implications of climate change and sea level rise, but it is yet to be seen whether there will be any significant action.

Q&A – Ron Mark and the review of NZ defence policy

A new review of NZ’s defence policy says Great Power competition is back & turbulent times could be ahead. So what kind of Defence Force does NZ need? interviews today 9am TVNZ1

Minister of Defence: Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018 Launched

The Policy Statement updates New Zealand’s strategic Defence policy settings to reflect the Coalition Government’s foreign policy and national security priorities.

The Policy Statement emphasises:

  • The importance of the Defence Force delivering value for New Zealand’s communities
  • New Zealand’s responsibilities as a Pacific nation
  • Addressing the impacts of climate change and protecting the natural environment
  • Maintaining the international rules-based order which is crucial to safeguarding and promoting New Zealand’s interests and wellbeing
  • The importance of contributing to New Zealand’s key security partnerships

“The Policy Statement sets out a challenging strategic environment for New Zealand, in which the international rules-based order is coming under pressure from a range of forces.  The effects of these forces are playing out across the globe, including in New Zealand’s neighbourhood, from Antarctica to the South Pacific.

“As a small state, New Zealand relies on the international rules-based order and multilateral approaches – alongside its international partnerships – to protect its interests and amplify its ability to be a positive global contributor.

“The Defence Force is a key tool with which the Government can help nations and communities.  Whether it be through responding to natural disasters, helping protect fisheries and natural resources, or at the sharper end, contributing to coalition and peace support operations.

“We will now turn our attention to reviewing the Defence Capability Plan.  This will build on the Strategic Policy Statement 2018 and determine the capabilities that the Defence Force will require to give effect to New Zealand’s updated defence policy settings. That review will be completed by the end of 2018,” says Ron Mark.

https://defence.govt.nz/publications/publication/strategic-defence-policy-statement-2018

Newsroom: Bold defence plan comes at a cost

Who would have thought such a small document could make such a big statement?

At a relatively slender 39 pages, the newly-released Strategic Defence Policy Statement packs a significant punch pound-for-pound in outlining the threats to New Zealand and the world.

It paints a bleak picture of “compounding challenges of a scope and magnitude not previously seen in our neighbourhood”.

Coalition politics are a very real consideration, with the Greens and (to a lesser extent) Labour historically critical of spending on defence instead of priorities closer to home.

That may explain the heavy emphasis on security issues related to climate change and the Pacific, providing a framework which the two left-wing parties may find more agreeable.

But that in itself raises the question of how much New Zealand can do: focusing more heavily on the Pacific while maintaining deployments in the Middle East and elsewhere will stretch the NZDF.

Whether it is stretched to breaking point may depend on how successfully Mark can argue his corner in future.

Mark gets a chance to argue his case to the public this morning on Q&A.

“New Zealanders want to know that Kiwis, when they’re placed in danger, have the right equipment to come home safely. That’s what NZers focus on, and I’m proud of them. I’m proud of this government for being bold enough”.

“When you have timidity in the ranks of cabinet, such as we’ve seen in the last nine years, you end up kicking a can down the road, and then aircraft are either grounded or, at worse, they fall out of the sky”.

Fortunately for Mark there are no Green MPs in Cabinet.