The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded there’s a 95% certainty climate change is human-induced.
There are several possible responses to that including work to prevent or reverse it, panic and/or preparing for it.
New Zealand contributes such a tiny amount to global emissions there’s little we can do to prevent or reverse it, but Climate Change Minister Tim Groser said we’re doing our bit:
. . . “New Zealand has been an active participant in the IPCC process. It is important that we contribute as addressing climate change demands collective action, and it keeps our scientists and officials up to date with the latest in climate science. This assists policy development and decision making at home.
As well as making an important contribution to the IPCC scientific process, New Zealand is playing its part to achieve fair and binding international rules around greenhouse gas emissions.
“New Zealand actively participates in international climate change negotiations and supports collective, collaborative action. We recently convened and hosted an informal dialogue to inject some fresh thinking into negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol, by the end of 2015.
“New Zealand is committed to doing our fair share without imposing excess costs on households and businesses, while the Government focuses on jobs and strengthening our recovery,” says Mr Groser.
“The Government recently made an unconditional commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to five per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and maintains a conditional commitment to a reduction target range of 10% to 20% below 1990 levels.
“We have implemented the Emissions Trading Scheme, we are making progress towards our 90% renewable electricity target, and have launched the Global Research Alliance, committing $45 million to research ways to grow more food without growing greenhouse gas emissions.”
As well as playing our part in prevention and reversal we need to prepare for the consequences should the forecast effects eventuate.
One way to prepare for the increased heat and droughts which are predicted is irrigation some of which requires water storage.
Federated Farmers vice president William Rolleston has been calling for more water storage systems for some time.
He says the Opuha dam in Canterbury has proven to be effective in times of dry weather, and more opportunities for water storage around the country need to be sought.
Dr Rolleston says the discussion around a proposal by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to build the Ruataniwha dam needs to continue and the dam could be positive for the economy and the environment.
The Ruataniwha dam is controversial, because of concerns it could lead to an intensification of farming, with nutrient run-off potentially proving toxic for the Tukituki River and its fish species.
But Dr Rolleston says climate implications need to be considered.
He says farmers need to prepare, and water storage systems, like the Ruataniwha dam, could help mitigate extremes of climate.
Dr Rolleston says like the Opuha dam, the Ruataniwha dam could prove effective in times of dry weather.
While New Zealand has plenty of water, he says it’s not always in the right place at the right time.
“Certainly in South Canterbury we’ve had the Opuha dam for some years and it’s proven to be a real bonus for both the economy and the environment and we need to be aware that water storage can have a positive effect on both.”
Dr Rolleston says discussions about the Ruataniwha dam need to continue.
Ironically the people who are most vociferous about climate change and adamant we must do something about it are often the ones who are most vehemently opposed to irrigation and the water storage which enables more of it.
They fail to see the benefits which aren’t just economic but environmental and social too.
Whether or not climate change eventuates as forecast, droughts have always been with us and will continue to occur.
Water storage can insure against that and should be pursued where at all possible, with the necessary safeguards to ensure that increasing the quantity of water available doesn’t compromise the quality.