Sir Peter Gluckman: NZ action on climate will be “symbolic, moral and political”

The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman has issued a viewpoint piece on climate change.

Excerpt: Read in full on the Chief Science Advisor’s website.

“There is no specific global temperature rise above which we can say changes will be ‘dangerous’ and below which changes will be ‘safe’. Any rise will have effects – indeed we are already experiencing some. However, the higher the rise the greater the effect on our lives, and the scientific literature indicates many risks for more than a 2°C rise in global temperature compared to pre-industrial conditions. The international view, supported by the actions of several countries, has been to adopt a global warming limit of 2°C or below (relative to pre-industrial) as a guiding principle for mitigation efforts, even though 2°C would still mean some changes in sea levels, in plant and animal ecosystems, in agriculture and in environmental quality. In New Zealand, even this small increase will have effects on our agriculture, coastlines and regional climates. The associated sea level rises will dramatically affect some of our Pacific Island neighbours.

“But this rise of 2°C is well below most estimates of what is likely to happen if the current pattern of emissions production and rates of deforestation continue. In the absence of effective action, the mid-point of the IPCC estimates is a global temperature increase of about 3.3°C, compared to pre-industrial conditions, by about 2090. For this reason, there needs to be a global commitment to control the temperature rise. If the temperature rose by this amount then the scenarios become quite scary in terms of changes in climate, flooding of low-lying areas, new patterns of infectious disease, and reductions in the capacity of many parts of the world to support agriculture and therefore to support our continued existence as we know it. New Zealand would not be immune from these changes.”