Step 3: How will climate change affect you?

In this step you will identify your climate change risks, compare them to other (non-climate) risks affecting you face and piroritise your responses.

In this step you will identify your climate change risks, compare them to other (non-climate) risks you face and prioritise your responses.

3.1. How is New Zealand's climate expected to change in the future? 

Task 3.1: Find out about the expected changes in New Zealand’s climate in coming decades, e.g. 2050 and 2090, and specifically for your area. You can record what you learn in Table 3.1 in the Taskpad. 

Over the coming century:

  • New Zealand is likely to continue to get warmer
  • annual average rainfall is likely to increase in the west and south and decrease in the east and north
  • westerly winds are likely to increase in frequency and speed, particularly in winter and over the South Island 
  • weather extremes are projected to be more common (intense rainfall, drought, very hot days) and more difficult to predict, while some types of weather such as snowfall and frosts are expected to become less common. 
  • sea levels will continue to rise.

Go to our resources page for more information about what might happen in your location.

Additionally, take a look at the projected regional climate change hazards information. 

3.2. What are the key climate impacts - direct and indirect? 

Task 3.2: Identify potential climate impacts by completing Table 3.1.

The impacts of climate change will be specific to your area. Before starting, check whether any assessments have already been done by industry associations, professional bodies, councils or central government agencies. This may provide a head start and help your assessment. 

Climate change impacts could mean:

  • hotter conditions for people, animals and plants
  • more days in the year when plants can optimally grow ("growing degree days")
  • more days when energy is required to cool buildings ("cooling degree days") and fewer frosts
  • higher evaporation and transpiration rates from land and plants to the air 
  • warmer lakes and streams 
  • sea-level rise and more coastal flooding events
  • increased flooding from streams and heavy rainfall
  • more extreme weather including droughts, heavy rainfall and storms
  • seasons changing (i.e. seasons may be wetter/drier or start earlier/later)
  • the distribution of human, plant, and animal diseases changing
  • more and different plant species able to grow in your area
  • the performance of infrastructure may change (more water shortages, more road maintenance)
  • impacts on the domestic and global economy and markets
  • changes to energy supply and demand across the country 
  • changes to insurance policies for extreme weather and climate change. 

If limited relevant work has been done for your location or sector, or you need more specific information, you can carry out a simple assessment to identify potential climate impacts. This step will help you to do this with your own experience and knowledge. 

If this initial assessment shows that climate change could have significant impacts, you may want to undertake a more thorough scoping assessment in consultation with someone with experience and expertise in this field. To talk to NIWA about this, email [email protected].

Find out how the climate is likely to change in the future for your location. Note that different levels of certainty can be placed on different projections. 

Identify what assets and elements of your business/organisation could be affected: consider the location, extent and timing. Think about the length of time or season. Some actions, such as investing in forestry, have a long lifetime (decades or more) and are more likely to be affected by climate change. For shorter-term decisions (a few years or less), use recent climate records or past extreme weather events to understand the impacts. 

Will climate change make things better or worse? Identify positive and negative impacts from changes in climate that might lead to likely future problems and opportunities. Consider any critical thresholds where the effects or impacts of climate and weather will have a significant impact once exceeded, such as the amount of rainfall/flooding. 

3.3. What is the risk from climate change? 

Task 3.3: Assess the risk (likelihood and consequence) of each climate change effect listed in Table 3.1.

Now focus on understanding the risk of those impacts. This involves assessing:

  1. the probability, or likelihood, of the impact occurring AND
  2. the magnitude, or consequence, of the impact should it occur.

Understanding the risk will help you make decisions on how to manage climate change. Consider the timescales of the impacts – some of these impacts might change over time.

How you assess risk will depend on what is at stake, for instance, managing a major asset and/or investment could require more in-depth analysis, including cost-benefit analysis. It is likely that you are already managing risks and you may just need to review your risk management plans. 

The risk table below allows you to rate the risk by the likelihood and consequences. The table shows that for a very unlikely event with negligible consequences, the risk is low. On the other hand, an event that is very likely and has severe consequences is rated as a high risk. 

  • High risk: requiring immediate action.
  • Medium high risk: issue requiring additional research or some immediate action.
  • Medium risk: issues that are likely to benefit from adaptation measures.
  • Low medium risk: issues that can be dealt with as and when they happen. 
  • Low risk: issues that are considered acceptable should they happen.

For each impact, rate the risk based on the table above by looking at the likelihood and impact (size of the consequences) of expected climate changes and entering them into Table 3.1. 

  • In Table 3.1, describe the likelihood from very likely to very unlikely. For example, very likely means something has happened before and is expected to happen again in the next 12 months, while very unlikely could mean although something has not happened before it is possible. Do not include things that have no chance of occurring.
  • Keep in mind that a “1 in 100 year event” means that there is a 1% chance of the event occurring in a single year and not that the event only occurs once every 100 years. 
  • Think about what the consequence of an event might be from negligible to severe and enter them in Table 3.1. Negligible means impacts have little or no cost and mild inconvenience. Severe might mean financial viability over the long term is compromised (i.e. a certain activity is no longer feasible).

3.4. How can you manage your climate change risks? 

Task 3.4: List climate risks (from Table 3.1) affecting your business/organisation in Table 3.4. Note how you could potentially manage these risks. 

Consider how climate change risks compare with other risks (e.g. financial, reputational or market value). The relative importance of risks will change over time and may need to be regularly assessed. For example, a business may have short-term financial difficulties that are of more immediate concern than future climate change, but these priorities may change over time if climate change is expected to affect your financial viability in the long-term. Note the timeframes for the risks. 

  • List the key climate risks affecting you or your organisation, stating how you already manage that risk.
  • Consider the risk posed by multiple risks occurring at the same time or across consecutive years. For example, if you’re a farmer or grower, what would be the impact of a drought followed by a flood? Or a consecutive number of years with droughts?
  • Note how you would manage this risk (i.e. would you have the capacity to respond and would you be able to prepare for the next year?)
  • Are there any uncertainties? If so, list them and state whether you know enough or need more information to be able to reduce these risks.
  • Consider the significance of how other risks may change over time. So, alongside climate change scenarios, consider how these other risks may vary in the future.

3.5. What are the most important risks for you? 

Task 3.5: Prioritise the most significant weather and climate risks from Step 3.4, using the column in Table 3.4 for ranking them by importance. 

You can now identify your priority climate risks by considering:

  • the work you have done in Tasks 3.2 to 3.4
  • whether current risk management techniques are applicable
  • risks that will increase more rapidly due to climate change, especially if they cross critical thresholds
  • risks where it will take some time to plan and implement your adaptation response
  • contingency planning
  • your attitude to risk (refer to Step 2.1).

When identifying priority risks, think about:

  • available resources
  • how you already manage the risks
  • the time horizons of the risks
  • the levels of risk.

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