Are you ready for your climate future?

NIWA Chief Executive John Morgan asks whether New Zealanders are doing enough to prepare for what lies ahead.

The science is very clear.

The World Meteorological Organization announced just a matter of weeks ago that the ongoing march of atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane – have reached record highs. 

Evidence of the global warming and climate disruption that inevitably follows the continuing build-up of these heat trapping gases is equally very clear.

Every decade since 1980 has been warmer than the one before, and the past eight years have been the world’s hottest since records started.

Glaciers are retreating, seas are rising, oceans warming and acidifying, and extreme weather events seem to be on international repeat. Heatwaves, fires, droughts, storms, or floods – whether you take a global or local perspective, the hallmarks of global warming are already plain to see.

The science is also very clear on what our climate future already looks like.

Thanks to improvements in computer modelling, data science and processing power, NIWA has produced detailed projections for the climatic conditions that regions around New Zealand will face in the coming decades.

For example, we know that within 30 years New Zealand can expect annual, multi-region six-month droughts, double the number of major floods and storm seas flooding low-lying coastal areas every year.

Some institutions have started to develop the adaptation strategies required to prepare for this future. The Reserve Bank, for example, has started climate change stress tests for household lending and warns that more than a quarter of Auckland mortgages may be at risk of climate change-related flooding within decades.

NIWA has developed a Climate Change Adaptation Toolbox to specifically help businesses, communities and organisations assess their climate risks and adapt their activities to survive in this markedly different environment.

But many organisations and businesses, at both a national and regional level, are still choosing to ignore the writing on the wall.

Virtually every organisation has a plan for earthquakes and fires, but how many have assessed the full impact of climate change on their activities, let alone developed practical adaptation strategies to deal with these impacts?

The science is very clear. We already know what our climate future looks like, and it is fast approaching. The best time to start planning for it was yesterday.

This story forms part of Water and Atmosphere - December 2022, read more stories from this series.