Time for bold actions guided by science

New Zealanders are fast becoming aware that our changing climate matters a great deal. NIWA Chief Executive John Morgan explains.

The flames fueled by Nelson’s summer drought, and the bridges wrecked by March’s record-breaking downpour on the West Coast, speak for themselves.

It is also sobering to read the latest report from NIWA’s sea-level experts, who are projecting a potential $38 billion bill for commercial and residential building owners from a one metre rise in our coastal waters.

As a nation we are currently grappling with the actions we will need to take to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling this change in our atmosphere and oceans.

The Zero Carbon Bill has set out clear emissions targets for 2050, but it will take bold and confident decision making by our political leaders to enact the practical measures that will get us there.

Difficult decisions lie ahead, but I am confident that – guided by science – New Zealand can reach those targets. Science has already prompted political action, and science is the pathway to solutions.

NIWA’s core purpose embraces climate change research and advice, so we have a pivotal role to play in answering New Zealand’s climate challenge.

This month we are gathering together decision makers from across the public and private sectors to help shape the science and the information they will need to meet their own climate challenges.

NIWA is well placed to respond. Our recent $20 million investment in New Zealand’s High Performance Computing Facility and our work, in partnership with the Deep South National Science Challenge, on the Earth System Model puts NIWA at the forefront of global climate modeling capability.

Our climate scientists already deliver detailed regional climate projections stretching out into the next century. These, along with services such as the NIWA/GNS Science RiskScape hazard analysis tool, empower local communities and businesses to build resilience to future climate risks such as flooding, fires or sea-level rise.

NIWA researchers are also pioneering the greenhouse gas monitoring research that New Zealand requires to accurately track our carbon balance and deliver on our Zero Carbon goals.

Last year NIWA was awarded $11 million from MBIE’s Endeavour Fund to develop CarbonWatchNZ. This internationally significant carbon monitoring collaboration – involving NIWA, GNS Science, Manaaki Whenua, Auckland Council and the University of Waikato – will track New Zealand’s progress in cutting greenhouse gases. Equally important, it will provide the data New Zealanders need to make the right decisions on how to curb carbon emissions.

New Zealand needs to act decisively if we are to take effective actions to curb the greenhouse gases driving our changing climate and to adapt to our changing environment.

NIWA is committed to working alongside New Zealand communities and businesses to deliver the innovative and resolute science they need to underpin those decisions.