Covering Climate Now: Global warming researchers say more support required despite $55 million government investment

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 250 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Climate change researchers say the issue requires greater support despite MBIE spending more than $55 million in the last year on research.

The study investigates how global warming affects New Zealand and what can be done to combat the effects.

Baring Head, on the rugged coast near Wellington, is home to the longest-running carbon dioxide measuring station in the Southern Hemisphere.

Greenhouses gasses in our atmosphere started being measured by NIWA at the site in 1972.

“You go home at the end of the day, you still know that we’re increasing at such a rate on our greenhouse gasses that something’s got to be done,” NIWA principal technician Gordon Brailsford told 1 News.

Carbon dioxide measured in our atmosphere in southerly winds has increased from around 325 parts per million when records began at the site to nearly 410 parts per million last month.

NIWA's Gordon Brailsford at Baring Head near Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS

This air comes from Antarctica with no impact from human activity and land for a long time, giving a clear baseline measurement of the atmosphere that other countries rely on when making their own records.

NIWA is now working to make New Zealand the first country in the world with a national picture of its greenhouse gasses in a project called CarbonWatchNZ.

Monitoring sites are being set up around the country.

James Renwick, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contributor and Victoria University of Wellington climate researcher, said while New Zealand is world-leading in some areas of research, more needs to be done to understand the current impact of climate change in New Zealand.

“The big picture is we have a pretty good handle on but understanding the implications for New Zealand in detail are areas where we could do a lot more work,” Mr Renwick said.

He said an understanding of global warming’s impact on New Zealand’s native animals and their homes, the economy, manufacturing and society is lacking.

“If we don’t take action on climate change pretty soon, it’s going to cost an awful lot, we know what to do. We can reduce emissions quite dramatically if we really set our minds to it,” he said.

The main Government funder of global warming research is the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the department allocating $55.4 million to related research in the year to June.

Issues the Government is focused on researching are sea level rise in the Pacific, ocean acidification, agricultural emissions, extreme weather, the impact on Antarctica and innovation to deal with these areas.

“Government has an objective around transitioning to a low emissions economy,” MBIE science policy manager Marcos Pelenur said.

“I would say that we are funding a lot of excellent science in climate change, understanding climate change.”

The United Nations has reported on its website in the lead up to the Climate Action Summit in New York this month that ‘global efforts to tackle climate change are running off-track.’

New Zealand has committed to playing its part in keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as part of the Paris Agreement created in 2015.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will speak at the summit, which starts on September 23.

This story is part of a week of special coverage of climate change from 1 NEWS. Other stories in the series include a look at flooding, the situation in farming and ocean temperature rises.

Source: 1 NEWS

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MBIE has spent more than $55 million in the last financial year on finding out more about how global warming affects New Zealand and what can be done to combat the effects. Source: 1 NEWS