More record warm years ahead unless greenhouse gas cuts enforced, expert warns

New Zealand is in store for more record warm years unless cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are strictly imposed, says a climate expert.

NIWA has just confirmed that 2016 was New Zealand's hottest year on record ever. Source: 1 NEWS

The country has just come through its hottest year on record with a mean temperature of 13.4 degrees Celsius, 0.83 degrees above the long-term average.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research principal scientist Chris Brandolino says NIWA expects this will continue unless there are strict implementations of carbon emission reductions. 

"Our atmosphere will continue to warm. So yeah, it's our expectation. It depends on basically which carbon emission scenario occurs. It depends what we do as well as a society," Mr Brandolino said.

He said this will mean "more extreme weather events, more days in drought, more heavy rainfall events, more extremes basically".

Mr Brandolino says three things caused the record.

The winds were from the north and north west more times than usual, our ocean temperatures were quite warm especially in the first half of 2016, and carbon emissions.

He says Co2 emissions have allowed long-term warming over the past 100 years.

Stats out today show that a nearly one degree temperature rise was recorded in NZ in 2016. Source: 1 NEWS

"Our atmosphere has warmed in New Zealand about a degree over the past 100 years. So that long-term warming combined with what we call natural variability - which way the winds are coming, how the oceans are looking -  when those things are aligned you can get a record breaking year."

'More pests and more dead birds'

Forest and Bird says the warmer climate is putting native species at risk.

"We get more beech seeds falling in the forest. And that means more food for rodents, and that means more pests and more dead birds," said Geoff Keey of Forest and Bird.

The Government says it is aiming to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

But critics want more urgency.

"We can electrify our transport system, we can farm smarter, we can plant more trees. There's a lot we can actually get on with right now," Mr Keey said.

Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick says New Zealand trades on the "clean, green 100 per cent pure" image.

"And when you look at what's happening with greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand we're going in totally the wrong direction," he said.