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Your Vote 2020: NZ faces 'considerable warming' without climate change action - expert

This election, 1 NEWS looks at the top five issues New Zealanders care about the most. This week we take a look at what Kiwis want around climate change.

Dark orange glow behind Sky Tower from Australian bushfires. Source: 1 NEWS

Without sufficient action worldwide, New Zealand faces "considerable warming" including severe and prolonged droughts, a climate scientist warns.

Auckland has endured a long winter of water restrictions as WaterCare's dam levels remain low; restrictions are still in place now, with no end in sight.

NIWA climate scientist Petra Pearce says New Zealand's climate is already getting warmer, consistent with global warming trends.

"New Zealand’s future climate depends on how the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere changes into the future," she told 1 NEWS.

"If we continue to follow a pathway of high greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, then New Zealand may see considerable warming, increases in heatwave occurrence and length, reductions in frosts, snow and ice, changes to rainfall patterns, more severe and long-lived droughts in many places, and continued sea-level rise."

The changes in rainfall doesn't just mean drought. 

Pearce says while the east and north of New Zealand would see less rain, they expect to see more downpours in the west and south of the country.

"If we follow a pathway of lower greenhouse gas emissions, then impacts on New Zealand’s climate won’t be as severe – although New Zealand will still likely experience some warming above present levels, some changes to rainfall patterns and drought, and about 0.5m of sea-level rise by 2100."

PRIMARY SECTOR 'MOST AFFECTED' BY DROUGHTS

Farming and agriculture is a core part of New Zealand's economy, but it's a double-edged sword.

The Ministry for the Environment says it's the source of nearly half the country's greenhouse gas emissions.

It's also one of the industries facing the worst impact by continued climate change.

"The primary sector, including agriculture, horticulture, and forestry, is most affected by drought in New Zealand," Pearce says.

Incredibly dry conditions increase the risk of severe wildfires, while also impacting feed availability for stock and the quality and quantity of fruit, she says.

"Drought is likely to increase in severity into the future for many parts of New Zealand."

REDUCING THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

"Climate change science and modelling shows that more significant impacts are likely to happen with higher greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere," Pearce says.

Those more significant impacts include higher amounts of warming and more extreme changes to rainfall.

But hope isn't lost yet.

"The modelling shows that by following a pathway towards lower greenhouse gas concentrations, the impacts of climate change may be somewhat reduced," Pearce says.

POLITICAL PARTY CLIMATE CHANGE POLICIES 

Labour: Work with farmers to reduce primary sector emissions, including improving measuring tools and recognition mitigation. See Labour's climate policy here.

National: Investigate new technologies to support transmission to a net-zero emissions economy, repeal ban on offshore oil and gas exploration. See National's climate policy here.

NZ First: Work to prioritise climate change actions across areas including transport, agriculture, waste and water. See NZ First's climate policy here.

Green Party: Establish an independent climate commission, phase out subsidies to fossil fuel sector, "no free rides" for polluting sectors. See the Greens' climate policy here.

ACT Party: Ask politicians to cut flights to Wellington by 25 per cent, tie carbon price to trading partners', remove subsidies for commercial forestry investment. See ACT's climate policy here.

Māori Party: Decommission oil and gas sites by 2030, develop national Māori strategy for renewable energy and clean technology, bring methane emissions from agriculture into ETS. See the Māori Party's climate policy here.

The Opportunities Party: Charge polluters, build energy efficient homes, plant "the right trees in the right places". See TOP's climate policy here.

New Conservatives: Remove ETS, fund research into emission solutions, withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Climate Agreement. See the New Conservatives' climate policy here.