Thursday, April 10, 2008

Climate change - Triple threat to New Zealand

Climate change is triple threat to New Zealand, and water security, natural ecosystems and coastal communities are in great jeopardy since they are the most vulnerable to climate change, according to the latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a collaboration of over 2,500 climate change scientists and 130 governments.

One of the lead scientists in this project Dr Jim Salinger said that sea levels are expected to rise by half a centimeter per year, and by the year 2080 the average temperature may also increase by up to 3.5 degrees and already observed changes since 1950 include a warming in average temperature for New Zealand of 0.4 degrees Celsius, a decrease in cold nights and frosts by 10-20 days a year, and a sea level rise of about 70mm.

According to this report water security is the biggest threat especially because of ongoing coastal development and population growth in areas such as Northland and Bay of Plenty that are significantly increasing risk from sea level rise and according to some estimations there is the fair chance of significant increase in the severity and frequency of storms and even coastal flooding by 2050.

Biodiversity loss is also threatens New Zealand, especially with the increased risk of different agricultural pests and diseases invading island, which could cause loss of many different ecosystems. Effect of biodiversity loss will be particularly expressed once climate changes become more intensive because scientific and technical solutions won't be then enough to stop extinction of many species.

And there is also the threat to coastal communities which could become subject of many unwanted events caused by climate change. As one the scientists of this comprehensive research Pene Lefale said: "air and sea temperatures have increased by up to one degree in the past 100 years and the sea level rose more than three millimeters per year in period between 1950 and 2000." And since temperatures, as well as sea levels are expected to further increase in years to come, this will completely change rainfall pattern, and coastal communities could be soon exposed to much stronger cyclones than ever before.

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