New Zealand won't dodge climate impacts

Climate change is already affecting New Zealand.

Our towns, our farms, and our unique ecosystems will all face significant climate impacts unless we make the change to a 100% renewable energy future.

© Kevin Schafer / WWF

The national average temperature has risen 0.9˚C over the past century

The effects that have already been measured by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) include:

  • Retreat of South Island glaciers, with the ice volume in the Southern Alps down 11% in the past 30 years

  • A rise in sea level by 16cm on average across New Zealand's four major ports in the past 100 years

  • A rise in insurance industry levies to cover the costs of increased incidence of extreme weather events such as floods

  • Fewer frosts in areas like Canterbury and Marlborough

© PHIL REID/The Dominion Post
© WWF / Bob Zuur

And there's more to come

Over the next 30 – 100 years, temperatures will continue to rise. In the future, projected impacts include:

  • More droughts for areas like the East Cape and Northland

  • More floods for other areas, particularly the West Coast

  • Worse erosion – and possibly inundation – of coastal areas

  • Introduction of new pests and diseases, affecting both health and agriculture

It’s also likely that our lives and livelihoods will be significantly affected by global impacts such as immigration, food shortages, and political instability.


Local councils are responsible for preparing our cities and towns for these impacts

They are advised by the Ministry for the Environment.

Some New Zealand councils are already planning ahead for sea level rise of at least 50cm by 2100 because it will affect where to position new houses, roads, waste and stormwater pipes.

Wellington City and Christchurch City both have a plan on how to tackle the effects of climate change.

Does your council have a plan? Ask them!

Climate change is the biggest issue facing the planet. People, species, and our precious environment are all at risk.

Our carbon pollution will have impacts all over the world - including here in Aotearoa New Zealand. Climate change is bigger than politics. This affects everyone.

But we know the solutions. Together, a 100% renewable energy future is 100% possible. The transition is already underway.


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Climate change is caused by human activities. When we burn fossil fuels, we release carbon pollution into the air. Forests help to absorb this carbon dioxide, so deforestation also contributes to the planet's warming.

However, carbon dioxide isn't the only greenhouse gas. Other gases, like methane and nitrous oxide also trap heat in the atmosphere. Animal agriculture is a big emitter of these gases.

New Zealanders produce a lot of greenhouse gases compared to the rest of the world. Though we're a small country, so our absolute total emissions are small, our emissions per person are big. Per person, we're one of the thirty biggest emitters worldwide - and agriculture is responsible for around half of those emissions.

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People around the world are already feeling the impacts of climate change. Water supplies are shrinking, crop yields are dropping, forests are burning, and our oceans are becoming more acidic. This has huge implications for our livelihoods and human security.

Fragile ecosystems, like coral reefs, are also already succumbing to climate change impacts. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and new and more frequent weather extremes will leave no continent untouched. 

If we let the warming continue unchecked, we run a real risk of hitting catastrophic tipping points. That's where the warming triggers positive feedback loops that lead to even more warming.

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To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, scientists warn that average global temperatures should not be allowed to rise more than 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels. 

When the world's governments committed to the Paris Agreement in 2015 - a new, global deal on climate change - they answered a call from our Pasifika neighbours, and agreed to try to keep warming below 1.5˚C.

A rise in temperature above 1.5˚C could lead to a significant rise in sea levels, potentially displacing tens of millions of people, especially in the Pacific), a dramatic reduction in global food supplies, water shortages affecting hundreds of millions of people, and an increased risk of extinction for up to 30% of the world’s species.

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The good news is: we have the solutions. Real, technically feasible, affordable alternatives to fossil fuels exist now. To keep warming below 1.5˚C, we need to make the switch from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy and bring our carbon pollution down to net zero by 2050.

Thing is, this won't just stop climate change. Switching from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy will be better for people, communities and businesses all over the world.

And the change is already underway. Renewable energy technologies like wind and solar are getting cheaper and cheaper, and rolling out worldwide faster and faster. We can do this.

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