The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C matters. When our government signed the Paris Agreement, Aotearoa New Zealand committed to take real efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

© Wim van Passel / WWF

Half a degree makes a big difference

Our Pacific neighbours have long called for the world's governments to limit warming to 1.5˚C, not 2˚C. For low-lying atoll nations, like many of our neighbours, that half a degree difference could make the difference between national survival and forced migration.

Warming of 2˚C not 1.5˚C would lead to severe climate impacts worldwide. Scientists warn allowing 2˚C of warming would lead to:

  • more extreme heatwaves

  • drops in tropical crop yields

  • increased coral bleaching

  • worse ocean acidification

  • more water shortages

  • significantly more global sea level rise

At 2015's crucial Paris conference, the world's governments - including ours - acknowledged the growing threat of climate change and agreed to work towards keeping warming to 1.5°C.

The 6th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlights the scale of the human-induced climate crisis. Scientists have repeatedly confirmed that real, technically feasible pathways still exist to limit warming to 1.5°C.

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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The science is clear. Climate change is caused by human activities.

When we burn fossil fuels, we release carbon pollution into the air. Forests and the oceans help to absorb this carbon dioxide, while deforestation and deep-sea mining contributes to the planet's warming because they release stored carbon dioxide.

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 because of the unsustainable way we farm and what artificial fossil fuel based fertilisers we are putting onto the land.

New Zealanders produce a lot of greenhouse gases, though we're a small country, our emissions per person are big. If you add up all the small countries emissions like ours, it is well over 20% of all global emissions. 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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The climate crisis is already affecting New Zealand. Our people and ecosystems are already feeling the heat.

Already, the national average temperature has risen by 1.1˚C since 1900. South Island glaciers are retreating, and we're recording fewer frosts. We are already paying more for insurance to deal with extreme weather, like floods and droughts.

We can expect a lot more to come. Climate change will almost certainly cause more droughts and water shortages. It will mean increased heavy rainfall in other areas and an increased risk of flooding. Coastal areas will face greater erosion, and possible inundation.


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

Fragile ecosystems, like coral reefs and fish stocks, 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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The good news is that we have most of the solutions to reduce emissions and keep warming to below 1.5˚C. 

At WWF we are working on how we can reduce emissions through nature-based solutions such as 

You can make a difference too. While not everyone owns a house or can install solar panels on their roofs. There are so many things you can do to reduce your own footprint and have a big impact.

Take your first step with our environmental footprint calculator.

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