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Published: 2005-03-24 00:00:00

The Waikato is likely to experience water shortages, rising sea levels and effects on business and agriculture from climate change, Environment Waikato Environment Committee meeting heard.

Policy and Strategy Programme Manager Blair Dickie said New Zealand was a climate- dependent nation and the environment, economy, society and culture would be affected by climate change. Native ecosystems had limited ability to adapt, threatening some species and creating biosecurity risks. Rising sea levels would affect many New Zealanders, many of whom lived on the coastline.

More pest and disease problems were likely, and while there may be some benefits from warmer winters, there was likely to be damage from hotter summers, a spread of new disease and pests and a likely increase in skin cancers, he said.

Global implications for climate change were not uniform and would affect some areas more than others. Land areas were likely to warm more than oceans. The greatest warming would be at high latitudes but would still affect New Zealand. For instance, animals and birds may not migrate, which could affect the bird population at the Miranda wetlands.

The Government had adopted a number of measures, such as international research agreements, policies, legislative changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a carbon charge, distribution of sink credits for permanent protection forests and guidance and support for local government action, he said.

Currently, the world has experienced the hottest five years on record since 1998, and the hottest 15 years on record since 1980. Last year Japan experienced 10 typhoons, when the previous maximum was six and the United States had four category five hurricanes in one season.

“Climate change impacts overseas will affect New Zealand’s economy through trade, and can not be “turned off” once negative effects predominate. Current greenhouse emissions will determine the climate our grandchildren will live in,” he said.

Most of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions came from agriculture (54 percent) and energy (38 percent) with industrial and waste sources providing four percent each.

Environment Waikato’s response included adaptation to prepare for unavoidable climate effects and mitigation to avoid dangerous effects, such as reducing energy use land use change management and transport strategies which considered energy efficiency.