By 3 News online staff
The United Nations has released a new and damning report on global warming,
reaffirming that the world must drastically slash its use of fossil
fuels and switch to predominantly clean energy by 2050, or face
catastrophic climate change.
Yet New Zealand is not doing "particularly
well" when it comes to reducing emissions, according to Associate
Professor of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria
University, James Renwick.
Catastrophic climate change could mean average
temperature rises of between 3 and 5degC, says Mr Renwick.
"[That's] outside of any human experience - the
last time the Earth was that warm, or would have been this warm,
was several million years ago," he told Firstline.
"And going along with that we're talking about
sea level rise which may reach several metres, big changes in where
the rain falls, big changes in the frequency of heat waves,
droughts, floods, fires - so really major disruptions to global
food production, water availability, and just increasing tensions
around the world."
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change offers some hope, providing options for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions.
And Mr Renwick says it is still possible to
avoid the worst case climate change scenario by reducing emissions,
but that we're running out of time.
"That's one of the main messages of this
report, we really need to get on top of global emissions in the
next decade, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, et cetera,
essentially to zero before the end of this century, so that means
major commitments by all nations of the globe."
A recent Ministry for the Environment report
showed that New Zealand's emissions have grown 25 percent since
1990, and are still growing.
"Per head of population New Zealand emits about
16 tonnes of CO2 equivalent; the sustainable level is about one
tonne per person," says Mr Renwick. "We're way off the scale."
Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser
says that the "emissions intensity" of the New Zealand economy has
reduced by a quarter since 1990.
But Mr Renwick says that's a measure which
relates emissions to GDP, and that it's the total amount of carbon
dioxide that goes into the atmosphere which is important.
Watch the video for the full