The Climate Crisis

Greenhouse gas emissions

Climate change is primarily caused by the accumulation of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere due to human activities. GHGs absorb heat from Earth’s surface, warming the atmosphere. Different GHGs remain in the atmosphere for different amounts of time, ranging from a few years to thousands of years.

New Zealand’s level of greenhouse gas emissions

New Zealand’s share of global GHG emissions is small, but our gross emissions per person are high. New Zealand’s emissions mainly come from the combustion of fossil fuels that emit CO2 (carbon dioxide), and agriculture, which emits CH4 (methane) and N2O (nitrous oxide).

 

What StatsNZ reports on

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) units, which is a measure for how much global warming a given type and amount of greenhouse gas causes, using the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide as the reference. CO2-e is used for describing different greenhouse gases in a common unit, which allows them to be reported consistently.

Data used may not include the latest emissions data, which can be found at New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

2017 information from StatsNZ

From Stats NZ (2017)

New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased 54 percent since 1990

  • New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions increased 54 percent between 1990 and 2014. Total emissions increased 23 percent.
  • A total of 24.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent was removed from the atmosphere in 2014, equivalent to 30 percent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions that year. There has been a 16 percent decline in removals since 1990.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, and so remove it from the atmosphere. The increase in net emissions and decrease in removals are partly explained by the large quantity of forests planted in the early 1990s, which are now mature or have been harvested.

2014 information from StatsNZ

New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased 111 percent since 1990 – From Stats NZ (2014)

  • New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions increased 111 percent between 1990 and 2012. Total emissions increased 25 percent.
  • A total of 26.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent was removed from the atmosphere in 2012, equivalent to 35 percent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions that year. There has been a 29 percent decline in removals since 1990.
  • Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, and so remove it from the atmosphere. The increase in net emissions and decrease in removals are partly explained by the large quantity of forests planted in the early 1990s, which are now mature or have been harvested.

Greenhouse Gas Intensity

Definition and measure

The greenhouse gas intensity indicator measures the relationship between the environment and economy by comparing two indicators. It measures whether emissions have grown or decreased faster or slower than growth in the economy.

Greenhouse gas intensity compares production in the economy, as measured by real GDP, with total greenhouse gas emissions. The New Zealand greenhouse gas inventory is compiled on a geographical/territorial basis whereas real GDP covers the activity of economic resident units.

Greenhouse gas emissions include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride, hydrofluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons. Each of these gases are converted into carbon dioxide equivalents. Real GDP is volume series, expressed in 1995/96 dollars, to remove the effect of price changes.

This information was produced by Statistic New Zealand.

Information prepared for 2014 and 2017 general elections

CO2, Climate Change and 400ppm

An atmospheric concentration of CO2 > 350 parts per million is seen as unsafe

9 May 2013 – the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere reached 400 ppm

Making a difference

29 July 2009 

  • Deutsche Bank erected a seven-story sign outside Madison Square Garden in New York
  • the counter shows that  CO2 is being added to the atmosphere at the rate of 800 tons per second
  • Unveiling the sign, Deutsche Bank officials said it was designed to highlight the crisis of global warming and the urgency of reducing CO2 emissions

Skeptics

1.  The climate change message is seen as too complex 
2. Some people believe that climate change is not caused by human factors but part of a natural cycle
Expert credibility on climate change

3. There are other more pressing problems
4. Solutions are too complex
5. People prefer good news stories

Climate vote campaign 2014

Watch the slide show below for climatevoter’s Question of the week sent to each political party

Evidence for Climate Change

Insurance companies

Insurance companies use climate change evidence to mitigate their business risk

Reuters  16 may 2014 

  • A major insurance company is accusing dozens of localities in Illinois of failing to prepare for severe rains and flooding in lawsuits that are the first in what could be a wave of litigation over who should be liable for the possible costs of climate change.

Severe weather events will become more frequent

Thu 08 May 2014

  • Against a background of more frequent severe weather events, such as floods and windstorms, a new report from Lloyd’s highlights the importance of insurers ensuring that their catastrophe modelling tools keep pace with the effects of climate change.
  • They quote the fifth assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), stresses that increasing magnitudes of warming is increasing the likelihood of severe and pervasive impacts that may be surprising or irreversible.

 

Storm surge is from rising sea levels is now the main damaging effect of hurricanes and storms

Dr Muir-Wood  Chief Research Officer at Risk Management Solutions,

  •  …”Water is the new wind” in hurricane risk….in Hurricane Katrina more than 50% of losses were caused by flooding and storm surge. With  hurricane Sandy, the majority of loss was also caused by storm surge, not wind…Looking to the 21st Century, he expects sea levels to rise which will further affect forecasting.

Business Initiatives

Many businesses are applying their understanding of climate change to make a living

NZ GHG intensity

The greenhouse gas intensity of the economy has decreased 30 percent since 1990
  • The ratio of total greenhouse gas emissions to real gross domestic product (GDP), which takes into account production and consumption levels, overall has fallen since 1990. This means fewer emissions are produced per unit of real GDP.
  • Possible reasons include changes in the composition of the economy, for example the growth of the service sector, which produces relatively fewer greenhouse gases compared with other sectors.

2014 Election - Political Party's Environment Policies

Overview of Party Policies – source The New Zealand Herald  9 September 2014