28 Sep 2013

Insurers urge Govt to act on UN climate report

9:30 pm on 28 September 2013

The Insurance Council says the latest United Nations climate change report is further compelling evidence that New Zealand needs to adapt to the changing environment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - a UN-sponsored international scientific panel - has issued its strongest statement yet on climate change, saying it is "extremely likely" human activity is the main cause of global warming.

The Insurance Council says the IPCC's latest report adds weight to their calls for the government and councils to adapt their decision making processes to account for climate change.

Chief executive Tim Grafton says to keep insurance affordable it is important that the effects of climate change are seriously considered when building consents are granted.

He says for every dollar invested wisely in infrastructure and planning now, the quicker the recovery after a natural disaster.

Stark warning

Scientists on the IPCC panel are now 95% certain that humans have been the "dominant cause" of the rise in temperatures since the 1950s.

Global warming is "unequivocal", according to its landmark report issues on Friday.

In its previous assessment, in 2007, the panel said it was "very likely" that global warming was man-made and there was a 90% certainty that humans were the cause.

It now says the evidence has grown thanks to more observations, a better understanding of the climate system and improved models to analyse the impact of rising temperatures.

The panel says a human footprint can be found in the warming of the atmosphere and oceans, in rising sea levels, melting snow and ice and in changes in some climate extremes.

It predicts temperatures will rise by 0.3 to 4.8°C this century.

The panel also projects sea levels will rise by between 26 and 82 centimetres by 2100.

The IPCC reports are released every five years and used as the blueprint for national and international climate policy.

Almost 900 people from 32 countries have been involved in preparing the report.

The report warns that New Zealand will get warmer overall, with heavy rain in the west and dry weather in the east.

Call for action in New Zealand

Green Party climate change spokesperson Kennedy Graham says the stark new findings show the Government needs to act urgently on the issue.

Dr Graham says the Government must acknowledge the magnitude and threat of rising temperatures.

He says those who claimed the warnings of increasing temperatures were alarmist should take stock of the findings.

Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says the Government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2020, and is making progress towards its 90% renewable electricity target.

However, the World Wide Fund for Nature says that cannot happen without the right policies.

WWF head of campaigns Peter Hardstaff says New Zealand must invest more in its renewable resources.

Mr Hardstaff says it is possible in New Zealand to switch to 100% renewable energy.

The Labour Party says the report is a final warning for governments around the world and reflects the overwhelming consensus that human activities have caused the problem.

Labour Party climate change spokesperson Moana Mackey says projections of sea level rises are devastating news for Pacific Island nations

Ms Mackey says New Zealand is one of the worst greenhouse gas polluters per capita in the world and the Government is sitting on its hands as a collapsing carbon price threatens the economic viability of the country's carbon forestry sector.

Victoria University climate scientist James Renwick says the influence of humans on the climate has been known for some time and he agrees something should be done about it.

"When it gets translated into actual policy and actual action on the ground there's not an awful lot going on," he says.

Dr Renwick says some progress is being made, but it is too slow.

"Everyone's waiting for everyone else to do something," says Dr Renwick.