1 Oct 2013

Climate change report has implications for agriculture

12:07 am on 1 October 2013

A New Zealand contributor to the latest UN report on climate change says it contains pertinent messages for the agricultural sector.

The first section of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, released on Friday, is the most comprehensive evaluation so far.

It firms up previous reports by concluding that it is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in the global surface temperature since 1950.

It predicts global mean temperatures will continue to rise over this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.

Victoria University Climate Change Research Institute director Dave Frame is one of 259 authors from 39 countries who contributed to the report.

He says the scientific community is increasingly confident that human activities are changing the climate, mainly through the use of fossil CO2.

While New Zealand won't warm as much as the global average, Professor Frame says temperatures will continue to rise slowly.

"We think rainfall precipitation is likely to increase in western regions in winter and in spring, but the magnitude of change is likely to be comparable to that of natural variability through much of the century."

Professor Frame says New Zealand has quite a variable climate anyway.

He says more extreme weather events are likely, but that will also vary in different regions.

Professor Frame says more extreme rainfall events are expected as the planet warms basically because hotter parcels of air are able to carry more water when they're saturated.

He says the extremely wet events, such as that in Golden Bay at the end of 2011, are expected to happen more frequently over time.

Federated Farmers vice president and climate change spokesperson, William Rolleston, says the latest IPCC report highlights the need for farmers to be adaptable.

He says farmers need to continue looking at how they can adapt to any change in climate however it might be caused and it highlights the need for water storage.

Dr Rolleston says the climate change report also highlights the need for New Zealand to continue research and development to build capability in the agricultural sector.