Landcare Research’s Global Change Processes scientists are working to ensure that New Zealand has strategies to manage the risks and respond to opportunities that climate change offers for the environment, the economy and society.
Our research also develops ways to adapt these strategies in response to changing circumstances as the magnitude and impacts of global change are realised. A number of inter-related research programmes focus on reducing land-based greenhouse gas emissions.
Evidence for climate change and the impact of human activity on greenhouse gas emissions is now overwhelming. Reports such as the 2006 Stern Report and the 2007 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report conclude that increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases resulting from human activity is the probable cause of rising global average temperatures, and that continued temperature increases will result in significant environmental, economic and social impacts.
Globally, levels of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) in the atmosphere are currently equivalent to ~430 parts per million (ppm) CO2, in contrast to only 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution.
New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are now 26% higher than in 1990, and are continuing to rise. New Zealand is committed, under the Kyoto Protocol, to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Climate change has the potential to significantly impact on New Zealand’s unique natural environment and its multi-billion-dollar earnings from land-based exports. Impacts of a global change in climate may result in adverse effects such as an increase in invasive invertebrates, weeds and diseases. However, they may also generate opportunities such as economic returns from afforestation of marginal lands to offset greenhouse gas emissions.