Thursday, October 30, 2008

Global warming 'could see "Lifeboat NZ" swamped by refugees'

Gareth Renowden: Global warming 'could see Lifeboat New Zealand swamped by refugees'

August 1, 3007

By Angela Gregory

New Zealand could become a climate change lifeboat, swamped with returning expats, Australians and thousands of refugees from the Pacific as the weather plays havoc around the globe.

A book launched in Auckland tonight, with Climate Change Issues Minister David Parker as a guest speaker, focuses on the impact of global warming on New Zealand.

Hot Topic author Gareth Renowden explores the latest evidence from the fourth assessment report of the inter-governmental Panel On Climate Change in a New Zealand context.

Renowden, a science writer from North Canterbury, said New Zealand would not feel the rate of change as much as most countries as it was surrounded by the vast Southern Ocean which would warm relatively slowly.

That meant New Zealand would be perceived as a good place to live and its agriculture would even get a boost from the extra warmth.

"What happens if climate refugees from the Pacific or Asia knock on the door, or our half-million expat Kiwis all decide to come home to ride out the rigours of climate change?"

"They want to know which signs they should look for showing that climate change is happening. My answer is to look at the Arctic and when large chunks of Greenland turn into ice cubes ... What's happening there is already dramatic. If it gets worse, get worried."

Renowden said it was possible that Australians, who could live in New Zealand as of right, might want to shift here as the heat there turned up, with more droughts, a greater risk of bush fires and increased stresses on water and agriculture.

Pacific nations faced more intense tropical cyclones and rising sea levels which penetrated groundwater and increased the risk of storm surges.

"If we are seen to be a good place to escape the worst of climate change, lifeboat New Zealand could quickly become overcrowded. Managing immigration will be even more of a political hot potato if thousands of people are knocking at the door."

Land values and house prices would inevitably increase, he said.

Despite New Zealand coming off quite well, it was not totally off the hook.. Isolation would again present challenges because of the volumes of food miles incurred in exporting.

An increased focus on carbon footprints and more carbon labelling would become an important challenge.

"It is already big in Britain and beginning to be in Europe and spreading around the world ... It's important that businesses be proactive and creative in addressing such issues."

Renowden said low-carbon shipping would be sensible.

Already considerable work had been done overseas to provide wind power for cargo ships with computer-controlled aerofoils or large kites .

Such systems not only cut fuel costs, and therefore carbon emissions, but fitted nicely with New Zealand's image as a sailing nation, he said.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the first New Zealand-built wine clipper arriving in the port of London - clean, green, carbon neutral and a fantastic bit of national PR."

Renowden said governments should consider how the economy might respond if air travel was limited.

Air New Zealand could consider strategies like funding large scale possum control so regenerated native forest could offset long-haul emissions. The airline and tourism industry would enjoy a strong selling point.

Electricity and carbon-based fuels were also pivotal issues, he said.

"Building a low carbon energy infrastructure might mean wind farms in iconic landscapes or more hydro power in fragile river systems. Weaning our transport system off fossil fuels could transform agriculture and the landscape as crops are grown for biofuels."


Bobwilliams said...

I think the role of New Zealand, similar to that of the UK and other island nations, is to be a lifeboat, because the world may get almost intolerable during the coming century. And you see that happening already in Australia the desert is spreading and things just won’t grow. And island nations like New Zealand will be spared that kind of damage. Lovelock is a visionary but he seems to miss two very important topics, one, that there is no place on the earth that has or will have enough carrying capacity to provide a liveboat for all the likely climate refugees, and b, that no region will be spared from GW impact. It may not be a devastating impact, but it will have an impact.



good comment and you are so right


Anonymous said...

Hi there. Yes I just read an article on James Lovelock mentioning this. My personal opinion on this matter and could be the opinion of many New Zealanders is that "Hell No Bro we wont move over". Ok! we could draw the line with the Australians as they are our neighbors and certainly the expats they are always welcome the Pacific Islanders yeap. Im sure in time we will adjust and be able to sustain this population rise but we do need to manage it responsibly. But as for the Asians, Americans, Europeans and everyone else wanting to come here stay clear away. Teaming up with the Australian Armed Forces would be very ideal especially with protecting the ocean around NZ. Although New Zealand is slightly larger than Britain it does not mean that we should maintain a population of 70 Million. I am currently in the UK at present and deep down I am sadden by the state of this country. I have not seen a clear waterway or an ocean worthy for a swim. It is a dirty country. And that goes for other places I have visited in Europe. I have had a stopover in Korea and choked on the fumes. It is a big shame that man has put themselves into this situation only if they had listened back in the 60s and early 70s that we should be acting now if we are to save this planet. "Oops! To Bloody Late Mate". So! I say stay away.