2017 set to be another scorcher - Expert Reaction
2017 is set to be in the top three hottest years on record, with record-breaking extreme weather, according to the World
Meteorological Organization's (WMO's) provisional statement on the state of the climate.
Released to coincide
with the start of the United Nations climate change conference in Bonn, the statement said 2017 was set to be the
warmest year on record without an El Niño influence. The two hottest years on record, 2015 and 2016, were both boosted
by an exceptionally strong El Niño.
The SMC gathered expert reaction to the report, please feel free to use these comments in your reporting.
Professor James Renwick, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington,
"Recently, the rate of change of warming globally has been really remarkable. We now appear to be well and truly through
the 1 degree of warming (compared to pre-industrial) barrier, heading for 2 degrees. What’s really striking is that this
year is coming in as probably the second warmest year on record, after the big El Niño-influenced 2016. The fact that we
have such warmth this year without an El Niño, and in fact with a slightly cooling La Niña developing in the Tropical
Pacific, tells me that the background warming trend (from greenhouse gas increase) is really becoming apparent.
"The main way we experience climate change is through extreme events, and this year has seen extraordinary extremes
around the world. From record floods and fires in North America to record monsoon rains in Bangladesh and India, to
heatwaves in many parts of the globe, 2017 has already been exceptional.
"Here in New Zealand, we have seen several major flood events, including Edgecumbe in April and the eastern South Island
from Dunedin to Christchurch in July. While the analysis has yet to be done, it is very likely that these events have a
climate change 'fingerprint', as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, making heavy rain events more frequent. Sea
levels continue to rise, and the latest science shows that we may see considerably more than 1 metre this century, with
many more metres to come, unless we cap greenhouse gas emissions urgently.
"The Bonn 'COP23' meeting is on this week and now is the time for countries to demonstrate action on climate change. To
stay below the 2 degree Paris limit, the world economy needs to be carbon-free within 50 years. A huge ask, but the
costs of inaction or failure are almost incalculable. Rather than a burden, this is a real opportunity for government
and business to lead the way into the green economy."
Dr Jim Salinger, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Otago comments:
"Huge storms in July brought Oamaru’s wettest day on record (174 mm), the second wettest day to Winchmore (151 mm) and
Dunedin’s wettest July day on record (94 mm). Dunedin City has now had two extreme events because of climate change
within the last two years where flooding has occurred in South Dunedin. Floods and inundation because of sea level rise
is going to increase in coming years. Otago Regional Council shows almost 3000 homes in the suburb of South Dunedin are
just 50cm above sea level – which makes this area at most risk in New Zealand.
"And the 'Long white cloud' cloaking the Southern Alps continues to shrink. The latest ice volume calculations using
NIWA's end of summer snowline surveys, published in June, show a further decline by March 2016 to a mere 32 cubic
kilometres, 60 percent lower than in 1977, and probably a meagre 20 percent of those estimated in the 1890s!
"Dave Cull head of Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is quite correct in pushing for action by central government,
given the diverse state of individual responses by district, city and regional councils to flooding. This, and efforts
to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, will be one of the first tasks that the new parliament will need to address
urgently so we can adapt and reduce the impacts of climate change. They will be busy!"