Rising sea levels will make it riskier to live in New Zealand and render parts of the coast uninhabitable over the next century, a climate scientist says in the wake of an international report.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has underscored New Zealand’s vulnerability as an island nation in the Pacific, finding that rising greenhouse gases will contribute towards more extreme weather events like storms, floods and droughts in the 21st century.
Scientists said there will be more hot days than cold days in the future, with more warm temperature extremes worldwide. The frequency and intensity of heatwaves and droughts is set to increase.
It is also very likely that rising sea levels will contribute to upward trends in “extreme coastal high water levels”. For New Zealand, where 12 of the country’s 15 largest cities are located on the coast, the impact cannot be ignored, Niwa principal climate scientist James Renwick said.
“Climate change means a riskier future in terms of extreme weather events. So it depends on what level of risk we are prepared to take, and how much we are doing to prepare for that risk.”
In the not-too-distant future, roads and houses would have to be moved and sea walls and stormwater drains built to cope with sea level rises, he said.
Harbour cities such as Wellington and Auckland would be increasingly susceptible to flooding in storms and at high tide.
It took a team of 80 scientists from around the world more than three years to assemble the report.