Climate change is already affecting our climate. It is likely to impact our agriculture and other climate-sensitive industries, our native ecosystems, infrastructure, health and biosecurity, as well as having broader social and economic impacts.
New Zealand can expect to see changes in wind and sea current patterns, storm tracks, the occurrence of droughts and frosts and the frequency of heavy rainfall events, as well as rising temperatures.
The impacts of climate change in New Zealand will become more pronounced as time goes on.
The Ministry for the Environment leads the all of Government climate change activity and coordinates the work of central Government agencies.
In July 2013 the Office of the Chief Science Advisor released a report entitled New Zealand’s Changing Climate and Oceans (pdf, 633 KB), reviewing the latest science and its consequences for New Zealand.’ The report also included information on the impacts of climate change on human health. These impacts were considered to be an increased likelihood of mosquito disease vectors establishing in New Zealand and an increase in the numbers and severity of extreme weather events (eg, droughts, floods).
Impacts of climate change on health
In October 2017, the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Aparangi released a document entitled Human Health Impacts of Climate Change for New Zealand. This report provided an evidence summary of how climate change will affect the health of New Zealanders. The impacts identified are:
- direct health impacts of climate change (increased flooding, fires and infrastructure damage, displacement and extreme temperatures)
- indirect health impacts of climate change (harmful algal blooms, microbial contamination, food availability, quality and safety, mental health and well-being, outdoor air quality, carriers of new diseases, migration of tropical species into New Zealand
- potential health benefits (ie, reduced cold mortality, health co-benefits from mitigating climate change effects).
Environmental health indicators
The Ministry contracts Massey University to maintain a set of environmental health indicators that describe the link between the environment and health. They are based on known or plausible cause-and-effect relationships between the environment and health. The indicators provide information for action. They provide key evidence to help decision-makers, and raise awareness of environmental health risks, to improve human health. Climate-related indicators help assess the health impacts of climate. This is regardless of whether there is a significant degree of ‘change’ over the time that the indicators are measured. The indicators include temperature (days over 25°C, days under 0°C); rainfall and drought (days of soil moisture deficit); climate change as a health issue (notifications of cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, salmonellosis; population groups more at risk than others to the effects of a changing climate).