Increasingly chaotic weather around the world can be attributed to climate change, a top NIWA scientist says.
Dr Sam Dean, NIWA’s principal climate scientist, told Q + A’s Jack Tame on Sunday that extreme weather events have been intensified by the changing climate.
“The risk is double what it would’ve been without climate change and the intensity is about 10% more.”
In recent weeks, parts of Europe and North Africa have seen record-breaking heatwaves, which have caused devastating wildfires and even melted airport runways in London.
Dr Dean says some of the heatwaves were “very unlikely, if not impossible” to have occurred if it hadn’t been for climate change.
Back in New Zealand, there are concerns that rising temperatures will create fire conditions similar to those in Australia, where bushfires caused widespread damage.
2021 was the hottest year in New Zealand on record, according to NIWA.
“I think for all of us, fire is a scary thing that can be truly destructive and terrifying,” Dr Dean said.
He says areas on the east of the South Island and Central Otago are particularly vulnerable.
“The risk of the kind of fire in places that we live is going to increase if we don’t mitigate.”
Dr Dean says the cost of the impacts from climate change far outweigh the costs of implementing mitigation strategies.
“We’re looking at how those costs are going to increase in the future.
“That provides motivation for spending money now to mitigate against potential damages… social and financial costs.”