Brace for rough ride as climate change hits

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014

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Civil defence authorities say South Cantabrians should be prepared for more emergencies as a result of climate change.

The second part of the fifth United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment report has just been released.

Using the latest climate modelling, it projects the country will face a half-metre rise in sea levels by 2100, while "one-in-100-year" events could become annual occurrences by the end of the century.

Timaru District Council emergency management adviser Lamorna Cooper said these figures came as "no surprise" to civil defence.

"Climate change has been factored into the civil-defence framework for many years, and the projections have remained about the same or worse," she said.

"Flooding and weather events pose the most frequent civil defence risk to South Canterbury. Climate change will exacerbate this."

Cooper said the region's civil defence plan was under review.

"The level of risk to communities has increased. That is across the board," she said."We should be spending more time thinking of what we can do. More emphasis should be placed on reduction and readiness. In other words, this means more public education, planning and training."

The review would examine whether resource allocation would need to change.

Last year's high winds, which cut power to thousands of customers in Geraldine and Waimate, were classed as "one-in-50-year events".

"People are living in areas which are becoming more closely associated with risk. Our challenge is finding ways to mitigate it."

Coastal systems expert Professor Bob Kirk spent more than a decade working with the district council on modelling the effects of erosion.

He said the IPCC report was "not particularly useful" at a localised level.

"The IPCC don't tend to get down to the regional level, which is understandable. It's a best-model understanding for global sea levels."

Kirk said the coastbetween Washdyke and Opihi posed the greatest erosion risk in South Canterbury.

"It has been receding and will continue to do so. All we can do is adapt to it," he said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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