Carbon Levels Soar

baring headNew Zealand’s CO rising to record levels

By Alan Tristram

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) says it won’t be long before New Zealand’s CO2 levels reach the mark just set in in the northern hemisphere — where carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have hit 400 parts per million (ppm).

This is a significant milestone, NIWA says, because the last time the concentration of Earth’s main greenhouse gas reached this mark is thought to be about 3 million years ago.

Baring Head monitoring

Mike Harvey, NIWA’s Principal Scientist, Atmospheric Emissions, says air monitoring at Baring Head in Wellington shows CO2 levels are rising at a rate of 2 ppm per year.

He says: “We are likely to reach 400 ppm in about 4 years time.”

Dr Harvey says that increasing CO2 levels are being driven by fossil fuel emissions.smokestacks

“We are at a point in the Earth’s history where we have to completely change and to do this we need a global effort to reduce fossil fuel emissions through the development of alternate energy strategies,” he adds.

Major international conference in NZ

This week leading New Zealand and international scientists are coming together at the New Zealand Climate Change Centre Conference to discuss the results of their latest research.

Dr Harvey’s presentation will look at the 40 years of data recorded at Baring Head and what it may mean for the future. Baring Head has been measuring levels of CO2 in the atmosphere continuously since 1972. It is the longest CO2 record in the Southern Hemisphere.

“It is very important that climate change researchers working in different disciplines get together to share their thoughts and research, then discuss and debate issues,” he says.

“It is important for New Zealander’s to know what influence climate change could be having on our weather and how it could affect rural and urban living. We need to know what changes we might have to make to ensure our resilience and that our infrastructure can cope.”

One way scientists are learning more about the impact of climate change is by using models that show future possible scenarios of what the climate may be like in the future. Modelling experts will discuss their findings at the conference.

Other papers for conference

Other NIWA presentations include:

  • Principal Scientist Dr Andrew Tait presenting research on how climate change is likely to impact on flooding in New Zealand towns and cities, using Westport as an example, so Councils can plan better for the potential effects that climate change may bring.
  • Marine chemist Dr Kim Currie who is looking at how the ocean uptakes atmospheric CO2 which causes more acidity in the marine environment with possible impacts on our local shellfish.
  • Modeller Dr Sam Dean who will use the Golden Bay deluge in December 2011 as an example of the impact that climate change may have on extreme weather events in New Zealand.
  • Coastal specialist Dr Rob Bell discussing the latest science on sea level rise and how projections for New Zealand can be used in managing coastal development.

The New Zealand Climate Change Conference is being held  in Palmerston North.

For more information, including the full programme of speakers, visit: