Wellington Scoop

VUW professor warns of “remarkable” increase in global warming

Professor James Renwick of the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington, said this week that the recent rate of change of warming globally has been really remarkable.

He was commenting on a statement from the World Meteorological Organisation which said 2017 is set to be in the top three hottest years on record, with record-breaking extreme weather.

“We now appear to be well and truly through the 1 degree of warming (compared to pre-industrial) barrier, heading for 2 degrees,” said Professor Renwick. “What’s really striking is that this year is coming in as probably the second warmest year on record, after the big El Niño-influenced 2016. The fact that we have such warmth this year without an El Niño, and in fact with a slightly cooling La Niña developing in the Tropical Pacific, tells me that the background warming trend (from greenhouse gas increase) is really becoming apparent.

“The main way we experience climate change is through extreme events, and this year has seen extraordinary extremes around the world. From record floods and fires in North America to record monsoon rains in Bangladesh and India, to heatwaves in many parts of the globe, 2017 has already been exceptional.

“Here in New Zealand, we have seen several major flood events, including Edgecumbe in April and the eastern South Island from Dunedin to Christchurch in July. While the analysis has yet to be done, it is very likely that these events have a climate change ‘fingerprint’, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, making heavy rain events more frequent. Sea levels continue to rise, and the latest science shows that we may see considerably more than 1 metre this century, with many more metres to come, unless we cap greenhouse gas emissions urgently.

“The Bonn ‘COP23’ meeting is on this week and now is the time for countries to demonstrate action on climate change. To stay below the 2 degree Paris limit, the world economy needs to be carbon-free within 50 years. A huge ask, but the costs of inaction or failure are almost incalculable. Rather than a burden, this is a real opportunity for government and business to lead the way into the green economy.”


  1. Stop Trexit, 12. November 2017, 10:46

    And guess what, a week after the CO2 record was announced, Transport Minister Phil Twyford put his thumb down for Wellington’s 100% electric trolley buses, consigning Wellington to 20 year old ex Auckland diesel buses pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Wellington – ‘the world’s coolest little capital’? Not anymore!

  2. David Bond, 13. November 2017, 13:14

    Even now, it would not be too late to reverse this wrong-headed trolleybus-scrapping decision, pay whatever contractual cancellation fees necessary and invest to re-commission the system and vehicles. It is hard to see how the equivalent carbon-emission benefits could be achieved this easily and quickly by any other means. It should be looked at as the price of Wellington doing what it can, here-and-now, to work towards the emissions-targets the country has signed up to. The fact that part of this price is necessary to undo a stupid decision previously made is unfortunate but in the wider context largely irrelevant. We need to move forward! Recomissioning the still-largely-intact trolleybus system ought to be a no-brainer.

    Come on Phil Twyford and the green-leaning government many of us voted for. Bang a stake in the ground and show that you mean business about honouring the climate accord. Saving the trolleys is a good chance to reaffirm your climate-credentials which at the moment are looking a bit feeble.