Our changing climate is explored in five chapters that show how, why, and what is happening to our climate and how the changing climate is beginning to affect the things we care about.

Publication reference number: ME 1523

Our atmosphere and climate 2020 is the latest in a series of environmental reports produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ.

Our atmosphere and climate 2020 summary

Our climate and why it is changing

Patterns of temperature, rain, wind, and sunshine make up the climate of Aotearoa New Zealand. We have learned to live and thrive with our climate, and tend to take it for granted because we generally know what to expect – even the unexpected.

But the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mainly from burning fossil fuels for the past 200 years) is changing the climate around the world and in our own country.

Climate shapes us and we shape the climate

The changing climate is affecting us, but it is a two-way street – our actions and activities are also affecting the climate. Many of the things we do every day contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Our future is interconnected with the climate because climate shapes social, cultural, and economic aspects of our lives.

Our unique way of life is threatened

The native biodiversity of New Zealand and the places where we live, enjoy recreation, and make a living are already being affected by climate change. The impacts are being felt by vulnerable whānau throughout Aotearoa, and are causing pain and mamae (hurt).

Our unique way of life, identity, and the values and traditions that make us who we are, are at risk of being altered or lost forever. Some of the things we care about most – our ability to direct our own future, a secure life for our grandchildren, and our deep connections to the natural beauty of these islands – are all threatened by climate change.

The ways we choose to reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts we cannot avoid require careful planning and evaluation well before they are needed. Flexible, innovative plans need to be adjustable as the future plays out – making the right decision today will give the next generation an opportunity to make the right decisions tomorrow.

An improved understanding of how our climate is likely to change and the effects of those changes (particularly at local and regional scales) can help us be more resilient.

Mātauranga Māori is a vast repository of knowledge. Together with science it can provide different ways of thinking and alternate pathways to explore as we find ways through the complex challenge of climate change.

This is a summary of the full report.

How climate change works

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere act like a blanket by holding in energy from the sun. Burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas) globally is the main reason for increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This has caused more energy to be trapped by Earth’s blanket and warmed the climate.

Not all greenhouse gases have the same effect. Some, like carbon dioxide, can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years and build up (making the blanket thicker and thicker). Other gases, including methane, are gone within decades but hold in much more heat (more like a duvet than a blanket). Carbon dioxide has the biggest effect on future warming globally because it is emitted in large quantities by many different processes.

Our activities are driving emissions

The products we buy, the food we eat, the way we travel, and the goods we produce can all cause emissions of greenhouse gases.

Globally, carbon dioxide emissions have continued to increase – the concentration in the atmosphere is now the highest for at least the past 3 million years.

New Zealand’s gross carbon dioxide emissions were 7.7 tonnes per person in 2017 – 17th out of 32 OECD countries. We also ‘import’ carbon dioxide emissions when we use goods and services from overseas.

Road transport was the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018 (43 percent). Emissions from road transport also increased by 22 percent from 2009 to 2018. The popularity of vehicles that use more fuel – especially utes and SUVs – means our transport emissions are continuing to increase despite improvements in engine technology.

Methane made up 43 percent of New Zealand’s gross greenhouse emissions in 2018, with 86 percent of this coming from livestock. Nitrous oxide made up 10 percent. Agriculture contributed 48 percent of our gross greenhouse gas emissions.

Economic activity and population growth have contributed to New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions. Improvements in energy efficiency and a greener energy supply have offset some of the increases.

Changes in our climate and environment

Climate change has well and truly arrived in New Zealand and is affecting the climate where we live.

The national average temperature has risen by 1.13 (±0.27) degrees Celsius since 1909, at an average rate of 0.10 degrees per decade. That rate was 0.31 degrees Celsius per decade in the past 30 years.

Changes in rainfall – particularly extremes – are beginning to emerge. In early 2020, Auckland experienced its longest dry spell of 47 days, well above the average length of 10 days for 1960–2019.

Climate changes are translating to effects on the physical environment. New Zealand’s mean relative sea level has risen by 1.81 (±0.05) millimetres per year on average since records began more than 100 years ago, and the average rate for 1961–2018 was twice the average rate for the time period since records began to 1960.

Climate change and our wellbeing

Our wellbeing and the things that matter most to us will be affected more and more by changes in the climate.

We are just beginning to understand the impacts of climate change on our wellbeing. Some effects are already being observed, like shifts in the range of some taonga (treasured) species. For many others, we only have indications of what to watch for as the climate changes.

The contribution of climate change to floods and droughts is estimated to have cost New Zealanders $840 million in insured damages and economic losses alone from 2007 to 2017. Besides economic losses, experiencing severe weather events can be traumatic and can lead to anxiety and depression.

Climate change is likely to affect marae and customary harvesting grounds and cause major local shifts in how whānau (families) practice manaakitanga (hospitality). A loss of taonga species would mean whānau were no longer be able to provide local delicacies to manuhiri (visitors).

A study of hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) on Otago Peninsula found that warming seas led to a reduction in their survival rates, probably by reducing the number and size of the fish they feed on.

The New Zealand Defence Force has already begun planning for more humanitarian, disaster relief, and stability operations in the Pacific. Our Pacific island neighbours will be increasingly affected by rising sea levels, drought, and stronger tropical cyclones.

Looking ahead: emissions and climate

Globally, emissions of greenhouse gases are expected to continue rising. At the current rate, global average temperature is likely to be 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level in the next 10–30 years.

A rise of 3 degrees above the pre-industrial level by the end of this century is projected, even if all the current emissions reduction commitments and goals are met by the international community. Deep cuts to global net carbon dioxide emissions would be needed to hold warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (about 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030, and net zero by about 2050).

In New Zealand, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to decrease in the coming decades under existing policies, but not at a fast enough rate to meet our 2030 goals under the Paris Agreement.

Profound changes to our climate are expected. Higher temperatures are expected across New Zealand, with drought and wildfire risk projected to increase in many places. Extreme rainfall is expected to become more common. What were rare, extreme events for us may become common for our children and grandchildren.

The disturbance of climate change is not like the economic shocks or changes to our way of life that we may have experienced in the past. Even with no more carbon dioxide emissions, we will not go back to an undisturbed climate or even the climate we grew up with.

Te kōhauhau me te āhuarangi 2020 Whakarāpopototanga

Ko Te kōhauhau me te āhuarangi 2020 te pūrongo hou i te kāhui pūrongo taiao a Te Manatū mō te Taiao rāua ko Tatauranga Aotearoa.

Ngā take e rerekē haere nei tō tātou āhuarangi

Ko ngā tauira o roto i te paemahana, te ua, te hau, me te whiti o te rā – koia nei te āhuarangi o Aotearoa. Kua waia tātou ki ēnei tauira, ki te noho ora hoki i te āhuarangi. Kua kore tātou e tino aro ki te āhuarangi i te mea e mōhio ana ki tōna āhua, tae atu ki ōna paku hārakirakitanga i ōna anō wā.

Engari nā te putu haere o ngā haurehu kati mahana i te kōhauhau (ko te tahu koranehe i te 200 tau ka taha te takenga mai o te nuinga) kua rerekē haere te āhuarangi huri i te ao, i Aotearoa anō hoki.

Ko te āhuarangi kei te whakarerekē i a tātou; ko tātou kei te whakarerekē i te āhuarangi

Nā te āhuarangi hurihuri, kua rerekē haere ko tātou, engari nā tātou, kua rerekē haere anō hoki ko te āhuarangi. He maha tonu ā tātou mahi o ia rā kei te tuku haurehu kati mahana ki te hau takiwā.

E tūhono ana te oranga i ngā rā kei tua ki te āhuarangi, i te mea ko te āhuarangi kei te whai pānga ki ngā āhuatanga pāpori, ahurea, ohaoha o tā tatou noho ki te ao.

Kua mōrearea te rongomaiwhiti o tā tātou nei noho ki te ao

Ko te kanorau koiora māori o Aotearoa, tae atu ki ō tātou wāhi noho, wāhi pārekareka, wāhi mahi, kei te huri te āhua, nā te huri o te āhuarangi. E ngau ana ngā pānga ki ngā whānau pānekeneke puta noa i Aotearoa, me te rongo anō o te tokomaha i te mamae.

Tērā tonu pea ka huri haere, ka ngaro rānei te rongomaiwhiti o tā tātou noho ki te ao, tō tātou tuakiri, ngā uara me ngā ritenga. Ko ētahi mea e tino kaingākautia ana e tātou – pērā i tō tātou āhei ki te whakatau i ngā ara ka takahia e tātou ki tua, i te whakarite oranga pai mō ā tātou mokopuna, me ngā hono kaha ki ngā āhuatanga māori rerehua o ēnei moutere – ka noho mōrearea i te rerekē haere o te āhuarangi.

Te kawe ake i te mānuka āianei, ā, haere ake nei

Ko ngā ara ka whāia hei whakaiti i ngā haurehu kati mahana, hei urutau atu hoki ki ōna pānga kino tē taea te karo, me āta whakarite, me āta arotake, i mua noa atu i te wā ka mātua hiahiatia. Me takoto he mahere tāwariwari tonu, auaha tonu, e taea ana te whakarerekē ā te wā e mōhio ai tātou ka pēhea rawa te rerekē o te āhuarangi. Ki te tika ā tātou whakatau ināianei, ka māmā ake tā te reanga whai i muri, tā rātou whiriwhiri i ngā whakatau tika ā ngā rā e heke mai nei.

Ki te mārama ake tātou ka huri pēhea te āhuarangi, ā, he aha ngā pānga o aua hurihanga (mātua rā ngā pānga ā-takiwā, ā-rohe), ka māmā ake te tū mārohirohi ā te wā e pā mai ai.

He puna nui whakaharahara te puna mātauranga Māori. Ina āpitihia mai te pūtaiao o tauiwi, ka takoto he tikanga whakaaro kē anō, he ara tūhura kē anō hei kimi haere i ngā rongoā ki ngā raruraru matatini o te āhuarangi hurihuri.

He whakarāpopototanga tēnei o te pūrongo tikitū.

Te āhua o tēnei mea, te āhuarangi hurihuri

He āhua rite ngā haurehu kati mahana i te kōhauhau ki te paraikete e pupuri mai ana i te pūngao o te rā. Ko te tahutahunga o ngā koranehe (pērā i te waro, i te hinu me te haurehu) huri i te ao, koia te pūtake matua o te nui haere o ngā haurehu kati mahana i te kōhauhau. Me te aha, kua nui ake te pūngao o te rā e aukatia ana tōna putanga e te paraikete kōpaki i a Papatūānuku. Nā konei, ko te mahana haeretanga o te āhuarangi.

Kāore i rite katoa ngā pānga o ngā haurehu kati mahana katoa. Ko ētahi, pērā i te hauhā, ka noho tonu, ka putu haere tonu ki te kōhauhau mō te hia mano tau (e mātotoru kē atu ai te paraikete). Ko ētahi atu haurehu, pērā i te mewaro, ka mimiti katoa i roto i ētahi ngahurutanga tau, engari he nui noa atu te mahana ka puritia (he tata ake ki te papangarua, tēnā i te paraikete noa). Engari he nui ake te pānga o te hauhā ki te mahana haeretanga o te ao haere ake nei, i te mea he nui te hauhā e tuhaina ana e ngā tukanga huhua noa.

Ko ā tātou mahi kei te taki i ngā tuhanga haurehu

Ko ngā mea e hoko nei tātou, ngā kai e kai nei tātou, te āhua o ngā hāereere, me ngā mea e waihanga nei tātou – katoa ēnei mahi, kei te whakaputa pea i te haurehu kati mahana.

Puta noa i te ao, kua piki haere, kua piki haere te rahi o ngā tuhanga hauhā. Ko te nui me te kukū o te hauhā i te kōhauhau ināianei, kua eke ki tētahi taumata kua kore i ekea mō te 3 miriona tau, neke atu.

Ko te tuhanga hauhā peke a ia tangata o Aotearoa i te tau 2017, ko te 7.7 tana – ka 17 a Aotearoa i ngā whenua OECD e 32 i tēnei tatauranga. Waihoki, ina whakamahia e tātou ngā taonga hoko me ngā ratonga o tāwāhi, e ‘piri’ mai ana ngā tuhanga hauhā ki aua mea rā, ka kīia nā tātou tonu. 

Ko ngā waka haere rori te pūtakenga nui katoa o ngā tuhanga hauhā i te tau 2018 (e 43 ōrau). Ka mutu, mai i te 2009 ki te 2018, kua 22 ōrau te kaha piki o ngā tuhanga nei. Ahakoa te pai haere o te hangarau taha pūkaha, kei te nui tonu te pīrangitia o ngā waka mitimiti hinu, mātua rā ngā punua taraka me ngā SUV. Me te aha, kei te piki haere tonu ngā tuhanga a ngā waka.

I te 2018, e 43% o ngā tuhanga haurehu kati mahana peke i Aotearoa, he mewaro. Ko tētahi 86% o tēnei, i ahu mai i ngā kararehe pāmu. Ko tētahi 10%, he hauota-rua ōkai. Nō ngā mahi ahuwhenua tētahi 48% o ngā tuhanga haurehu kati mahana peke.

Ko ngā korikori i te ōhanga me te tupu o te taupori ētahi mea kua whakapiki i ngā tuhanga hauhā a Aotearoa. Heoi anō, arā ētahi āhuatanga kua pēhi i tēnei pikinga, pērā i te pai ake o te whāomo pūngao me te tukunga pūngao tautaiao.

Āhuarangi hurihuri, taiao hurihuri

Kua tino tau mai te āhuarangi hurihuri ki Aotearoa, ā, kua rerekē te āhua o ngā rangi i ngā wāhi e noho nei tātou.

Ko te 1.13 (±0.27) tīkiri Tohurau te pikinga o te paemahana toharite ā-motu mai i te 1909 ki te 2019 – arā, 0.10 tīkiri te pikinga toharite i ia tekau tau. I te 30 tau ka hipa, ko te 0.31 tīkiri Tohurau te pāpātanga o te piki.

Kei te puta ake ētahi rerekētanga i te nui o te ua – mātua rā ngā āhuatanga inati. I te tīmatanga o te 2020, kāore he ua i Tāmakimakaurau mō te 47 rā. Ko te tauraki roa katoa tēnei ki reira, he roa noa ake i te toharite mō te ua kore ki Tāmaki mai i te 1960–2019, 10 rā noa iho te roa.

Kei te ngau ngā pānga o te āhuarangi hurihuri ki te tāiao. 1.81 (±0.05) mitamano te piki toharite o te mata o te moana i Aotearoa i ia tau mai i te tīmatanga o te tuhi mauranga i te 100 tau hemihemi ki muri. Waihoki, e rua whakareanga te nui ake o te pāpātanga toharite mō te 1961–2018, tēnā i te pāpātanga toharite mō te wā mai i te tīmatanga o ngā mauranga ki te tau 1960.

Ngā ia i kitea i ētahi wāhi e 30 o Aotearoa:

  • i piki te paemahana toharite ā-tau i ētahi wāhi e 28 mō te 1972-2019
  • i piki te paemahana takurua toharite, te mōrahi hoki i te takurua, i ngā wāhi katoa, ā, e nui ana te tūpono i heke te maha o ngā rā hukapapa i tētahi 40 ōrau o ngā wāhi  mō te 1972–2019
  • e nui ana te tūpono i maha ake ngā rā mahana (i hipa ake ai i te 25 tīkiri Tohurau te mōrahi) i tōna nei rua hautoru o ngā wāhi mō te 1972–2019
  • he tata ki te haurua o ngā wāhi e piki ana te ia mō te wāhi ki te nui o te ua i te tau, ā, i te nuinga o ēnei, i nui ake te kaha o te ua mō te 1960–2019
  • i piki te kaha o ngā tauraki poto i ētahi wāhi 14 mō te 1972–2019, ā, 11 o ērā i Te Ika-a-Māui
  • he nui te tūpono e piki ana te ia mō te wāhi ki ngā rā e tino nui ana, e īnati ana rānei te mōrearea taha ahi i ētahi wāhi e 6 – Ahuriri, Tekapo, Tāhuna, Tūranganui-a-Kiwa, Whakaoriori, me Maruawai mō te 1997–2019

Whakamārama: katoa ngā ia nei, i whakatauria e āhua nui ana, e nui ana rānei tūpono ka eke, taha tatauranga nei (anei te katoa o te pūrongo).

Te āhuarangi hurihuri me tō tātou noho ora

Ka nui kē atu, ka nui kē atu te pā mai o te āhuarangi hurihuri ki tō tātou noho ora me ngā āhuatanga e noho taonga ana ki a tātou.

Kei te orokotīmatanga noa tātou o te mārama haere ki ngā pānga o te huri haere o te āhuarangi ki tō tātou noho ora. Kei te kitea ētahi o ngā pānga, pērā i te rerekē haere o te tītaranga o ētahi momo e noho taonga ana ki a tātou. Mō ētahi atu pānga, he tohu tuatahi noa e kitea ana i tēnei wā o ngā mea hei āta tirotiro mā tātou ka rerekē haere ana te āhuarangi.

E $840 miriona te utu ki a ngāi Aotearoa i ngā takakinotanga kua inihuatia me ngā numanga taha ōhanga mai i te 2007 ki te 2017, ko te whai wāhitanga o te āhuarangi hurihuri ki ngā waipuke me ngā tauraki te pūtakenga mai. Hei āpiti atu ki ngā raru taha ōhanga, tērā anō ngā pēhitanga i te wairua, i te ngākau, e hua ake ai te pōkaikaha me te mate pōuri.

Tērā tonu e ngau te āhuarangi hurihuri ki ngā marae me ngā mahinga kai tūturu. Me te aha, ka rerekē te āhua o te whakatinana a ngā whānau i tēnei mea te manaakitanga. Ki te whatungarongaro ngā momo noho taonga ki te iwi, e kore e horahia aua tino kai ki te aroaro o te manuhiri.

I tētahi mahi rangahau i te hoiho i te takiwā o Muaūpoko (ki Ōtākou), ka kitea nā te mahana haere o te moana, kua heke te ōrau o te hoiho e ora roa ana. Ko te take pea i pērā ai, ko te iti haere o te huhua me te hanga o ngā ika koia rā tā rātou kai. 

Kua tīmata kē Te Ope Kātua o Aotearoa ki te whakarite i a rātou mō ētahi atu kaupapa hāpai ora, whakaora tāngata i te maikiroa, me ngā mahi whakawhena i Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Ka tupu tonu te noho papa o ō tātou kiritata o Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa i te piki haere o te mata o te moana, ngā tauraki, me te kino ake o ngā marangai pārūrū.

Te titiro ki tua: ngā tuhanga haurehu me te āhuarangi

Huri noa i te ao, ko te whakapae, ka piki haere tonu ngā tuhanga haurehu kati mahana. Ki te mau ki te pāpātanga o nāianei, i roto i te 10-30 tau e tū mai nei, tērā tonu pea ka piki te paemahana toharite o te ao ki te 1.5 tīkiri Tohurau i runga ake o te taumata i ekea i mua o te orokohanga ake o te ahumahi.

Ko te whakapae mō te paunga o tēnei rautau, ka 3 tīkiri te pikinga ki runga ake o te taumata i ekea i mua o te aranga ake o te ahumahi. Ka mutu, ki te ea tonu ngā kī taurangi me ngā whāinga mō te whakaiti ake i ngā tuhanga o nāianei, huri i te ao, kāore tonu e rerekē tēnei whakapae. Me tino kaha te heke o ngā tuhanga hauhā more o te ao e mau tonu ai te mahana haere ki te 1.5 tīkiri Tohurau (arā, ā te 2030, me āhua 45 ōrau ki raro iho i te nui o te tau 2010, ā, kia tae ki te 2050, me heke rawa ki te kore).

I Aotearoa, i raro i ngā kaupapa-here o nāianei, e whakapaetia ana ka heke ngā tuhanga haurehu kati mahana ā ngā ngahurutanga tau e heke mai nei, engari he pōturi rawa te heke e ea ai ā tātou whāinga mō te tau 2030 i raro i te Whakaaetanga o Parī.

Ko te whakaaro ia, ka īnati tonu ngā panga ki tō tātou āhuarangi. Ka piki te paemahana, puta noa i Aotearoa, tērā ka piki anō te tūpono pā o te tauraki me te ahi toro noa i ētahi wāhi maha o Aotearoa. Ka nui ake anō pea te karawhiu mai o te ua tātā. Ko ngā āhuatanga huarere īnati kāore i tino kitea i mua, ka hanga māori noa iho pea ki ā tātou tamariki, mokopuna.

Kāore e rite ngā whakararu a te āhuarangi hurihuri i a tātou ki ngā whētuki ōhanga, ki ngā panonitanga ki te āhua o te noho i pā ki a tātou i mua. Mēnā i mutu tonu atu i konei ngā tuhanga hauhā, e kore tonu a muri e hokia, e kore e hokia te āhuarangi ukiuki, te āhuarangi rānei i tipu ake ai tātou.

Environmental indicators and datasets

Access the new and updated indicators for Our atmosphere and climate 2020 on the Stats NZ website.

Access the datasets from Our atmosphere and climate 2020 on the MfE DataService. Select 'Recently added' from the settings menu to access the datasets used in this report.


Correction 29 October 2020

We have corrected three sentences on page 19 that incorrectly reported calculations in kilograms per person. The correct units are tonnes per person. The sentences have been changed to “New Zealand’s 42,800 kilotonnes of consumption-based carbon dioxide emissions in 2015 equates to 9.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, which is mid-range (18 out of 37) for OECD countries (OECD, 2020a, UNPD, 2020). The highest emitters were the USA and Australia with 18.1 tonnes and 17.9 tonnes per person, respectively. (For comparison, our per person estimates for production-based emissions were 7.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015 (UNPD, 2020)).”

We have corrected a sentence on page 44 that stated that “NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) operates the fire weather system for the National Rural Fire Authority.” The National Rural Fire Authority is now Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

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