The purpose of the Antarctic Science Platform is to conduct excellent science to understand Antarctica’s impact on the global earth system, and how this might change in a +2°C (Paris Agreement) world. Funding was announced in the 2017 Budget for a new Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) for Antarctic science. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment invited Antarctica New Zealand to develop a plan to host the Antarctic Science Platform.
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean fundamentally influence the global climate system. New Zealand has a long and successful legacy of scientific endeavour in Antarctica leading to important scientific breakthroughs, such as the vulnerability of the Antarctic Ice Sheets to increasing global temperatures leading to global sea level rise, changes in global and regional climate patterns and ocean currents with risks to entire ecosystems and human societies around the world.
The Paris Agreement, ratified by 195 countries including New Zealand, is aiming to limit warming to well below 2°C and perhaps even 1.5°C to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change. The targeted research of the Antarctic Science Platform will investigate how greenhouse gas emissions will influence Antarctica and the Southern Ocean's response to global temperature rise.
Such knowledge is vital to improve New Zealand’s capability to detect, predict and adapt to changing environmental conditions, to make informed choices about mitigation targets and to develop effective adaptation strategies for unavoidable changes. The Antarctic Science Platform will also focus on thresholds for irreversible change with choices over the next decade having the potential to alter the natural environment for millennia to come.
The Antarctic Science Platform will provide stable funding for underpinning, longer-term Antarctic science critical to maximising scientific and strategic benefits for New Zealand. It enables research focus and collaboration at a level not previously experienced in New Zealand. More information about the platform can be found here.
The platform addresses four science priorities, and three cross-cutting programs.
Impact statement 1.1
Uncertainty in sea-level rise predictions is reduced through improved understanding of the rate-determining processes and feedbacks on marine-based ice mass loss to inform sea-level rise adaptation options
Impact statement 1.2
Thresholds identified for irreversible loss of marine-based ice sheets allow critical assessments of mitigation pathways (e.g. Paris Agreement) and inform international decision makers
Impact statement 1.3
Understanding the far-reaching impacts of ice sheet melt on sea-ice, biological systems, global ocean circulation and climate informs adaptation options and critical assessment of mitigation pathways
Impact statement 2.1
The distinction of natural-and human-induced changes in the Antarctic atmosphere and the Southern Ocean provides a basis to build international commitment to climate change response strategies
Impact statement 2.2
Uncertainty in future climate scenarios is reduced through improved understanding of how oceanic and atmospheric processes influence the cryosphere.
Impact statement 2.3
Management of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean environment is improved by greater understanding of the implications of regional climate change on biological systems
Impact statement 3.1
The structure and dynamics of the Ross Sea region ecosystem are sufficiently understood to forecast large scale biological responses to environmental change
Impact statement 3.2
New Zealand’s Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area monitoring strategy is capable of detecting changes in ecosystem components, and contributes to international efforts supporting informed decision making.
Impact statement 3.3
The conservation value and benefits of the Ross Sea Region Marine Protected Area (MPA) are described and used to inform the design of this MPA and others worldwide
Impact statement 4.1
Increased understanding of the sensitivity and vulnerability of ecosystems (marine and terrestrial) to climate change and human influences supports integrated management
Impact statement 4.2
The importance, variability and vulnerability of processes that connect different Antarctic environments (aquatic, terrestrial and coastal) is understood
The Paris Agreement is a global agreement on climate change ratified by 195 countries. New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement on the 4th of October 2016 and the agreement entered into force a month later on the 4th of November.
The purpose is to limit warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and perhaps 1.5°C. To achieve this requires a reduction in emissions to 19 Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide equivalent per year (Gt CO2e/yr) by 2030. Current pledges amount to 52 to 58 Gt CO2 equivalent per year.
Current pledges lead to an increase of global temperature of +3.2 °C above pre-industrial levels. Current policies led to a warming of +3.4 +3.2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
Some key conclusions from the report are
The United Nations Environment 2018 Emission Gap Report assesses national mitigation efforts and ambitions to achieve the Paris Agreement. It particularly looks at the Emission Gap – the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels that are consistent with a 1.5 or 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.
The report found