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On the Precipice: the climate change target humanity cannot afford to miss

1 March 2022

On the Precipice: the climate change target humanity cannot afford to miss, is a collaborative effort between GNS, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and the Antarctic Science Platform. It includes input from New Zealand and international researchers, and support from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Yesterday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its landmark report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. The report is deemed a ‘code red for humanity’, warning of the devastating effects of climate change and exploring adaptation options for cities and coastal communities.

Aligned with this release, we wanted to raise awareness amongst our partners and stakeholders of a New Zealand scientist-led report: On the Precipice: the climate change target humanity cannot afford to miss.

What's in the report?

On the Precipice describes the potential impacts of Antarctic ice sheet melt, and rising sea levels and temperatures, resulting from climate change. It details the stages and potential impacts of the changes and provides evidence of potential impacts by way of data and modelling. The content includes:

  • No more than 1.5 ºC – limiting global warming to 1.5ºC should help us mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change.
  • Melting point – the Antarctic ice sheet is the largest mass of ice on the planet; it accounts for 62% of Earth’s freshwater. Our scientists know that warm water is flowing under Antarctica’s large ice shelves, causing the West Antarctic ice sheet to melt and lose mass.
  • Beyond the brink – even gradual warming could result in a tipping point, setting in motion further melting and triggering unstoppable sea level rise for centuries to come.
  • Sea level rise – small changes, big consequences: if sea levels rise by 70cm, Wellington will experience a ‘once in a century’ flood every single tide.
  • Meltwater flux – it’s a scientific ‘viscous cycle’ whereby heat becomes trapped below the fresher layer of our oceans, causing further ice melt and warming oceans.
  • The bottom line – urgent action for a salvageable future: Our best chance of avoiding these ‘high-impact’ events is simply to limit further warming immediately.
"The land in our care is now the land on which generations to come will need to stand. It's our responsibility - our kaitiakitanga - to ensure it's safe for them."

This is our moment to change

Whilst our role is to understand the science, we know that the work we’re doing has the potential to influence policy development, grow social awareness and support behaviour change. We have a responsibility to act now to protect our planet for future generations – this is our moment to change.

Precipice People

Share the report, share the knowledge

We hope you find the report useful and would be grateful if you would share it with relevant colleagues, members and peers.