Recently, NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration), the chief climate monitoring agency of the US government, released the latest data on global temperatures (through May 2010).
- May of 2010 was the warmest global average for that month on record;
- Each of the months of March, April and May 2010 were the warmest on record; and,
- The year-to-date (Jan-May) temperature is the warmest first five months on record.
So when should we — I mean us, right here in Hawke’s Bay — actually start worrying about the impacts of global warming? And what should we worry about more … dealing with the inevitable impacts here in our region, or taking steps to reduce our own contribution to the problem?
The latest regional planning exercise to take note of global warming is the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy (HPUDS) project. It says: “The full effects of climate change will not be felt within the existing timeframe and planning horizon of the overall HPUDS. The long term effects (on a 50 to 100 year time frame) will nevertheless be potentially significant and have a bearing on all land use planning decisions made in the present day.”
Despite saying “It’s not really our job,” the HPUDS study does discuss some regional implications of global warming:
Coastal erosion — “The at-risk areas for coastal erosion are typically within about a 75 metre band, measured landward of mean high water springs. Climate change is expected to have an effect on coastal erosion trends as a result of rising sea level and increased frequency and intensity of coastal storms. This may cause a ‘roll back’ of the beach crest — with the position of the shoreline, including the beach crest, adjusting to a new equilibrium point further inland but higher in elevation.” [Should we save Westshore or Haumoana? Both? Neither?]
Drainage — “Rising sea level will mean an increasing likelihood of saltwater intrusion and salination of shallow groundwater in areas that are pump drained. The extent and degree of pump drainage required, especially in Napier, will increase over time as sea level rises.” [75% of Napier’s urban stormwater is pumped out now, with consequent energy use and infrastructure investment.]
Drought — “An increasing frequency of drought can be expected in the whole of the East Coast, including Hawke’s Bay.” [Has any BayBuzz reader seen a serious analysis of the impact of drought on HB’s primary production future? I’ll bet not.]
Flooding — “In respect to flood risk, global warming is expected to result in an increased frequency and severity of major storms … Without substantial improvements being made to existing flood protection works, the community living on the flood plain will, over time, have to accept an increasing level of risk as the risk of flooding will be further exacerbated by sea level rise … Urban development will need to take seriously the potential for increased flooding and ensure that sites are chosen where the risk of flooding is relatively low, or can be effectively managed.”
These are pretty big issues. And they all have implications for decisions being taken by our councils right now.
But hey, they appear far off in the future … well beyond the political life (and therefore concern) of most current local officeholders. So maybe they (and we) just shouldn’t worry about them.
After all, it seems like it’s not even within the capacity of our councils to deal with current issues like footpath maintenance, routine stormwater discharges, swimming pool maintenance, wood burner pollution, and smelly sewage treatment.
God forbid the challenges get even bigger and Mother Nature is in charge … with no Minister in Wellington to appeal to for an extension of deadlines, or no “mediation” process for councils to work out deals on non-complying consents.
Perhaps we’re better off if our current councillors do not meddle in the global warming issue. After all, their generation didn’t sign up for the global warming portfolio. Think of the damage they might cause! They’re more suited to road-building, grandstand construction, sidewalk signs, carparks and dog control.
Let’s leave the big issues for HPUDS-II — 2046 to 2075. No, I’m tired of being a “sky is falling” kind of guy … we have time … let’s push them back to HPUDS-III!