Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Auckland plans for climate change

This video from Auckland Council talks about some of the impacts of climate change, depending on what arc it takes. The prospects are fairly grim for Auckland, which is a city built on an isthmus between two big harbours, with other harbours on its borders. There are plenty of risks that could become major threats.

While I’d heard about these threats before, I was struck by one thing that stood out for an unusual reason. The video presenter said that Central Auckland currently has about 20 days a year in which the temperature is above 25 degrees, which she calls “hot days”. The reason that struck me was because 25 degrees is 77 degrees F—not what my Illinois born and raised self considers “hot” (it’s just beginning to move out of what I’d consider “pleasant”).

But there are two things about that. First, 25 degrees in Auckland feels warmer than the same air temperature does in Illinois because the sun is so very much more intense here than there. The sun can feel positively searing, even at that temperature—hot, in other words.

Second, they’re saying the “hot days” will increase by 20, 30, or 65 extra hot days per year (depending on the scenario) by the end of the century. That’s a LOT of extra heat, and because that would mean warmer ocean temperatures, it would also mean more severe storms.

The higher temperatures will also increase the risk of tropical diseases, like Ross River Virus, Dengue Fever, and other mosquito-borne diseases that we don’t see in New Zealand at the moment. Add to that the fact that a warmer climate could make Auckland, and the waters around it, more hospitable to wildlife that currently finds the climate too cool, and we could be in for a lot of threats beyond heat, droughts, and severe storms.

This is why preparedness is so important. It’s far better—and cheaper—to plan (and even begin) the infrastructure and other changes now, before we need them, than to try and do it all in a hurry to deal with increasingly frequent disasters. Auckland Council knows this, and is working hard to ameliorate the likely threats to the region. This video shows some of that work.

I saw this video yesterday when I happened to look at the notifications on YouTube (it gives me notices of new videos posted to Channels I subscribe to). This video was actually posted last week, but I was still in Australia at the time and missed it. That’s not something I’ve ever had the chance to say before. But I’m glad I still got the chance to see the video when so few have, because I like seeing that my city is taking the threats seriously.

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