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ANZICE Part 5: Policy Interface Matthew Wood Jul 07

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homeThe ANZICE program is certainly producing some intriguing results when viewed from a purely scientific perspective. But the serious implications of this research for the future of our environment and society give this work a pertinence beyond just the scientific community. Preliminary results are strongly suggesting that we have no time to lose in making significant changes towards a lower carbon economy.

Sean Weaver is an Honorary Research Associate in the School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University and now runs Carbon Partnership Ltd, a company that specialises in innovative climate change solutions through carbon financing, waste reduction and alternative energy sources. Sean is working towards synthesising the scientific results of ANZICE, interpreting the policy implications of those results and translating them into accessible and policy-relevant language.

CP_Logo_Black_shadowAt an international level, this process of translation is greatly facilitated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC seeks to achieve consensus on climate change issues, and to provide reliable information for the international policy community, based on rigorous scientific research. However, the IPCC’s effectiveness for informing policy has been systematically undermined by lobby groups, and their receptive audiences in government, bent on maintaining the status quo. The 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC is due in 2013 and the results of ANZICE will be directly contributing to this compendium through Working Group I (and to a lesser extent Working Group II).

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In a world dominated by the quest for perpetual ‘growth’ one quarterly statement at a time, one of the biggest challenges for environmental planning is to convince government and business to invest in distant sustainable futures: to step back and perceive the value of the things that we currently take for granted (our inshore fisheries and our glacier-fed central South Island hydroelectric lakes are examples particularly relevant to ANZICE). Strategic management of our environment and resources is essential for safeguarding the quality of life of future generations. As the Greek proverb so eloquently puts it, “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.

The climate is still a poorly understood system. But this knowledge gap needs to be viewed as a challenge for, not a failure of, modern science, and public research funding needs to be targeted accordingly. Applied climate science initiatives like ANZICE can help clear up common misconceptions surrounding the complexities of the climate system, show us where our efforts for change will be most effective, and give a quantitative sense of just how much we stand to lose through complacency.

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Photo and logo (c) Carbon Partnership Ltd.

ANZICE Part 1: An Overview Matthew Wood May 13

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It is ironic that a science initiative called ANZICE should be concerned with investigating times in our geological past when there was relatively little of the cold, slippery stuff around.

The Antarctica — New Zealand Interglacial Climate Extremes program, currently underway at the Antarctic Research Centre, is aimed at better understanding the relationships between Antarctica, New Zealand and global climate. By reconstructing environmental responses to episodes of past warmth, regional climate models can be developed. Peak warm periods (interglacials) such as Marine Isotope Stage 5e (~125,000 years ago), when atmospheric and surface ocean temperatures were up to 3°C warmer than today, are important analogs for the climatic conditions predicted for the next century by the IPCC.

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The general public and media do not necessarily appreciate the complexities of this science and so it needs to be translated into an easily digestible form. It is particularly important to be able to communicate the results to those who will ultimately make the decisions about how we manage our environment in the future. By understanding past climate, ANZICE will be well-placed to advise policy makers on what changes to expect in the New Zealand — Antarctic region in a warmer world of the future.

ANZICE comprises three research streams:

  • Antarctic Climate Drivers
  • Southern Ocean — New Zealand Responses
  • Climate Modeling

High-resolution ice cores from Antarctic coastal glacier sites are expected to document the Holocene Climatic Optimum by atmospheric gases, isotopes of water, major and trace elements, dust, and various compounds. Marine plankton, such as foraminifera, preserved in seafloor sediments provide valuable climate-related elemental and isotopic information in their sand-sized shells. The environmental response of terrestrial New Zealand can be gauged by studying lake sediments. These disparate environmental data, combined with the dynamics of temperate glaciers here in New Zealand, are used to generate empirical and computer-based climate models. These models are currently being fine-tuned, but are already proving to be extremely powerful scientific tools.

The program is funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology, and is closely tied to the FRST-funded Global Change Through Time programme at GNS Science and the ice core gas analysis group at NIWA. Collaboration within the research centre, and between the ARC and other science institutions, maintains scientific rigour and allows open-access to facilities and expertise.

Professor Lionel Carter leads the ANZICE team.

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