I vividly remember walking through customs barefoot after a 14-hour plane ride to New Zealand. It was the summer of 2013 and I was about to embark on a six-week trip of hiking and environmental service projects. As my group approached customs, we were asked to take off our boots as a result of efforts to maintain the environmental integrity of the county. Our boots were sent through a machine and inspected by employees to make sure no non-native invasive species were to be brought into the country. I was surprised by this, but admired the importance of environment to the citizens and the efforts made by the New Zealand government to allocate their resources to maintaining the natural state of their country.
New Zealand faces many problems as a result of climate change and has been actively working to reduce climate change impacts in their country. While the United States pulled out of the Paris agreement in 2017, New Zealand has been outspoken about the damages of climate change worldwide. Under the Paris Agreement, New Zealand has pledged to reduce their 2005 emissions by 30% by 2030, encouraged ratification of the Paris Agreement by other countries, and has implemented domestic policies promoting sustainability (New Zealand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory 1990-2005).
Two of the most pressing issues that New Zealand faces in climate change are the erasure of biodiversity and deglaciation. New Zealand’s alpine region is home to approximately 613 species of vascular plants with a high level of endemism. These plants are in extreme danger due to rising temperatures and New Zealand is facing possible extinction of many of their indigenous alpine species. With just a 3 degrees Celsius rise in temperature, there could be a 33 – 50% loss of these species, and temperature rise is just one impact of climate change. These plants will also face changes in rainfall, wind, and snow (Stephen R. P Halloy and Alan F. Mark, Climate Change Effects of Alpine Plant Biodiversity). New Zealand is facing a crisis in maintaining their indigenous plants as a result of climate change.
Deglaciation is affecting not only the glaciers of New Zealand, but the landmass itself. According to a study completed in 1996, glaciers of the Southern Alps of New Zealand have shortened by 38% (T.J Chinn, New Zealand glacier responses to climate change of the past century). A volcano, Rerewhakaaitu Tephra, has allowed scientists to research land re-organization over thousands of years. Scientists have determined that the newest land re-organization around Rerewhakaaitu Tephra is due to global warming that sparked ice retreat in both hemispheres of the globe (Newnham et al, Rerewhakaaitu Tephra, a land–sea marker for the Last Termination in New Zealand, with implications for global climatechange).
Climate change is now embedded into New Zealand life through business and government practices. A 2006 study showed that smallbusiness owners are extremely aware and afraid of what climate change will do to their business in the future (C. Michael Hall, New Zealand tourism entrepreneur attitudes and behaviours with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation). The New Zealand government has issued many reports describing solutions that address climate change impacts under different scenarios over the 21st century (Nottage et al, Climate Change Adaption in New Zealand) as they are extremely aware of climate change impacts on agriculture, tourism, and forestry.