Warming and rising seas and ocean acidification are among the serious challenges to a planet under stress from rising carbon dioxide and methane emissions.
Climate change is identified as the most serious pressure on the marine environment in the Ministry for the Environment’s 2015 stocktake.
“We are calling on the government to set ambitious targets to reduce emissions, create a long term plan for how to do it, and implement policies that can set us on the right path and empower New Zealanders to make low carbon choices,” the signatories said in an open letter to the Government published in major newspapers.
“With the world at a turning point, we need to grasp the opportunity to move our country to a clean energy future. Without the Government pulling its weight we will not be able to make the necessary changes at the pace and scale required.
“Our beautiful country may be small but we do matter. The whole needs to act and that includes us.”
It would be fair to say the Government has not given tackling climate change a high priority.
Its approach was summed up by former Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser in a presentation to a National Party Blue Greens conference on Great Barrier Island two years ago.
It was to the effect, yes, our emissions have risen markedly but we have lots of renewable energy, electric cars are on the way, that will make all the difference, the upward graph will then drop off a cliff, don’t worry, anyone who doesn’t get it is an idiot.
Current Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett has set up an expert panel to advise on adapting to the effects that may occur.
Its members include Whaimatu Dewes, chair of Sealord and Ngati Porou Seafoods.
He says climate change will bring both costs and opportunities to the East Coast.
Ms Bennett acknowledges “entire ecosystems are being affected by ocean acidification, which threatens our $2.5 billion fishing industry”.
The Government has ratified its Paris Agreement pledge to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
The problem is New Zealand emissions have risen by 50 percent since 1990 and are projected to rise another 40 percent by the 2030 target date under current policy settings.
While the prospect of catching mahimahi and wahoo in Cook Strait is personally appealing, such an ocean warming would have profound impacts across both sea and land.
Already we are seeing some remarkable changes worldwide.
Former Fisheries Minister Doug Kidd forwarded a report from The Times of September 27 on a seven-foot tuna found in the River Severn near Gloucester in England, hundreds of miles from its normal warm water habitat.
The Arctic is undergoing significant change due to loss of sea ice and thawing of the frozen tundra.
According to climate doomsayer Prof Guy McPherson, visiting New Zealand from the University of Arizona this week, temperature rises have humans on course for mass extinction in 10 years. (I guess that means we don’t have to worry about catch limits then).
Whereas US President-elect Donald Trump is a climate change sceptic who once claimed it was a hoax perpetrated by China.
And the Watts Up With That climate change website claims there is mounting evidence the recent run of world record high temperatures is about to end in line with a change in weather patterns, from a prolonged El Nino event to a cooler La Nina.
That debate at least will continue to generate hot air.