Jim Salinger: Change needs to happen now

Jim Salinger, a nationally acclaimed climate scientist will speak at the WAO 2020 Reset Summit on October 27. Credit: AgScience

To continue our series of profiles of speakers at the WAO 2020 Reset Summit, this week it’s Jim Salinger, a nationally acclaimed climate scientist and Queenstown resident who will speak on October 27. Salinger is a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and will look at the RESET through a climate lens.

"I am going to speak at the summit about future climate, and what the climate has been to date and impacts of this in the Queenstown Lakes District," Salinger said.

Queenstown has a 90-year climate record, and temperatures have increased 1.5 degrees centigrade, and over those 90 years. There are now 28 fewer frost days per year and 23 more days above 25 degrees. That is a huge change, he said.

"From long term records we can establish the trends and one in ten cold days and cold nights have been cut in half. So what would have been in 1930 one in five cold days are now down to one in ten? We don't have the cold days and cold nights that we used to."

Salinger said the outlook for the next 50 years depended on human behaviour. In 2070 it would be (compared to today) either half to one degree warmer.

"That one degree would be business as usual; half a degree would be if we could put some curbs on our behaviour, supposing we start reducing emissions now."

“What can we do to halt this trend?  Get rid of the internal combustion engine. That's the big one. Aviation will look after itself. And then we are going to have to transform our agriculture. There is a growing movement called regenerative agriculture- switching over from emitting methane to putting back carbon into the soil and having more vegetation.

“But there is a whole lot of simple things we can do; obviously in the house go back to growing vegetables, having compost heaps, rather than chucking it all out. There is also double glazing, electric space heating with heating exchanges, and on the transport side cycling and walking and I think electric buses are the way to go. If the QLDC could change their buses to electric would be a huge improvement."

And walking and cycling are much better for health, Salinger said.

“Aircraft are becoming more and more efficient, and they are thinking of introducing electric aircraft that hold ten people, and you could fly to Christchurch on one of these. And then you charge it up in 20 minutes. All you need is an electric motor to power a propellor.”

The benefit of electric vehicles is that you won't need mechanics,” he said. “No gearboxes, no carburettors- they are much simpler.”

The other significant change for the district was that by 2000 we passed the climate threshold to have enough heat to mature pinot- noir grapes. That's all to do with global warming, Salinger said.

“Prior to 2000 in warm years you could mature them, but they were marginal. That has put this area into good grape production. So that's good, but on the negative side the snowline has gone up about 300m.

“And we have had a lot of disappearing ice on our mountains- in 70 years the Southern Alps has lost about 40 per cent of its ice volume. That's permanent glacial ice, not the snow line that affects the ski season.”

Will people change? Have we changed since 1990? We do change, but if you look back, then we didn't have devices, hardly any computers- so there has been an enormous change. But we have to change because if we don't our environment will run away from us and won't be particularly inhabitable.

Read edition 997 of the WānakaSun here.

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