Climate change: what you don’t know you don’t know

New Zealanders will have the opportunity to learn about climate change and ask questions about how it will affect them directly from two of New Zealand’s top climate scientists, Professors Tim Naish and James Renwick in this year’s Royal Society of New Zealand Ten by Ten talk series: ‘Ten things you didn’t know about climate change…’.

Professor James Renwick

Professor James Renwick

Over the next two months the pair will speak in Hamilton, Rotorua, Napier, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wanaka, Auckland, Wellington and Nelson. An additional talk is planned for Masterton, with people in the Wairarapa keen not to miss out.

“Everybody has heard of climate change and how it is redefining coastlines and making calamitous weather events more frequent, but how does climate change impact on New Zealanders directly and what can we do about it? That’s what we will be covering in our talk,” says Professor James Renwick.

Professor Renwick is a Professor of Physical Geography at Victoria University of Wellington and is fascinated in all aspects of the global climate system, from the tropics to the poles and from thousands of years in the past into the future.  

He chaired the Royal Society of New Zealand expert panel on Climate Change Implications for New Zealand, which released its report in April.  It found six key areas of risk from climate change for New Zealand:

  •  our coastal margins
  • flooding from rivers
  • availability of and competition for freshwater
  • changes to our surrounding oceans
  • threats to unique ecosystems
  • flow‑on effects from climate change impacts and responses overseas.

Professor Tim Naish is Director of the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington where he and his team use rock and ice cores to understand past climate conditions.

“The rock and ice cores serve as time machines to look at how the Antarctica ice sheets affected global sea-level in past warmer periods and what this means for our future.”


Professor Tim Naish FRSNZ

Professor Naish was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2014 for advancing our knowledge of Antarctica’s response to past and present climate changes and their effects on the Earth system. He has shown that Antarctica is highly sensitive to small increases in temperatures that can cause marked responses such as rises in global sea level and loss of the vast Ross Ice Shelf.

“What we are learning shows we will be in for some very major climate and sea level changes if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in short order,” Professor Naish said.

So what do New Zealanders not know about climate change?

“We don’t know, but we want to find out!” Professor Naish said.  “We encourage everyone to come along with all their burning questions about climate change and we’ll do our best to answer them.”

Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, said the series supported the work the Royal Society of New Zealand has been doing in providing New Zealanders with accessible information on climate change relevant to New Zealand, particularly on what the implications will be and what opportunities we have to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s critical to communicate clearly New Zealand’s sensitivities to climate change and the need for responsive systems to address them. All New Zealanders will be affected and must be involved in the discussion. We hope activities such as this Ten by Ten series can act as a basis for a wider national conversation.”

The Ten by Ten series runs from July through September 2016. Tickets are free but should be booked online at

To learn more about the Royal Society of New Zealand’s work on climate change visit