New Zealand’s Climate Minister has said that the country is facing consequences for years of climate inaction, after the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle.
James Shaw said in Parliament: “I don’t think I’ve ever felt as sad or as angry about the lost decades that we spent bickering and arguing about whether climate change was real or not, whether it was caused by humans or not, whether it was bad or not, whether we should do something about it or not, because it is clearly here now and if we do not act, it will get worse.”
The nation’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins called Gabrielle “the most significant weather event New Zealand has seen in this century,” after floods have left thousands displaced and put the country into a state of emergency.
Mr Shaw continued: “This is a climate change-related event. The severity of it, of course, made worse by the fact that our global temperatures have already increased by 1.1°C. We need to stop making excuses for inaction. We cannot put our heads in the sand when the beach is flooding. We must act now.”
The full extent of the damage from the cyclone is still unknown, as entire parts of the country have lost access to roads, communications and electricity.
This extreme weather comes just two weeks after New Zealand experienced record rainfall in Auckland, which lead to four fatalities.
For “an era of procrastination [on tackling climate change] we are entering a period of consequences,” Mr Shaw said.
“Every tenth of a degree of warming increases the frequency and the severity of these events,” he concluded.