Sharing New Zealand’s Antarctic expertise with the world

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington Professor Tim Naish is one of only eight scientists from around the world invited to speak at the first Antarctic Parliamentarians Assembly on in London.

Professor Tim Naish
Professor Tim Naish

Timed to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty, the Assembly will bring together parliamentarians and experts from the 53 countries which have signed the treaty since 1 December 1959. The treaty made the Antarctic continent a demilitarized zone to be preserved for scientific research.

Professor Naish is representing New Zealand and will speak about Antarctica’s ice sheets and how they’ll contribute to future sea level rise.

“One of the biggest, most urgent questions is how Antarctica is responding to climate change and what its impacts on humanity will be,” Professor Naish says. “Sea level has already risen by 20 centimetres in response to one degree of global warming. If we continue going the way we’re going, that could be 1.5 metres of sea level rise by the end of the century.

Professor Naish says this will affect 800 million people around the world.

“Seventy percent of the world’s fresh water is locked up in Antarctic ice. There will be 65 metres of sea level rise if it all melts.”

Andrew Bayly, MP for Hunua, will also represent New Zealand at the conference, which will give attendees an opportunity to learn about and discuss how they can address the challenges facing Antarctica and the world.

Professor Naish says his message is about making a change but also being prepared.

“The latest science suggests there’s a tipping point in Antarctica. If we can keep temperatures below a two degree increase since industrialisation, then it might be possible we can prevent major meltdown of the ice sheets and limit global sea level rise to half a metre. Don’t give up on mitigation, but at the same time, be prepared to adapt to what’s coming,” he says.