Today, the Herald launches a podcast series as part of Covering Climate Now – a week-long, climate change-focused initiative bringing together 170 newsrooms here and around the world. Along with well-known podcaster Harry Seagar, host Emma Clarke chatted with Herald science reporter Jamie Morton and BLAKE programme manager Jacob Anderson, who share their perspective below.

Listen to the podcast

Climate change is a funny thing to try to perceive. It's happening, as we can see in data showing warming land and sea temperatures, acidifying oceans and vanishing glaciers and sea ice.

But because we might not think it's unfolding before our eyes each day, it can be a tough thing to put into context. Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull once likened it to a catastrophic earthquake, but in slow motion.

Nonetheless, we're living in a global emergency. Stopping global temperature rise from crossing 1.5C – as it's tracking to at some point between 2030 and 2052 – could spare up to 10 million people, not to mention tens of thousands of species, some of the worst impacts that a 2C rise would.


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Turning around the oil tanker that is the world's emissions would demand "unprecedented effort", the UN tells us, and we'd need to halve what we currently pump into the atmosphere, and within little more than a decade.

Many experts are doubtful. And perhaps unsurprisingly; beyond climate apathy, we risk normalising climate change instead of tackling it head-on.

Scientists refer to this as the frog-in-the-pot dilemma. In this metaphor, a frog jumps into a pot of boiling hot water and immediately hops out. If, instead, the frog in the pot is slowly warmed to a boiling temperature, it doesn't hop out and is eventually cooked.

Researchers around the globe recently quantified this effect by sampling some 2.18 billion geolocated tweets, finding that, if "unusual" weather persisted year after year, it generated fewer and fewer comments and people began to view it as normal in a relatively short amount of time.

Here in New Zealand, which has just experienced more than 30 consecutive months of above-average temperatures, this might have already happened.

At the same time, recent comments have suggested we may not react to climate change until we have an economic driver. Yet we're already paying for this as taxpayers.

The Government's Our Land 2018 report reminded us that many of our species continue to decline and we see concerns in quantity and quality of soil. As a nation heavily dependent on primary industries - agriculture, horticulture and fisheries - there is reason to be concerned.

NZME staffer Emma Clarke has made a podcast about climate change as part of the Herald's contribution to the international media campaign Covering Climate Now. Photo / Supplied
NZME staffer Emma Clarke has made a podcast about climate change as part of the Herald's contribution to the international media campaign Covering Climate Now. Photo / Supplied

Increased flooding from sea level rise, sediment runoff, degrading soil and biodiversity loss lowers system performance. This has direct impacts on crops and stock affecting food security and our economy.

Along with its bold Zero Carbon Act, the Government has made some moves to put more responsibility for climate pollution back on to the industries that produce it.

Agriculture, contributing about half our greenhouse gas inventory, is poised to finally enter the world of emissions pricing.

The rest of us have a role to play, too.

Individual actions, like changing how we travel, how we eat, and how we use electricity really do matter.

If every New Zealander didn't drive one day a week, switched off their appliances at the wall, and switched to low-energy lightbulbs, we could save 386,500 tonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases per year – or around a 20th of our total emissions.

BLAKE programme manager Jacob Anderson. Photo / Supplied
BLAKE programme manager Jacob Anderson. Photo / Supplied

Rather than flying to an overseas conference, a Skype call from the dining room table is much more comfortable than 12 hours in cattle class – itself a greener option than business class if making the trip is essential.

Likewise, a family holiday in Disneyland could be replaced with a cash-saving stay-cation. Not eating too much red meat is good for the planet, as well as our bodies.

A scientific review published this year found a shift from high meat to more plant-based diets would boost sustainability - meat production results in more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy - while slashing global mortality rates by up to 10 per cent.

And, as thousands of school children sacrifice their education to protest against an uncertain future, we must acknowledge this warming world isn't normal.

For them, at least, we can't afford to be frogs in the pot.

This story is part of the Herald's contribution to Covering Climate Now, an international campaign by more than 170 media organisations to draw attention to the issue of climate change ahead of a United Nations summit on September 23. To read more of our coverage go to