On a day trip from Auckland to birdwatch at Miranda, we went to nearby Thames for lunch, where I was intrigued to spot a woman standing on the main street holding a sign. It read: "Welcome to the Coromandel before it becomes an island."
That's arresting, I thought, and asked her what it was all about. She said she was raising awareness on global warming - which she said, taken to an extreme, would flood the nearby Karangahake gorge and cut off the Coromandel peninsula. She was being provocative so people would engage in the conversation.
As it happened, not many people were doing this. But good on her. Standing alone. Inviting ridicule. But ready to engage on what is truly an important subject. She was endeavouring to make a difference.
Which set me thinking: how can we each meet the challenge of making a difference on a big issue like global warming? One way is to educate ourselves and then get out there and evangelise, just like that brave woman in Thames.
Education is vital as we live in an era where fake news, myths and outright lies are presented as facts. If you are a climate sceptic, you will readily find support for your viewpoint on the internet. But ask yourself: is it science-based or fuelled by conspiracy theorists? Where's the science?
Since this issue is so wide-ranging, encompassing economics, sociology, geopolitics, local politics and individuals' choice of lifestyle, it challenges the whole basis of our modern global society and humanity's relationship with the planet. For many of us it is so overwhelming there is a danger of it going right over our heads.
Playing its role in stopping global warming, New Zealand plans to meet its 2030 target by purchasing emission reductions overseas, forestry, and domestic emissions reductions. To achieve this we will have to develop and adopt better practices and new technologies to reduce emissions from farming, industrial energy and transport.
One of the major obstacles in limiting global warming is cost — or at least the perception of cost. Another consideration is the moral dilemma that the money could be spent elsewhere to relieve human suffering. So it's complex and it doesn't help anyone that the issue is shrouded in so much misinformation. Fortunately — and you can see which side I am on — science is hitting back.
If you Google "lies about global warming" you will find websites that rail against "global warming alarmists". But there are others who debunk popular misconceptions such as climate change being just part of the natural cycle; that changes are due to sunspots/galactic cosmic rays; that CO2 is a small part of the atmosphere and can't have a large heating effect; that scientists manipulate all data sets to show a warming trend; and that climate models are unreliable and too sensitive to carbon dioxide.
The bottom line is scientific support for the continual denial of climate change is lacking. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, set up by the United Nations to openly and transparently summarise the science, provides clear lines of evidence for climate change.
As all economic development is based on ever-increasing energy use, the ultimate solution would appear to be to develop cheap and clean energy production. It comes down to the fact this is an issue of morals and economics that needs a global and long-term approach.
But as extreme weather becomes more common, people are realising they don't need scientists to tell them the climate is changing – they are seeing and experiencing it first-hand. Don't go on to some dubious website. Reflect on what has happened in Canterbury in the last week.
• Dave Scoullar is a tramper, conservationist and member of the Te Araroa Whanganui Trust.