Environment and ClimateTe Taiao me te Āhuarangi

Our research focuses on the sustainable management of the environment and effective adaptation to climate change.

Climate change is a global reality

We must improve our ability to predict how our climate may change and identify its thresholds and tipping points. We must adapt to unavoidable change as our oceans warm, pressure on freshwater resources increases, sea-level rise affects coastal communities and infrastructure and extreme weather events become more frequent and intense.

A changing world

Humans have changed our planet and its systems. Environmental issues, such as human-induced climate change, are real and serious. If we don’t act now, the future for humanity looks bleak.

We need science to provide context and to evaluate natural variability and baselines so that we can attribute and address human-driven change. There is little point trying to mitigate climate change driven by natural variability – attribution is key where possible.

Our research is key to our future. What we do now to understand and mitigate the impact we are having on the world’s environment and climate will benefit our communities now and for generations to come. 

A make a difference moment – Dr. Richard Levy on what Antarctica is telling us about our climate transcript
We know from our studies of Antarctica's past that  when greenhouse gas levels are high temperatures  
are high, and the ice sheet melts sea level  goes up. We know that a warming of two degrees  
can cause the ice sheet to melt such  that sea level goes up by 20 meters.  
This amount of sea level rise in our future  would be devastating for our coastal communities.  
We have to avoid it. Cot 26, to me it offers  a real opportunity for us all it's hope.  
My kids were lamenting the fact that the climate  system is going to change and it's going to be  
not a very bright future for them and it's  horrible right and it's a massive burden to bear.  
And so I've realised that we need to promote  this sense of hope, and the fact that we can make  
a difference and cop 26 is one of those key make  a difference moments for humanity. Here we have  
the international powers coming together  to make what is arguably one of the most  
important decisions in all of human history. What  will our future be? Will it be one that is warm  
to the point that the ice sheets melt sea level  goes up by one, two, three, four, five meters  
and our coastal communities have to adapt to a  large amount of change that will be disruptive  
and disastrous. Or do our leaders say right  we'll get these emissions under control  
and keep warming to a minimum such  that Antarctica doesn't melt as much,  
and the effect of that change in Antarctica is  much smaller and manageable. So what we've learned  
from our studies in Antarctica is that there  is there is room to move, we've still got time.  
We haven't quite crossed the threshold where  Antarctic ice sheet melt becomes unstoppable.  
The window is small we don't have a lot of time  we've got to act now, but we do have the chance  
to avoid that large damaging and catastrophic  change in Antarctica that will affect the world.

Our science aims

  • Ensure sustainable cities and communities
  • Support affordable and clean, green energy
  • Support climate action
  • Increase the availability and security of clean water
  • Support economic growth
  • Enable industry, innovation and safe infrastructure
  • Inform conservation and sustainable use of marine resources
  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems

Our challenges

  • We seek to understand the changing balance of ice and water on the planet
  • Our research furthers our knowledge of the changing carbon cycle
  • We support research into assessing and ensuring clean groundwater

The Rise and Fall of Urban Groundwater

Groundwater is a precious resource, but it's also under threat as sea levels rise.

  • Our tohu (icon)

    Our tohu (icon) – named Rauru – represents Te Ao Hurihuri, our ever-changing world. Adaptation over time, survival, change and self-management are central to the Climate and Adaptation theme. In this tohu, built from a rauru, opposing but connected spirals evolve as they get closer to the centre, shown in the pītau (the bumps on the white spirals). The spirals change shape and form as they come together.

Science Areas