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This highly collaborative SSIF Programme is dedicated to using lessons from past climate to guide decision-making related to future climate change.


Global Change Through Time (GCTT) is part of an international research effort on global climate change. The programme focuses on improving predictions of future progressive or abrupt warming, improving predictions of future climate variability, and improving understanding of the carbon cycle and climate sensitivity to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration. We seek to raise awareness amongst stakeholders of the value of looking backwards to move forwards (ka mua, ka muri). We seek to use information from past climate to inform decision-making related to future climate change.

  • Our focus

    is currently on a radiocarbon technique to track CO2 emissions from wood burning, and the development of a continuous ice melter, for state-of-the-art ice core measurements. This project develops skills in topics of strategic importance (e.g., the Strategic Development Projects), as well as support recently established new capabilities.

  • Reconstruct freshwater quality

    We will be reconstructing freshwater quality in selected New Zealand lakes for the past 2000 years. This project will also host a series of initiatives on the reconstruction of environmental change from lake records, leveraging material acquired during the Lakes380 and OHAU projects.

  • Less than 2°C world and more than 2°C world

    The first project will investigate the consequences of > 1.5 to 2°C increase in global mean temperature on NZ's climate and ecosystems. This project explores how a “Paris Agreement” world would look like in the SW Pacific, both in terms of climate and consequences. The More than 2°C world has recently concluded and studied the consequences of larger CO2 changes.

  • Carbon dioxide emissions and the carbon cycle

    We use greenhouse gas, isotope and tracer measurements and modelling to understand and quantify greenhouse gas sources and sinks in New Zealand, the Southern Ocean and globally.  A particular focus is technical developments of radiocarbon measurements for carbon cycle questions.

  • Our rising tide

    This project will improve projections of future sea level increases on New Zealand's coastline by quantifying West Antarctica's contribution to sea level rise during past warm periods. This project has strong links to both NZSeaRise and the Antarctic Platform.

  • Our changing coastline

    This project is about Coastal Adaptation to Climate and environmental change. It is structured around focus areas (Northland, Taranaki, West Coast) and includes a large engagement component (both iwi and regional councils) to scope their needs in this field.

Past research

Started in 2007, the programme initially consisted of eight projects that aimed to advance understanding of past climate and environmental change in the New Zealand region, Southern Ocean and Antarctica; reduce uncertainties surrounding future climate change and create value for New Zealand industry through applied paleontology and isotope geoscience.

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