26 Oct 2017

Climate change 'can't overwhelm us' - Shaw

10:53 am on 26 October 2017

New research revealing people's mental and physical health is hit by the effects of climate change shows the need to get ahead of the issue, says the new Climate Change Minister.

Houses on College Rd are still fenced off and uninhabitable

More events such as the Edgecumbe floods are expected as the impacts of climate change hit. Photo: RNZ / Tom Furley

A new report from the Royal Society Te Ataarangi warns climate change will worsen respiratory issues, drinking water contamination and mental health problems.

Greens leader James Shaw, who will be sworn in as the new Climate Change Minister today, said the effects on mental health could already be seen in New Zealand.

"If you asked, say, the residents of Edgecumbe about the state of their mental health post the floods, it's pretty obvious that the effects of climate change do have an effect on people's mental health, as well as their physical well-being."

He said stress caused by climate change issues would be mitigated as people came up with methods to deal with the physical impact on communities.

"But what that requires is that we need to get ahead of the problem, rather than just have it overwhelm us."

The new report found climate change was likely to lead to higher rates of aggression, and more heart attacks and strokes.

It said many factors that contributed to people's health would be affected by climate change: such as more respiratory problems caused by having more pollution and pollen in the air, while hotter days could result in more heart attacks, strokes, and more aggression.

Mr Shaw also told Morning Report today that some parts of the country were facing a managed retreat from rising sea levels, or were having to pay for infrastructure such as sea walls.

He said the technique adopted in parts of Christchurch to place higher foundations under some buildings will buy a bit of time.

Mr Shaw said the parliamentary commissioner had highlighted at-risk coastal areas and the issue needed more attention from central government.

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