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What is climate change?

Human activities, including driving vehicles, produce greenhouse gases – mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases gather in the atmosphere, wrap around the earth and trap the sun's heat. This process is called the greenhouse effect. Since the industrial revolution global greenhouse gases have increased significantly impacting on global climate causing the climate to change. This is likely to lead to more extreme events related to changing climate – floods, storms, cyclones, droughts and landslips.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, since the 1950s the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. The average temperature today is roughly one degree above pre-industrial levels. Climate change could have significant impacts on our economy, environment and the way we live – the effects of a warming planet and subsequent changing climate patterns are already becoming evident.

The transport sector is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions with fuel use from road transport contributing 16% of total national emissions.

How does climate change affect transport?

Land transport infrastructure is exposed to the effects of climate change including sea level rise, inundation and temperature changes affecting pavement surfaces.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has a role to play in the common purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change effects.

Action is generally split between mitigation (reducing the human impact on the climate) and adaptation (adjusting our infrastructure and systems to better cope with climate change impacts).

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