What will a warmer New Zealand be like?
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Twenty thousand years ago, in the depths of the last ice age, the sea around New Zealand was 120 metres lower than it is today. The top of Mt Aspiring peeped out from an ice sheet that covered the Fiordland mountains. The country was one big island, from Stewart Peninsula in the south to a little north of Cape Reinga. You could walk from Golden Bay to Taranaki. In a few centuries’ time, if the Greenland ice sheet continues to melt, the sea will be lapping on the streets of central Christchurch, and Farewell Spit may have disappeared. If the West Antarctic ice sheet also melts, Banks Peninsula will be what James Cook thought it was—an island. In the long term, global warming could transform the country and the planet, but it will also have a much more immediate impact on the world we live in, with respect to both the climate we experience and the way we lead our lives.
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