Editor's note

Kia ora koutou, and welcome to this week’s New Zealand newsletter. I have just returned from the World Conference of Science Journalists and you’ll find a science theme in this week’s top stories.

First Antarctica. We know that the retreat of glaciers in West Antarctica is largely because warming oceans erode the ice from below. But scientists have found that parts of the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest slab of floating ice, are melting ten times faster than the average rate in that region because the sun heats up the ocean surface in ice-free patches. NIWA marine physicist Craig Stewart writes that ice shelves grind against coastlines and buttress the outflow of land-based ice. The loss of major ice shelves accelerates ice flow, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels.

Speaking of the oceans, most of New Zealand’s sovereign territory is under water, but the marine environment is at risk from climate change, pollution and fishing. AUT marine scientists Rebecca Jarvis and Tim Young explain the results of their research to identify the most urgent areas of marine science to ensure that New Zealand can manage and protect its vast marine estate.

New Zealand has long been an outlier as one of few countries with no deposit insurance. AUT law expert Helen Dervan welcomes the government’s plan to introduce a deposit protection scheme to make the banking system safer for customers, but she argues that the proposed limit of between NZ$30,000 and NZ$50,000 is too low, well below the limits set by other comparable countries.

Proposed new measures to protect Māui and Hector's dolphins have prompted debate about the main causes that threaten the survival of the endemic marine mammals. There are only about 60 Māui dolphins left, and the population of Hector’s dolphins has declined from 30,000-50,000 to 10,000-15,000 over the past four decades. University of Otago dolphin researchers Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson, who have studied Hector’s dolphins around Banks Peninsula for decades, argue that the proposal is based on flawed science and management.

You’ll find plenty more on the New Zealand page and in the selection of articles from The Conversation’s international editions below. If you know somebody who would enjoy this newsletter, feel free to forward this email. They can subscribe here. Thank you for reading. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou.

Veronika Meduna

New Zealand Editor

Top stories

Scientists measured the thickness and basal melt of the Ross Ice Shelf. Supplied

How solar heat drives rapid melting of parts of Antarctica’s largest ice shelf

Craig Stewart, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research

Parts of Antarctica's largest ice shelf are melting ten times faster than the rest of the shelf, and solar heated waters below the ice are to blame.

Once you deposit your money with a bank, it no longer legally belongs to you. from www.shutterstock.com

NZ’s plan for deposit insurance falls well short of protecting people’s savings

Helen Mary Dervan, Auckland University of Technology

New Zealanders store just under NZ$178 billion of their cash in banks, but their savings aren't insured. This would change if the government introduces a deposit insurance.

Hector’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus hectori) are found only in New Zealand. Flickr/Scott Thompson

Dolphin researchers say NZ’s proposed protection plan is flawed and misleading

Elisabeth Slooten, University of Otago; Steve Dawson, University of Otago

The endangered Hector's dolphins are found only in coastal seas in New Zealand, but conservation experts describe New Zealand's proposed protection plan for the marine mammals as misleading.

From The Conversation's international editions

Everest: I interviewed people risking their lives in the ‘death zone’ during one of the deadliest seasons yet

Jase Wilson, Leeds Beckett University; Dorina-Maria Buda, Leeds Beckett University; Elisa Burrai, Leeds Beckett University

The 2019 season has been one of Mount Everest's deadliest for climbers.

Poll reveals lukewarm public support for religion freedom legislation

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Less than four in ten Australians believe stronger laws are needed to protect religious freedom in a new poll, but 68% say Israel Folau should be able to share his views on social media.

The Murray-Darling Basin scandal: economists have seen it coming for decades

John Quiggin, The University of Queensland

Billions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure schemes in the Murray Darlling Basin with no measurable improvement.

Iran’s nuclear program breaches limits for uranium enrichment: 4 key questions answered

Martin Sevior, University of Melbourne

Iran has announced it will breach the limits on uranium enrichment agreed under the 2015 nuclear deal, after the US turned its back on the agreement. What does that mean for Iran's nuclear program?

How the DRC’s Ebola crisis has led to children dying from measles

Benjamin Kagina, University of Cape Town

The threat posed by measles is on the rise again in a number of countries in the world. One of them is the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Neuroscience and artificial intelligence can help improve each other

Gabriel A. Silva, University of California San Diego

Finding out more about how the brain works could help programmers translate thinking from the wet and squishy world of biology into all-new forms of machine learning in the digital world.

Greece: victory for New Democracy signals the beginning of the end of the crisis

Roman Gerodimos, Bournemouth University

Ten years after the onset of Greece's biggest crisis since World War II, radical populism is running out of steam.

What happens when a country drowns?

Sarah M. Munoz, Université de Montréal

Island nations composed of low-lying atolls are at risk of being wiped out by rising sea levels in the era of climate change. Yet the international community is doing next to nothing to help them.

‘Free Willy’ law spotlights contradictions in how Canadians see animal rights

Jodi Lazare, Dalhousie University

As the field of animal law continues growing, so does public awareness of the problems with inconsistent ways that Canadian law protects some animals, while leaving others behind.

How women in Kenya mobilised for peace after surviving violence

Natascha Mueller-Hirth, Robert Gordon University

Women who survive violence in Kenya are building peace in their communities.