Nau mai, haere mai.

Climate change has brought with it a new lexicon, words and terms once heard more in laboratories or lecture halls, now mainstream and sometimes menacing: anthropogenic, emissions, mitigation, offsetting, net zero, sequestration, tipping point.

Add to these “cryosphere” – the planet’s polar ice sheets, ice shelves, sea ice, mountain glaciers and permafrost. Handily enough, it goes under C along with COP28, the “conference of the parties” signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, kicking off in Dubai this Thursday.

And the impending crisis in the cryosphere will certainly be on the agenda at COP28. As Timothy Naish explains today, recent major studies and reports have highlighted the fragility of Earth’s frozen regions due to global warming, and the already observable consequences for ecosystems and communities.

This year’s State of the Cryosphere report, for instance, which assessed the most recent science, warned that even 2°C of warming would trigger irreversible loss of ice sheets, glaciers, snow, sea ice and permafrost. Nothing is untouched by that level of change.

“The loss of two-thirds of the world’s high mountain glaciers (often referred to as the third pole) is also likely,” Naish writes by way of example. “This will affect two billion people who depend on these frozen water stores for their drinking, power production, agriculture and related ecosystems services.”

Of course it is never too late, but the speed and scale of action required to slow these trends seems beyond most governments, not just the one recently installed in Wellington. Whether or not COP28 marks any kind of political tipping point, an environmental one is surely getting closer every day.

By the way, if you value what we do and can see how it helps, please consider signing up to become a regular contributor. Monthly contributions are especially important because they sustain our independence and help us plan for the future, and we need 600 more before the end of the year to reach our goal. Thank you and mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

New Zealand Editor

COP28: Earth’s frozen zones are in trouble – we’re already seeing the consequences

Timothy Naish, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

The world is on track to exceed 2°C warming within the next five years, with dire consequences for polar ice, mountain glaciers and permafrost – and human society.

Driving a greener future: how your electric car could help power your neighbourhood

Alan Brent, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

Using a ‘grid of grids’ network, New Zealand’s growing electric vehicle fleet could contribute to national energy resiliency, feeding electricity back into the system during peak demand.

Why redefining the Treaty principles would undermine real political equality in NZ

Dominic O'Sullivan, Charles Sturt University

The ACT Party claims revisiting the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi is about political equality. But removing a Māori cultural dimension to New Zealand’s democracy would have an opposite effect.

Three parties, two deals, one government: the stress points within New Zealand’s ‘coalition of many colours’

Richard Shaw, Massey University

The country’s first formal three-party coalition will test Christopher Luxon’s promise of ‘strong and stable’ government – and the minor parties’ patience if things don’t go their way.

Waking a sleeping language – our plan to revive the speaking of ta rē Moriori

John Middleton, University of Auckland

The last native Moriori speaker died over a century ago. Can an ambitious new project bring the language back from the brink?

Is assisted dying available equally to all in NZ? Questions next year’s review of the law must answer

Jessica Young, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington; Aida Dehkhoda, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington; Jeanne Snelling, University of Otago

Two years after the law came into force, just 40% of the 1,441 New Zealanders who applied for an assisted death were able to have one. Next year’s review has important questions to answer.

Māori suicide rates remain too high – involving whānau more in coronial inquiries should be a priority

Clive Aspin, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington; Gabrielle Jenkin, University of Otago

Allowing whānau to be more engaged in the coronial investigation into a suicide would help provide answers for family – and help mental health services improve preventative measures.

Arts journalism captures ‘the richness of being alive’, so why is New Zealand struggling to support it? And what’s the solution?

James Wenley, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

New research investigates the state of contemporary arts journalism and proposes two pathways to strengthening this sector.

From our foreign editions

Polls say Trump has a strong chance of winning again in 2024. So how might his second term reshape the US government?

David Smith, University of Sydney

Trump has indicated that, in a second stint as president, he would punish his enemies and reward his champions.

How worried should we be about the pneumonia outbreak in China?

C Raina MacIntyre, UNSW Sydney; Ashley Quigley, UNSW Sydney; Haley Stone, UNSW Sydney; Rebecca Dawson, UNSW Sydney

There are a number of pathogens which are reported to be causing the outbreak of respiratory illness in China.

Here’s why union support is so high right now

Nabhan Refaie, University of Guelph

The rise in union support can be explained by the growing recognition people are having of their own disadvantages, and the anger they feel about it.

Rwanda’s troops in Mozambique have done well to protect civilians – the factors at play

Ralph Shield, US Naval War College

Rwandan forces have been able to keep civilian casualties low in Cabo Delgado despite carrying out a counterterrorism operation.

A Peruvian farmer is trying to hold energy giant RWE responsible for climate change – the inside story of his groundbreaking court case

Noah Walker-Crawford, UCL

If this case succeeds, it could set a precedent to hold major polluters responsible for the effects of climate change – even on the other side of the world.

Having a single parent doesn’t determine your life chances – the data shows poverty is far more important

Amy Brown, Swansea University

Single parents need support, not stigma.

Next on the United Auto Workers’ to-do list: Adding more members who currently work at nonunion factories to its ranks

Marick Masters, Wayne State University; Raymond Gibney Jr., Penn State

Wooing those workers will be expensive and require a lot of creativity, since many of them are employed in ‘right-to-work’ states.

The challenges of being a religious scientist

Christopher P. Scheitle, West Virginia University

Stereotypes about religion vs. science are overblown – but those assumptions can create challenges for religious grad students, a sociologist finds.