Add to collection
  • + Create new collection
  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural environment has been shaped by climate. It has influenced both the physical environment and the plants and animals that have adapted to life in particular locations.

    It has shaped the human environment, too. For centuries, climate shaped and informed maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), where marae were established and where and when kai was collected. Climate influenced where Pākehā settlers established farms and grew crops. As a nation that relies on primary production to support a substantial part of the economy, climate is important.

    Rights: Crown Copyright 2020, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

    Why climate matters

    Climate defines much of what we do and how we live our lives. When humans impact part of the natural world, it affects us as well as the environment.

    Select here to view video transcript and copyright information.

    A changing climate

    New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment notes that we are already seeing changes in our climate and that the effects are being felt. Together with Stats NZ, the Ministry has produced Our atmosphere and climate 2020 – part of New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series. The report shows how, why and what is happening to our climate and how the changing climate is beginning to affect many of the things we care about.

    An educational collaboration

    The Hub has teamed up with the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ to create resources using Our atmosphere and climate 2020. The resources reflect the report with a focus on science and communicating the issues New Zealand faces due to the uncertainty of a changing climate.

    The article What is climate change? is a brief introduction to climate and how human influence is causing the climate to change. The Earth, its inhabitants and the climate are connected. Find out why these connections matter to Aotearoa. Climate change also has significant impacts that threaten to affect mātauranga and tikanga Māori.

    Rights: Crown copyright 2020

    Climate change impacts on Māori

    This infographic outlines a few of the impacts climate change poses to Māori traditional practices.

    Download this image as a PDF.

    Diagram by Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and data providers and released under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

    Understanding climate impacts will help us to be more resilient and to develop flexible and innovative responses. We saw how change could happen in 2020 when the world paused during COVID-19 restrictions and greenhouse gas emissions fell.

    Key science ideas

    Weather and climate are closely related but they are not the same. Find out the key differences in Weather and climate. For a long period of time, energy entering and leaving the Earth’s systems has created a relatively stable climate. In the last 200–300 years, we’ve pumped lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and it has upset the energy balance.

    The nature of science

    In addition to building a knowledge base, several of the resources highlight aspects of the nature of science including the ‘Investigating in science’, ‘Understanding about science’ and ‘Communicating in science’ strands.

    Scientists depend on empirical evidence – the gathering, analysing and interpreting of data – to produce scientific knowledge. Read about some of the agencies responsible for collecting and reporting this evidence and what the evidence is telling us. Then find out where Aotearoa’s greenhouse gas emissions come from.

    Science is a knowledge system that seeks to explain natural phenomena. Climate scientists use observation systems and long-term datasets to detect and understand trends associated with climate change. However, this is just one knowledge system available in Aotearoa. Mātauranga Māori is a vast repository of local knowledge that dates back hundreds of years. It is a source of information for identifying changes in te taiao and helps us understand how it is changing. Discover more about tohu related to weather and climate.

    Mātauranga Māori and science are independent views of te taiao and use different methodologies to progressively add observations and knowledge over generations. Their relationship has been likened to a braided river with channels that cross and uncross on the journey downstream. When the ‘channels cross’ there is an opportunity for these knowledge systems to come together and provide new ways of thinking and alternate pathways to explore.

    Our atmosphere and climate 2020

    Scientists are tasked with communicating complex climate change issues in a manner the public can understand. One means of getting the information out is with infographics – a mix of graphic images and scientific text. Check out the key terms to boost scientific vocabulary and concepts, many of which make reference to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas profile.

    Rights: Crown Copyright 2020, CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

    The role of mātauranga Māori in OAC 2020

    Shaun Awatere explains his role as a technical advisor for Our atmosphere and climate 2020 and how his role helped to create a more innovative, inclusive report.

    Select here to view video transcript and copyright information.

    Take up the challenge

    The student activities provide opportunities to practise the science capabilities. Using infographics and Interpreting representations using climate data focus on how data is presented, what the representations tell us and how they get the messages across. Students can use Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ datasets to explore regional weather data and analyse climate data, using an inquiry-based approach.

    Climate change – challenging conversations uses concept cartoons to explore alternative conceptions, feelings and actions. Differences between weather and climate uses an interactive Venn diagram as a starting point to investigate the factors that influence weather and climate.

    Climate change will affect all aspects of our environment and our lives. The scale and complexity of the challenge will require the use of all the knowledge available to us.

    Our atmosphere and climate 2020

    Our atmosphere and climate 2023

    We’ve again partnered with the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ to create resources for their 2023 report. Our resources reflect the report’s themes of interconnectedness between systems and people and the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystems. Use the activity Utilising Our climate, our biodiversity, our future to help ākonga explore data and findings from the report, which showcase the effects of climate change on biodiversity and natural systems. Climate change – classroom competencies is a PLD article with suggestions for developing student competencies and working toward climate solutions.

    Related content

    Explore further Māori insight – māramatanga Māori – related to climate and Earth systems.

    Climate change resources – planning pathways provides pedagogical advice and links to the New Zealand Curriculum. It includes an interactive planner that groups Hub resources into key science and teaching concepts.

    Information from Our atmosphere and climate 2020 was used to inform Environment Aotearoa 2022. This introductory article curates resources created to support the OAC 2020 report. The article Waipunarangi – rains, frosts and climate looks specifically at climate change impacts.

    The Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ report on the pressures, state and impacts of human activities on the freshwater environment in Our freshwater 2023.

    Content curation

    The Science Learning Hub team has curated collections of resources related to climate change and Our atmosphere and climate 2020. Login to make these collections part of your private collection, just click on the copy icon. You can then add additional content, notes and make other changes. Registering an account for the Science Learning Hubs is easy and free – sign up with your email address or Google account. Look for the Sign in button at the top of each page.

    See our Pinterest Board featuring our collaborations with the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ – wrapping educational resources around the state of environment reports.

    We have curated a range of supporting resources in this Climate change Pinterest board.


    This resource has been produced with the support of the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ. (c) Crown Copyright.

    Rights: Crown copyright

    Our atmosphere and climate 2020

    The Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ produce New Zealand’s Environmental Reporting Series. Our atmosphere and climate 2020 focuses on climate change, with an overview of what is happening to our climate and how this affects many of the things we care about.

      Published 15 October 2020, Updated 11 October 2023 Referencing Hub articles
          Go to full glossary
          Download all