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Curious Minds: Science, Art, and Education - Visualising the impact of climate change

The impacts of climate change on weather patterns, and particularly on extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, are increasingly becoming part of our daily news. Global climate change is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising sea level. There is scientific consensus that human activities are the primary cause of the observed changes over the past 50 years. Yet despite the bad news rising with the mercury, on the whole, the world is doing little to slow the pace of climate change, with carbon dioxide emissions climbing each year. While the majority of the public is aware of the global trend in temperatures, the impact of climate change on local regions and populations seems too distant in the future to warrant any action. Understanding the local changes due to climate change is vital if the population is going to adapt to the changing world around them. It is therefore essential that this information is provided to the general public in an easy to understand and engaging manner.

Working with students from Dunstan High School, we will produce a 3-dimensional model of the Queenstown Lakes District (QLD) on which we will project the regional impact of increasing temperature and precipitation changes. We will be able to present the impact of future climate change for different scenarios on the region. Our hypothesis is that by producing a 3-dimensional model we will be able to gain the attention of the general public and educate them about the local effects of climate change that will occur if no action is taken and that this visualisation will increase the awareness of the local community in a more impactful and meaningful way compared to other means of communication. By educating the population of the risks and probable future effects of climate change people will be able to plan ahead and make more informed decisions to mitigate the impact of climate change. Furthermore, making the public more aware of the local impacts of climate change will encourage action to reduce the impacts of climate change that will directly affect them where they live, work and play.