Australia at risk
Climate change is a serious threat to the high standard of living we enjoy. Imagine a future with more heatwaves, bushfires, droughts, floods, and the loss of the Great Barrier Reef. That's the kind of future we'd be leaving for our children.
On a global scale climate change could cost as much as the two World Wars and the Great Depression combined. Yet by acting now, we can prevent the more serious impacts of climate change.
So what’s causing the problem?
Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas releases the greenhouse pollution which causes climate change. Coal power is used to generate about 80 percent of Australia's electricity. It is our biggest single contributor to greenhouse pollution. Today, Australia's 24 coal-power stations produce one third of our greenhouse pollution. Australia may have large coal reserves, but we are also blessed with some of the planet's best wind and solar resources.
No one's saying we should turn off our coal power stations overnight. But the solutions for a clean energy future are ready and available right now. The longer we delay this inevitable transition, the more difficult it will be for our children and future generations. As we make this shift to clean, green technology of the future, we can ensure workers and families who are economically reliant on coal have a 'fair go'.
How could climate change affect us?
Climate change will impact our country and our planet is a serious way.
A massive increase in refugees could be a serious problem as people flee areas hard hit by climate disasters and extremes. A U.S. Pentagon analysis concludes that climate change is more than just an environmental threat. It's also a major security risk because of the widespread unrest and global upheaval that would follow massive droughts, floods and famines.
Find out more about the global impacts of climate change
Climate change would bring more frequent and severe bushfires, droughts, storms and floods to Australia. By 2080, temperatures could be 6.7°C warmer, on average, than now. Rising sea levels would imperil coastal communities with erosion, flooding and landslides. Climate change will also harm our agriculture and tourism industries. Warming will bring more tropical diseases, and destroy world-famous national icons like the Great Barrier Reef. According to the UN, climate change is expected to cost the Australian economy $7 to $14 billion a year.
Australia’s icons at risk
As Australians, we're justifiably proud of world-famous icons like the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu wetlands, the Wet Tropics rainforests and the snowfields of the Australian Alps. Yet our hotter climate and shifting rainfall patterns threaten these natural treasures. Scientists warn that most of the Great Barrier Reef could be 'functionally' extinct within 50 years due to yearly coral bleaching caused by hotter oceans. This also threatens the reef’s $5.8 billion a year tourism industry, along with its equivalent of 63,000 full time jobs.
The latest CSIRO reports have a lot to say on the risks to Australia from climate change.
Check out what it could mean for our future
Bleak future for farmers
Recent droughts signals what lies ahead for Australian farmers if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Rural employment lost 80,000 jobs between 2001 and 2005. The 2002-3 drought was estimated to cost the economy around $6.6 billion. Though a 1 °C increase in global temperature may sound modest, it actually represents a huge change in the global climate system that would cause a 70 per cent increase in NSW drought. A 2 °C increase would reduce Australia’s livestock carrying capacity by 40 per cent.
Threat to lives and property
Sea-level rise and extreme events such as bushfires put Australians’ property – and lives – at risk in the future. Rising sea levels threaten to drown or put at risk billions of dollars worth of private and public property before the end of the century, according to University of Sydney researchers. The famous surf beach at Narrabeen, NSW could be obliterated, at a cost of $245 million, according to UN research. Hotter, drier conditions will increase bushfire risk. The tragic Black Saturday Victorian bushfires are a powerful reminder of this threat.
Threat to our health
Climate change could put more of us at risk from tropical diseases such as deadly dengue fever, Ross River fever, malaria and encephalitis. The dengue transmission zone could reach as far south as Brisbane and Sydney, according to the Australian Medical Association. The number of very hot days over 35°C is expected to increase six-fold for Sydney, and more than double for Perth by 2070. Outback towns such as Wilcanna, NSW would have to endure 136 such days by 2070. Excessively hot days take their greatest toll on the health of the young, the ill, and the elderly. This is especially true in urban areas where heat increases smog, which causes asthma. Heat-related deaths in Australia could rise to 6,300 a year by 2050, and up to 15,000 by 2100.
Living with climate change, Australian Greenhouse Office. Get informed
Climate Change - Potential impacts and costs, Victoria
It's not drought, it's climate change, The Age (29 August 2009). Read it