The AR6 Synthesis Report told us that the climate change impacts observed from the warming that has already occurred (1.1 degrees Celsius for the world and 1.4 degrees for Australia) are at the higher end of the range expected from modelling to date. Regional changes in the intensity and frequency of climate change extremes generally scale with global warming. We can thus expect more extreme weather, intensification of heavy precipitation including that associated with tropical cyclones with more fluvial (river) and pluvial (surface) floods, and the worsening of droughts in some regions.
Even if climate change stabilises in the 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius hotter range, Australia can expect significant impacts. Here are a handful of examples from the hundreds of pages of specific advice provided in Chapter 11 for Australia, indicating what lies ahead if the world is unable to cap warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
- Loss of kelp forests (e.g. loss of the giant kelp forests in Tasmania, already at less than 10% of their earlier size)
- Loss and degradation of coral reefs and associated biodiversity (e.g. many Great Barrier Reef corals are dying as bleaching events occur more and more frequently, and more than 50% of shallow water corals are already dead)
- Loss of alpine biodiversity (e.g. collapse of alpine ash, snowgum woodland, pencil pine and northern jarrah forests in southern Australia due to hotter and drier conditions with more fires)
- Loss of human and natural systems due to sea-level rise (e.g. loss of coastal housing in Cairns, Byron Bay and Noosa, loss of islands used as refuelling stations by migratory birds in the Torres Strait and probable loss of bird species from this)
- Current “1 in 100 years” flooding events to occur somewhere in Australia several times a year
- Disruption and decline in agricultural production and increased stress in rural communities in south-western, southern and eastern mainland Australia due to hotter and drier conditions (e.g. median wheat yields in south-west Australia will fall by up to 30% and heat stressed livestock will be an issue for 31-42 days per year)
- Increases in heat-related mortality by more than 300 per year
- Decreases in mental well-being, particularly amongst the farming community
Australia has already seen its first confirmed extinction from climate change. The Bramble Cay melomys, a native rodent which formerly lived in the Torres Strait, has already perished from habitat loss from sea-level rise and storm surges.
The projections are much worse, of course, if the world is unsuccessful in limiting climate change to 2 degrees Celsius.
What can you do about this? Firstly, add your voice to those lobbying for change, such as the “Together We Can” movement. Secondly, reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your company. Every tenth of a degree of global warming matters.
Evalue8 Sustainability’s web application provides an easy way to measure and manage your carbon footprint. Our software links to your accounting software and draws on your activity data to automate the calculation of your carbon footprint and report on your emissions total and its composition by source. We benchmark your data so you know if your company’s emissions are high, low or about the same as those of others. We also provide suggestions on how to lower your energy spend and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. To learn more, book a meeting with us.