Climate Council: “This is What Climate Change Looks Like”

The Climate Council has released a report detailing what the impact of climate change means for Australian landscapes that are beginning to bear the brunt.

The authors warn that the word ‘unprecedented’ is becoming a regular occurrence in news these days, particularly in terms of climate projections and reporting. However, they warn that “these events are playing havoc with our health, our agricultural systems, our communities and our economy.”

“Australia has been identified as the most vulnerable developed country to such risks, and our unique species and ecosystems are already suffering.”

You can access the Climate Council’s report in full, here.

The first of the Climate Council’s findings are bad news for the more than a million species of plants and animals as land clearing, over-harvesting and invasive feral animal species posing a threat to their population. According to the report, “the status of biodiversity in Australia is considered ‘poor and deteriorating’ according to the most recent State of the Environment Report, which also found that traditional pressures facing the environment are now being exacerbated by climate change.”

‘Between 1996 and 2008, Australia was among the top seven countries responsible for 60% of global biodiversity loss.’

Next up, Australia, according to the report has one of the world’s highest rates of species extinction in the world- holding the record for mammalian extinction due primarily to climate change. Green turtles, bogong moths are both at risk of complete extinction, while the Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent native to the Torres Strait became extinct due to rising sea levels and high storm surges.

The Climate Council has also projected that droughts and heatwaves are intensifying in both their frequency and severity, which is also contributing to the reshaping of Australia’s forests. “Ignitions from ‘dry’ lightning storms are increasing in frequency because of climate change, sparking many remote bushfires. Thousands of dry lightning strikes in early 2016 caused bushfires that devastated nearly 20,000 hectares in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. That is, in addition to the Murray-Darling Basin, which has “suffered a long-term drying trend, seriously affecting the magnificent river red gums that line the waterways. Climate change-exacerbated droughts, on top of water mismanagement, are depriving the gums of the flooding they need every few years to remain healthy.”

The report states that “Australia needs to take a far bolder approach to conservation to ensure our species and ecosystems are as resilient as possible to worsening extreme weather. Australia’s high greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to increasingly severe changes in the climate system, which means further deterioration of our environment is inevitable.”

“Australia has been identified as the most vulnerable developed country to such risks, and our unique species and ecosystems are already suffering,” the authors noted.

In response, the report states that Australia should be “creating and connecting new habitats and the translocation of some species to prevent further extinctions,” as well as emphasising the need to “cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperature rise to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.”

“Australia needs to accelerate the transition to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and storage technologies and ramp up other climate solutions in transport, industry, agriculture, land use and other sectors.”

The authors state that “the risk of climate change, driven largely by ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, are accelerating. In Australia we have just experienced the hottest summer on record, and 2018 was our 3rd hottest year. In fact, nine of the ten hottest years in Australia have occurred since 2005. The recently published Australia’s Environment Report (2018) notes that national average rainfall in 2018 was the lowest since 2005, total runoff into waterways was 20% less and soil moisture 6% less than in 2017, with much of the country still gripped by severe drought.”

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