Effects of global warming on Australia


Effects of global warming on Australia

This article is about predicted impacts of Climate change and Global warming on Australia and its climate. Australia is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases per capita in the developed world. [ [http://www.cana.net.au/index.php?site_var=337 Climate Action Network Australia (CANA) ] ] It is one of the major exporters of coal, the burning of which releases Carbon Dioxide. It is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change according to the Stern report. This is partially because of the size of its agriculture sector and long coastline.

Overview

Australia is vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation projected for the next 50 to 100 years, because it already has extensive arid and semi-arid areas, relatively high rainfall variability from year to year, and existing pressures on water supply in many areas. In addition, vulnerability arises due to high fire risk, Australian ecosystems sensitive to climate change, and invasion by exotic animal and plant species introduced by human activity. Australia also has a high concentration of population in coastal areas, an economy strongly dependent on world commodity prices, tourism dependent on the health of the Great Barrier Reef and other fragile ecosystems, and economically and socially disadvantaged groups of people. Impacts of climate change will be complex and to some degree uncertain, but increased foresight would enable us to optimise the future through planned adaptation and mitigation. Mitigation can reduce the ultimate extent of climate change and its impacts, but is a global problem requiring cooperative global solutions. Adaptation is essential to cope with unavoidable climate changes, and in this country is essentially a task to be performed by Australians for Australians in each local situation. [ [http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/science/guide/index.html Climate Change - An American Guide to the Science and Potential Impacts] ]

Climate

Analysis of future emissions trajectories indicates that, left unchecked, human GHG (Greenhouse gases) emissions will increase severalfold over the 21st century. As a consequence, Australia’s annual average temperatures are projected to increase 0.4–2.0°C above 1990 levels by the year 2030, and 1–6°C by 2070. Average precipitation in southwest and southeast Australia is projected to decline further in future decades, while regions such as the northwest may experience increases in precipitation. Meanwhile, Australia’s coastlines will experience erosion and inundationfrom an estimated 8–88 cm increase in global sea level. Such changes in climate will have diverse implications for Australia’s environment, economy, and public health.CSIRO (2006). [http://www.csiro.au/files/files/p6fy.pdf Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions] ]

Extreme weather events

Globally, the World Meteorological Organization has claimed that extreme events are on the rise as a result of anthropogenic perturbation of the climate system,(CSIRO (op cit)World Meteorological Organisation (2003) Press release, Geneva, Switzerland, 2 July.) and climate models indicate the potential for increases in extremes of temperature, precipitation, droughts, storms, and floods.(CSIRO (op cit)IPCC (2001) Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. McCarthy, J., Canziani, O., Leary, N., Dokken, D and White, K. (eds). Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, World Meteorological Organisation and United Nations Environment Programme. Cambridge University Press, 1032 pp.)

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional extreme weather events for rises in temperature.

As an example, the CSIRO predicts that the additional extreme weather events in Australia of a temperature rise of between 2 and 3 degrees celsius will be:

* Wind speeds of cyclones in the tropics would increase by 5 to 10% (CSIRO (op cit) citing McInnes, K.L., Walsh, K.J.E., Hubbert, G.D., and Beer, T. (2003) Impact of sea-level rise and storm surges on a coastal community. Natural Hazards 30, 187-207).
* Tropical cyclone rainfall is increasing by 20-30%
* In 100 year Storn tides would increase by 12-16% along eastern Victoria's coast (CSIRO (op cit) citing McInnes, K.L., Macadam, I., Hubbert, G.D., Abbs, D.J., and Bathols, J. (2005) Climate Change in Eastern Victoria, Stage 2 Report: The Effect of Climate Change on Storm Surges. A consultancy report undertaken for the Gippsland Coastal Board by the Climate Impacts Group, CSIRO Atmospheric Research).
* Forest fire danger index in NSW and WA would increase by 10% (CSIRO (op cit) citing Williams, A.A., Karoly, D.J., and Tapper, N. (2001) The sensitivity of Australian fire danger to climate change. Climatic Change 49, 171-191)
* Forest fire danger index in S, central and NE Australia would increase more than 10% (CSIRO (op cit) citing Cary, G.J. (2002) Importance of changing climate for fire regimes in Australia. In: R.A. Bradstock, J.E. Williams and A.M. Gill (eds), Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of A Continent, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK, pp. 26–46.

Lower rises have other adverse results, higher rises have additional adverse results.

Projected large-scale singularities from climate change

There are a number of issues that could cause a broad range of direct and indirect consequences to many regions of the world, including Australia. These include large-scale singularities -complex non-linear responses where systems which switch from one state to another.There is evidence to suggest that these sigularities and abrupt changes have occurred frequently in the past. Evidence includes historical and paeological data.

The collapse of regional, or even global, coral reef ecosystems is possibly the most significant large-scale singularity to Australia. Coral reef ecosystems have a narrow temperature range, which means that they can rapidly change from being a healthy system to being stressed bleached, or at worst, eradicated. (CSIRO (op cit) citing Baumert, K., Pershing, J., Herzog, T., Markoff, M. (2004) Climate Data: Insights and Observations. Pew Centre on Global Climate Change, Arlington, VA, USA.)

Ecosystem changes in other parts of the world could have serious consequences for climate change in Australia. Evidence from carbon cycle modelling suggests that the deaths of forests in tropical regions could eventually increase the net concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, by converting the terrestrial biosphere from a carbon sink to a source of CO2.(CSIRO (op cit) citing Jones, C.D., Cox, P.M., Essery, R.L.H., Roberts, D.L., and Woodage, M.J. (2003) Strong carbon cycle feedbacks CO2 and sulphate aerosols. Geophysical Research Letters 30, doi:10.1029/2003GL01686.)

A recent study in the UK found that climate change has effected carbon held within soils and caused it to be released. This could have the potential to offset human emission reductions, due to the fact that the soils carbon release rate is equivalent to almost 10% of the UKs annual industrial CO2 emissions. (CSIRO (op cit) citing Bellamy, P.H., Loveland, P.J., Bradley, R.I., Lark, R.M., and Kirk, G.J.D. (2005) Carbon losses from all soils across England and Wales 1978−2003. Nature 437, 245-248.)

In recent times, scientists have expressed concern about the potential for climate change to destabilize the Greenland ice sheet and West Antarctic Ice Sheet.(CSIRO (op cit) citing Oppenheimer, M. (1998) Global warming and the stability the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Nature 393, 325-332.) An increase in global temperatures as well as the melting of glaciers and ice sheets (which causes an increase in the volume of freshwater flowing into the ocean), could threaten the balance of the global ocean thermohaline circulation (THC). Such deterioration could cause significant environmental and economic consequences through regional climate shifts, resulting from change in the global ocean circulation.(CSIRO (op cit) citing Schmittner, A. (2005) Decline of the marine ecosystem caused by a reduction in the Atlantic overturning circulation. Nature 434, 628-633.) (CSIRO (op cit) citing Rahmstorf, S., and Zickfeld, K. (2005) Thermohaline circulation: A question of risk assessment. Climatic Change 68, 241–247.)

Melting of glaciers and ice sheets also contributes to sea-level rise. Immense quantities of ice are held in the ice sheets of West Antarctica and Greenland, jointly containing the equivalent to approximately 12 meters of sea-level rise. Deterioration or breakdown of these ice sheets would lead to irreversible sea-level rise and coastal inundation across the globe.

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional probability of large scale singularities for rises in temperature.

As an example, the CSIRO predicts that the additional singularities caused by a temperature rise of between 2 and 3 degrees celsius will be:

* Beginning of effects on thermohaline circulation (THC) (CSIRO (op cit) Stocker, T.F., and Schmittner, A. (1997). Influence of CO2 emission rates on the stability of the thermohaline circulation. Nature 388, 862-865.)
* Considerable decrease in THC (CSIRO (op cit) IPCC (2001) Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, J.T. Houghton, Ding, Y., Griggs, D.J., Noguer, M., van der Linden, P.J., Dai, X., Maskell, K., and Johnson, C.A. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, 881 pp.)
* 20–25% decrease in THC (CSIRO (op cit) Kamenkovich, I.V., Sokolov, A.V., and Stone, P.H. (2003) Factors affecting the response of thermohaline circulation to increasing CO2: a study with a model of intermediate complexity. Climate Dynamics, 21, 119-130.)
* 5% possibility of significant change in THC(CSIRO (op cit) Rahmstorf, S., and Zickfeld, K. (2005) Thermohaline circulation changes: A question of risk assessment. Climatic Change, 68, 241-257.)
* Threshold surpassed for breakdown of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (CSIRO (op cit) Oppenheimer, M. (1998) Global warming and the stability the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Nature 393,325-332.)

(CSIRO (op cit) Gregory, J.M., Huybrechts, P., Raper, S.C.B. (2004) Threatened loss of the Greenland ice-sheet. Nature 6983, 616.)

Lower rises have other adverse results, higher rises have additional adverse results.

New projections for Australia's changing climate includes: (CSIRO (op cit) [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071003130920.htm New Projections For Australia's Changing Climate ] )

* increasingly regular droughts, especially in the south-west
* higher evaporation rates, specifically in the north and east
* high-fire-danger weather is likely to intensify in the south-east
* sea levels will continue to rise

Biodiversity and ecosystems

Australia has some of the most diverse ecosystems and natural habitats in the world, but this potentially makes them the worlds most fragile ecosystems, particularly when exposed to climate change. The Great Barrier Reef is a prime example. Over the past twenty years it has experienced unparalleled rates of bleaching. Furthermore additional warming of 1°C is expected to cause substantial losses of species and of associated coral communities.(CSIRO (op cit) citing CSIRO's Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions")

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional impact on ecosystems for rises in temperature.

As an example, the CSIRO predicts that the additional results in Australia of a temperature rise of between 2 and 3 degrees celsius will be:

* 97% of the Great Barrier Reef bleached annually (CSIRO (op cit) Jones, R.N. (2004) Managing Climate Change Risks, in Agrawala, S. and Corfee-Morlot, J. (eds.), The Benefits of Climate Change Policies: Analytical and Framework Issues, OECD, Paris, 249–298.)
* 10–40% loss of principal habitat for Victoria and montane tropical vertebrate species(CSIRO (op cit)Brereton, R., Bennett, S. and Mansergh, I. (1995) Enhanced greenhouse climate change and its potential effect on selected fauna of south-eastern Australia: a trend analysis. Biological Conservation, 72, 39-354.)
* 92% of butterfly species’ primary habitat decreases(CSIRO (op cit) Beaumont, L.J., and Hughes, L. (2002) Potential changes in the distributions of latitudinally restricted Australian butterfly species in response to climate change. Global Change Biology 8(10), 954-971.)
* 98% reduction in Bowerbird habitat in N Australia(CSIRO (op cit)Hilbert, D.W., Bradford, M., Parker, T., and Westcott, D.A. (2004) Golden bowerbird (Prionodura newtonia) habitat in past, present and future climates: predicted extinction of a vertebrate in tropical highlands due to global warming. Biological Conservation, 116, 367)
* 80% loss of freshwater wetlands in Kakadu (30 cm sea level rise)(CSIRO (op cit) Hare, W., (2003) Assessment of Knowledge on Impacts of Climate Change – Contribution to the Specification of Art. 2 of the UNFCCC, WGBU, Berlin, [http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_sn2003_ex01.pdf] )

Lower rises have other adverse results, higher rises have additional adverse results.

Industry

Agriculture forestry and livestock

Small changes due to global warming, such as a longer growing season, a warmer climate and increased CO2 concentrations, may benefit Australian crop agriculture and forestry in the short term. However, such benefits are unlikely to be sustained with the increasingly severe projections of global warming in the longer term. Changes in precipitation and consequent water management problems will further exacerbate Australia's current water availability and quality challenges, both for commercial and residential use.(CSIRO (op cit)CSIRO's Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions" [http://www.csiro.au/files/files/p6fy.pdf] )

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional impact on agriculture, forestry and livestock for rises in temperature.

As an example, the CSIRO predicts that the additional results in Australia of a temperature rise of between 3 and 4 degrees celsius will be:

* 32% possibility of diminished wheat production (without adaptation)(CSIRO (op cit)Howden, S.M., and Jones, R.N. (2001) Costs and benefits of CO2 increase and climate change on the Australian wheat industry, Australian Greenhouse Office, Canberra, Australia.)
* 45% probability of wheat crop value being beneath present levels (without adaptation)(CSIRO (op cit)Howden, S.M., and Jones, R.N. (2001) Costs and benefits of CO2 increase and climate change on the Australian wheat industry, Australian Greenhouse Office, Canberra, Australia.)
* 55% of primary habitat lost for Eucalyptus (CSIRO (op cit)Hughes, L., Cawsey, E.M., Westoby, M. (1996) Geographic and climatic range sizes of Australian eucalyptus and a test of Rapoport's rule. Global Ecology and Biogeography Letters 5, 128-142.)
* 25–50% rise in common timber yield in cool and wet parts of S Australia( CSIRO (op cit)Kirschbaum, M.U.F. (1999) The effect of climate change on forest growth in Australia. In: Impacts of Global Change on Australian Temperate Forests. S.M. Howden and J.T. Gorman (eds), Working Paper Series, 99/08, pp. 62-68 (CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, Canberra).)
* 25–50% reduction in common timber yield in N Queensland and Top End (CSIRO (op cit)Kirschbaum, M.U.F. (1999) The effect of climate change on forest growth in Australia. In: Impacts of Global Change on Australian Temperate Forests. S.M. Howden and J.T. Gorman (eds), Working Paper Series, 99/08, pp. 62-68 (CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology, Canberra).)
* 6% decrease in Australian net primary production (for 20% precipitation decrease)
* 128% increase in tick associated losses in net cattle production weight( CSIRO (op cit)White, N.A., Sutherst, R.W., Hall, N., and Wish-Wilson, P. (2003) The vulnerability of the Australian beef industry to impacts of the cattle tick (Boophilus microplus) under climate change. Climatic Change 61, 157-190.)

Lower rises have other adverse results, higher rises have additional adverse results.

Water Resources

Healthy and diverse riparian vegetation is essential to river health and quality. Many of Australia’s most important catchments are covered by native forest, and maintains a healthy ecosystem. Climate change will effect growth, species composition and pest incursion of native riparian vegetation and in turn will profoundly effect water supply from these catchments. Increased reafforestation in cleared catchments also has the prospect for water losses. (CSIRO (op cit)Herron, N., Davis, R., and Jones, R.N. (2002) The effects of large-scale afforestation and climate change on water allocation in the Macquarie River Catchment, NSW, Australia. Journal of Environmental Management 65, 369-381.)

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional impact on water resources for rises in temperature.

As an example, the CSIRO predicts that the additional results in Australia of a temperature rise of between only 1 and 2 degrees celsius will be:

* 12–25% reduction in flow in the Murray River and Darling River basin.(CSIRO (op cit)Arnell, N.W. (1999) Climate change and global water resources. Global Environmental Change 9, S31-S46.)
* 7–35% reduction in Melbourne’s water supply(CSIRO (op cit)Howe, C., Jones, R.N., Maheepala, S., and Rhodes, B. (2005) Implications of Climate Change for Melbourne’s Water Resources. Melbourne Water, Melbourne, 26 pp.)

Lower rises have other adverse results, higher rises have additional adverse results.

Public Health

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional impact on public health for rises in temperature.

As an example, the CSIRO predicts that the additional results in Australia of a temperature rise of between only 1 and 2 degrees celsius will be:(CSIRO (op cit) McMichael, A. J., et al. (2003) Human Health and Climate Change in Oceania: A Risk Assessment. Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, 128 pp. )

* Southward spread of malaria receptive zones
* Risk of dengue fever for the population increases from 0.17 million to 0.75-1.6 million
* 10% increase in diarrhoeal diseases among Aboriginal children in central Australia
* 100% increase in number of people exposed to flooding in Australia and New Zealand
* Increased influx of refugees from Pacific Islands.

Lower rises have other adverse results, higher rises have additional adverse results.

ettlements and infrastructure

Global warming could lead to changes in climate extremes, such as tropical cyclones, heat waves and severe precipitation events. This would degrade infrastructure and decrease the effectiveness of public health, through intensified energy demands, maintenance expenses for transportation infrastructure and disasters, such as coastal flooding. [http://www.csiro.au/files/files/p6fy.pdf p5] In the coastal zone, sea level rise and storm surge may be more critical drivers than either temperature or precipitation.(CSIRO (op cit) CSIRO op cit p20)

The cited CSIRO report contains a table that describes the additional impact on settlements and infrastructure for rises in temperature of only 1 to 2 degrees celsius:

*A 22% rise in 100 year storm surge height around Cairns; as a result the area flooded doubles(CSIRO (op cit)McInnes, K.L., Walsh, K.J.E., Hubbert, G.D., and Beer, T. (2003) Impact of sea-level rise and storm surges on a coastal community. Natural Hazards 30, 187-207.)
* A 1% decrease in peak electricity demands in Melbourne and Sydney (CSIRO (op cit)Howden, S.M., and Crimp, S. (2001) Effect of climate and climate change on electricity demand in Australia. In: Integrating Models for Natural Resources Management Across Disciplines, Issues and Scales. Proceedings of the International Congress on Modelling and Simulation, December 2001,Canberra. Ghassemi, F., P. Whetton, R. Little and M. Littleboy, (eds.), Modelling and Simulation Society

of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra, pp. 655-660.)

* 4-10% increase in peak electricity demands in Adelaide and Brisbane20% increase in methane from bum related bush fires

Coastal Communities

Global warming will have a higher impact on Australia's coastal communities, due to the concentration of population, commerce and industry. Evidence from climate modelling suggests that a temperature rise of 1-2°C will result in more intense storm winds, including those from tropical cyclones.(CSIRO (op cit)Coleman, T. (2002) The impact of climate change on insurance against catastrophes. Proceedings of Living with Climate Change Conference. Canberra, 19 December.) Combine this with sea level rise, and the result is greater flooding, due to higher levels of storm surge and wind speed.(CSIRO (op cit)Coleman, T. (2002) The impact of climate change on insurance against catastrophes. Proceedings of Living with Climate Change Conference. Canberra, 19 December.) Tourism of coastal areas may also be affected by coastal inundation and beach erosion, as a result of sea level rise and storm events. At higher levels of warming, coastal impacts become more severe with higher storm winds and sea levels.

Suburbs of Sydney like Manly, Botany, [http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/04/29/2229801.htm Most at risk: Study reveals Sydney's climate change 'hotspots' - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) ] ] Narrabeen,2] Port Botany,3] , Rockdale4] , and like Drummoyne and Concord on rivers like the Parramatta River face risks of inundation of low lying areas such as parks (such as Timbrell Park and Majors Bay Reserve) reclaimed from mudflats at the heads of bays, or massive expenses in rebuilding seawalls to higher levels.

The Gold Coast, being built on sand and with many canal developments, could be considered particularly at risk. Which is why developments are required to have a minimum floor height 27cm above the Q100 storm height.

The risk to all Australian coastal communities from Sea level rise would be dramatically higher should the West Antarctic Ice Sheet or Greenland ice sheet or both melt and collapse like the Ross Ice Shelf did in 2002.

Environment

Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef could be killed as a result of the rise in water temperature forecast by the IPCC. The Great Barrier Reef, a [UNESCO] World Heritage area, has experienced unprecedented rates of bleaching over the past two decades, and additional warming of only 1°C is anticipated to cause considerable losses or contractions of species associated with coral communities (CSIRO op cit)

Lord Howe Island

The coral reefs of the World Heritage listed Lord Howe Island could be killed as a result of the rise in water temperature forecast by the IPCC.

Inland Waters

The Murray River, Darling River Coorong and Macquarie Marshes are all at risk from decreased rainfall from climate change.

ee also

* IPCC Fourth Assessment Report
* Effects of global warming
* Climate of Australia
* Climate change
* Global warming
* Renewable energy in Australia
* Graeme Pearman
* Climate Institute of Australia
* Carbon capture and storage in Australia
* Mitigation of global warming in Australia
* Climate Code Red

References

External links

* [http://www.garnautreview.org.au/CA25734E0016A131/WebObj/GarnautClimateChangeReviewInterimReport-Feb08/$File/Garnaut%20Climate%20Change%20Review%20Interim%20Report%20-%20Feb%2008.pdf] Garnaut Climate Change Review Interim Report to the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments of Australia, February, 2008. See table at p23 for summary of effects of global warming on Australia.
* [http://www.csiro.au/files/files/p6fy.pdf] "Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions". (2006) Detailed report by the CSIRO in on the effects of global warming on Australia, with details of likely changes for each degree of temperature increase over a wide range of areas, species, activities and infrastructure.
* [http://www.climatepositive.org/ Climate Positive] - Not-for-profit Melbourne based group working to reduce and offset carbon emissions
* [http://www.environment.gov.au/minister/env/2007/pubs/mr20feb07.pdf Australia slashes greenhouse gases from inefficient lighting]
* [http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=EC134p12.pdf The economic impacts of deep cuts to Australia’s greenhouse emissions]
* [http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=EC134p16.pdf The Gore Factor: Reviewing the impact of An Inconvenient Truth]
* [http://www.correspondent.tv/Catalogue/index.cfm?ccs=461&cs=158 Documenting the effects of global warming in Australia and the Pacific]


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