Whatever changes that occur in the Earth’s atmosphere would eventually affect all countries across the globe. Today, we see these changes take the form of irregular temperature, which result to the unusual amount of rainfall or increase in potential evaporation, increased risk of drought among other ecological effects. The climate change and the impact that it entails have prompted several global initiatives to in order to address the problem.
This report examined the issue of climate change in the Australian context. Specifically, it identified the ecological, economic and social impact of climate change that serve as basis for the recommended policy of increased Australian engagement and cooperation with multilateral efforts in addressing climate change.
This report is addressed to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The primary aim is to discuss climate change in the Australian context and in the process identify its effects and recommend policies to mitigate them.
According to Soh, Roddick and Leeuwen (2008) there are clear indications that the next few decades our planet will face global warming and climate change that has not been experienced since the culmination of the last ice age, around ten thousand years ago. (158) This is attributed to the rapid increase of the greenhouse gases in the earth’s temperature over the past two centuries that saw the emergence and increase in industrial activity. Indeed, the Earth has reportedly warmed by 0.6 – 0.2 degrees Celsius on average since 1900 and that there is a persistent upward trend over the past 50 years. (Soh, Roddick and Leuwenp. 158)
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008) reported that the annual mean temperatures of the country have steadily increased since 1910 and that, in general, minimum temperatures have increased the most, particularly in the Eastern half of Australia where they have increased by approximately one degree Celsius. (420)
It is quite impossible to quantify or exactly determine the effects of climate change and its extent in Australia, or in the case of other countries. However, the body of literature written on the subject show that the impact would be ecological, economic and social.
2.1 Ecological Effect
Climate change could have extremely damaging effects on the natural ecosystems in Australia. For example, if sudden warming temperature would occur in the southwest of the country, it could destroy the animal populations as well as some species of trees.
2.2 Economic Effect
The effect on the Australian economy of climate change is mostly felt in the area of agriculture. While this sector has previously adapted to the Australian variable climate, sudden climate change could finally prove disastrous. For example, major droughts in Australia typically cause declines in Gross Domestic Product of around 1%, which is equivalent to 6.6 billion Australian dollars. (Schnellnhuber and Cramer 2006, 220) Specifically, extremely hot weather affects fruit, and dairy productions. A study conducted by Luo et al., projected a steady increase in vulnerability of the Australian wheat production due to climate change. It predicted that by 2080 some of the current wheat farmlands would become nonviable if climate change is not mitigated. (99)
A specific case that has underlying economic and health concerns is how climate change affects the Australian water resources. According to Soh, Roddick and Leeuwen, the hotter and drier climate would put an increasing stress on the continent’s water resources especially with the fact that Australia is the driest populated continent on Earth. (161)
2.3 Social Effects
Safety and the health of Australians are also at stake because of the climate change. Severe storms as well as floods are expected to occur in increasing frequency. The lives of those living in the coastal areas would also certainly be affected because of the rise of the sea level. Then, the intensified heat would inevitably cause more forest and bush fires. A study conducted by Pitman, Narisma and McAneney, revealed that the probability of extreme fire risk increased by at least 25% compared to the present day in 2050. (383)
In regard to heat-related deaths, in February 2004, Australia experienced the worst heat wave in its history when about two-thirds of continental Australia recording maximum temperatures over 39 degrees Celsius and that currently, about 1,100 heat-related deaths occur annually in Australia’s temperate cities. (Schellnhuber and Cramer 220) Considering these factors, it appears that the cost of safe and comfortable living for average Australian would steadily rise in the years ahead.
3.0 Australian Policy
The government of Australia has always been cautious in regard to dealing with the climate change problem. This has been reflected in the country’s previous positions on global initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol. In 1996, for instance, Australia initiated a major diplomacy campaign that tried to persuade OECD member countries to reject the uniform green-house-gas targets and instead adopt a differentiated principle. The reason for this is that the Australian government is of the opinion that subjecting Australia to the uniform approach of reducing greenhouse gas emissions would place the country in greater disadvantage in comparison with other industrialized countries. The disadvantages for Australia, wrote Lafferty and Meadowcroft (2000), are seen in terms, for instance relative to the European Union, of a more rapid population increase and greater reliance on export industries requiring high levels of energy. (41)
The Kyoto Protocol was not ratified by Australia and instead the country introduced a programme that sought to reduce pollution by one-third over the period from 1990 to 2010 and included the formation of the Australian Greenhouse Office, which oversees the greenhouse policy of the nation. Australia also recently developed a proposal to replace the Kyoto pledge, known as the National Greenhouse Strategy, which consists largely of cooperative initiatives and does not involve a carbon-pricing climate change tool, such as a carbon market, a carbon tax or an emissions trading mechanism that characterises the present global emissions deal. (Pinkse and Kolk 2009, 39)
Climate change has clear and glaring consequences on Australia today, which this article has cited. Empirical facts and experimental research endorse them. The geological, economic and social consequences of these effects are the most dangerous and perhaps overshadow the reason for the aversion of the new administration to the global climate change agreement. The Australian government can only practise its right to promote the economic competitiveness of the nation and, consequently, the general health of its population by its climate change strategy. Failure to solve climate change in the long term, though, will have a more damaging effect on the Australian economy relative to the compromises it would offer in joining the latest climate change agreements.
The challenge of climate change includes prioritising the eradication of environmentally damaging global processes. This implies a great deal of sacrifice from each nation and needs teamwork and consensus. For instance, it is crucial for every nation, such as Australia to help build a global policy-making atmosphere that facilitates both ratification and enforcement of multilateral climate change agreements. The issue alone could not be solved by any single country. Not only that the so-called era of interdependence is now. Instead every country has its own responsibility of global climate change and so each must bear the strain of solving the crisis.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008. Yearbook, Australia, Issue 90. Australia Bureau of Statistics.
- Lafferty, William and Meadowcroft, James. 2000. Implementing sustainable development. Oxford University Press.
- Luo, Q., Bellotti, W., Williams, M., Cooper, I., and Bryan, B. 2007. Risk Analysis of possible impacts oc climate change on South Australian wheat Production. Climatic Change 85: 89-101.
- Pinkse, Jonathan and Kolk, Ans. 2009. International Business and Global Climate Change. Taylor & Francis
- Pitman, A.J., Narisma, G.T. and McAneney, J. 2007. The impact of climate change on the risk of forest and grassland fires in Australia. Climatic Change 84: 383-401.
- Schnellnhuber, H. J., and Cramer, W. 2006. Avoiding dangerous climate change. Cambridge University Press.
- Soh, Yeow, Roddick, Felicity and van Leeuwen, John. 2008. The future of water in Australia: The potential effects of climate change and ozone depletion on Australian water quality, quantity and treatability. Environmentalist 28: 158-165.