Climate Change

Word Count: 1717 |

Write a 1,200 to 1,500 word analysis on “Global warming”, assessing its significance for Australia and stating your reasons for this judgment.

The question of climate change and global warming has recently acquired unprecedented emotional impact. It seems that anxiety about a catastrophe caused by human foolishness has now focused on the uncertain future of the earth’s atmosphere. Climate and especially its variability have long been among the major environmental factors with which man has had to compete with. During the past few years, there have been reports of persistent cooling trends, severe droughts, monsoon rains, and devastating storms. Some scientists have interpreted these events as showing that the global climate is changing in such a way as to make conditions for man more difficult.

The direct impact of a warmer climate include rising sea levels and coastal inundation, impacts related to weather events include the frequency and intensity of droughts, flooding, tropical cyclones etc. Many of these challenges faced from living in a warmer Australia result from the regional climate change and even from the amount of pollutants emitted. A year of extreme weather events has presented clear indications of human pressures on the planet while a devastating tsunami revealed the earth’s continuing vulnerability.

An unprecedented rise in carbon dioxide levels coincided with stronger evidence of melting glaciers and ice caps, alarming surveys of the rates of species loss converged with studies showing just how much human numbers and levels of consumption are impacting. It would appear that the planet’s capacity to meet human needs is currently creating devastating effects for the earth’s population. This essay will explore the significant consequences that global warming is having on the earth focusing on Australia; including the effects on the Australian economy including the tourism industry, human health and the Kyoto protocol.

The earth’s climate is changing. Its temperature, averaged over the whole planet, has increased by about 0.7’C since the industrial revolution. The 13 warmer years on record have occurred since 1990, the year 2005 being the warmest of all. These climate changes are caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels and secondarily from changes in land use caused by agriculture and forestry. United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon says Climate change already under way is more frightening than any science fiction movie. There is a 90% chance that climate change is caused by human activity and may bring abrupt and irreversible effects.

There has been growing concerns in both the medical and climatological communities that significant global warming could create major international health problems. The most direct would be those caused by heatwaves, storms and floods. The least direct would be those due to socioeconomic disruption caused by environmental deterioration, this would include including the declining availability and equality of portable water supplies. The impact of such would see waterborne diseases such as giardia and infectious diseases such as SARS and the bird flu. Warmer temperatures may also lead to deterioration of medication in storage and increased heat stress from medication induced heat intolerance.

Prof Tarantola a leading professor of health and human rights stated that “climate change will trigger a chain of events which is likely to increase the stress on society and result in higher vulnerability to disease including HIV”. Prominent HIV scientist David Cooper, agreed that environmental change would have a negative impact on HIV sufferers. Stating that “climate change will lead to food scarcity and poorer nutrition, putting people with perilous immune systems at more risk of dying of HIV, as well as contracting and transmitting new and unusual infections. The impact would affect Australia too, because these infections could potentially spread.

An assessment of climate related deaths (excluding floods and cyclones) in Australia’s five largest cities by the year 2030 indicates that climate change would lead to an increase in climate related deaths in summer but a decrease in such deaths in winter. Due to a decreased ability to adapt to major changes in the environment, populations which are already vulnerable, particularly some indigenous communities, the impoverished and the elderly, will be most vulnerable to the health impacts of climate change.

The economic implications of the onset of greenhouse gases are considerable, due to the facts that there are likely to be changes in supplies and demand of water resources, agriculture is likely to have better crops because of increased CO2. This will also be affected by more or less rainfall, increased competition from predators and pathogens and a different world market place. The tourism industry is likely to change due to the increase in global warming. Professor Garnaut says Australia’s large agricultural sector and a reliance on trade with developing nations in Asia that are also put at risk by rising temperatures, makes it one of the most vulnerable countries in the developed world.

The tourism industry is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the global sector however as the greenhouse era will produce substantial changes in temperatures, rainfall and relative humidity; there is the possibility that there will be significant changes in the tourism industry.

Global warming has the potential to devastate ski resorts and island getaways. The area of which there has been the most publicity is the snow fields of the Australian Alps. It is suggested that there may be a reduction of 50% or more in the duration of the snow season at the main ski resorts. As many resorts already operate with a marginal snow cover and a moderately high risk of poor seasons, such changes could devastate the industry.

Rajendra Pachauri recently warned tourism industry chiefs that they need to reduce their impact on climate change as consumers become more environmentally aware. According to the UN World Tourism Organisation the tourism industry in 2007 accounted for about 5% of global emissions and growth in the tourism industry could increase emissions by as much as 150% in the next 30 years.

European and Australian international travellers are already pressuring companies to offset their emissions and to follow environmentally friendly building standards. The European Union has threatened to ban airlines which do not offset their emissions. As tourism is now one of Australians major export income earners, even quite minor changes in preferences, destinations and timing could have profound economic impacts at both regional and national levels.

The effects of greenhouse conditions on tourism cannot be predicted with any certainty but it seems likely that some northern and warmer areas will lose some of their present attractiveness either because they become warmer, wetter and more humid or because areas to the south become similar in climate to the more northerly resorts. The Australian government has recognised that there is no greater global environmental concern than the threat of climate change and in December 1997 signed the Kyoto Protocol. On 3 December 2007, the Prime Minister signed the instrument of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and on 11 March 2008 Australia’s ratification came into effect. Australia has committed to meeting its Kyoto Protocol target, and has set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent on 2000 levels by 2050
A rapidly growing global population and rising standards of living around the world have lead to increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions from energy, agriculture, industry, transportation and other sectors. Due to these reasons the United Nations are developing the second period of the Kyoto protocol, with more drastic emission reduction. According to John Hay; spokesperson for the United Nations climate change secretariat, we’ll have a treaty in place by 2009 that is far more ambitious than the existing Kyoto Protocol, and it will dramatically reduce productions in line with what science is telling us we need.

Australia must abide to the Kyoto protocol; give strong support to achieving substantial international targets for the second period of the Protocol. As the world’s highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases and a possessor of huge potential for efficient energy use and renewable energy, Australia could achieve very large reductions in emissions at a low cost

In summary it is difficult to say that climate change and global warming is not having devastating effects on the earth itself and causing visible problems. The past couple of years have strengthened the evidence of global warming and underlined the impacts of climate change on economics and the environment as well as on human health. The change in weather patterns will continue to affect agriculture and food production and shift disease patterns across the world. Virtually every nation will be affected by climate change, whether by rising seas, changes in crop yields, variations in water resources, or even changes in death rates. There is a large and growing body of scientific evidence that human activities especially those involving the emission of greenhouse gases are changing the earth’s climate.

In Australia climate change is expected to damage biodiversity, agriculture, tourism, coastal infrastructure and human health and there are indications that it is already impacting on all of these ecological and economic sectors. The peoples of less developed countries are expected to suffer more, especially from forced migration and from tropical and vector borne diseases, the higher the increase in global average temperature the higher the probability of irreversible changes. Scientists are becoming increasingly worried that unless strong actions are taken now, the earth’s climate may soon reach a tipping point that throws it into an entirely new state.

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