AE 626.2 – Aussie Fact: Climate Change & Australia’s Future

Learn Australian English in this Aussie Fact episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I talk about climate change & Australia’s future.

AE 626.2 - Aussie Fact: Climate Change & Australia's Future transcript powered by Sonix—the best audio to text transcription service

AE 626.2 - Aussie Fact: Climate Change & Australia's Future was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the latest audio-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors. Sonix is the best way to convert your audio to text in 2019.

All right, guys. Let's get into this episode. Man, this is gonna be a whopper of an Aussie English fact episode.

So, recently, I've been watching the news and there's been loads of different things going on with climate change in Australia underpinning things like the bushfires that have been occurring or the heatwaves that we've been getting, coral bleaching is that have been occurring in the Great Barrier Reef. And so, I thought it would be a great chance at the moment to talk about climate change and its effects on Australia. Okay?

So, to begin the episode, I thought we could talk about the evidence for climate change and the impacts it's having already on Australia and what potentially lies ahead for the future of Australia, Down Under.

So, as a quick recap, remember that global warming refers to the long term trend of rising average global temperatures and climate change refers to the way that global climate is changing because of the increase in average global temperatures, so things like the way it changes rainfall patterns, the way that it makes droughts more frequent, heatwaves more frequent, and also other extreme events. Some of you might be climate change believers, sceptics, or maybe you're on the fence about these, or maybe you know very little about the topic, but that's why I thought today would be important to discuss it. It can be a contentious issue. It shouldn't be, in my opinion. Remember, go with the 97 per cent of climate scientists who state that climate change is human caused.

Anyway, let's go through the evidence for climate change being real and also manmade before we get into how it's currently affecting Australia and what lies ahead for the future of Down Under.

So, what's the evidence for climate change? I jumped on the NASA website ,so you can go and check that out. There'll be a link in the transcript for that and every other thing that I talk about or mention in today's episode. But NASA states nine different things as being big, solid pieces of evidence for climate change. So, I thought I'd go through each of these and sort of break them down.

Global temperature rise. The planet's average surface temperature has risen by almost 1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. This change has been driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human made emissions into the atmosphere. Most of the warming has occurred in the last 35 years, with the five warmest years on record occurring since 2010. And not only was 2016 the warmest year on record, but eight of the months of that year from January through to September, with the exception of June, were the warmest on record for each of those months, respectively.

Warming oceans. The oceans have absorbed a great deal of the increased heat with the top 700 meters of the ocean displaying a warming of about half a degree Fahrenheit since the year 1969.

Shrinking ice sheets. The ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have decreased in mass. Data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and climate experiment indicate that Antarctica lost about 127 billion tonnes of ice a year between 1993 and 2016, and Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tonnes of ice per year over the same period. In the last decade, the rate of Antarctic ice mass loss has tripled.

Glacial retreat. Glaciers are on the retreat. They're shrinking rapidly and almost everywhere around the world, including the Alps, the Himalayas, the Andes, the Rockies, Alaska, and even in Africa.

Decreased snow cover. Satellite observations show that the amount of northern hemisphere spring snow cover has decreased over the last 50 years and that the snow is also melting earlier every year.

Sea level rise. Global sea levels rose approximately 8 inches in the last century, and the rate over the last 20 years has been nearly twice that of the last century and is accelerating more and more every year.

Declining Arctic sea ice. Both the thickness and area of Arctic ice has dramatically declined over the last several decades.

Extreme events. The number of recorded high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has also been decreasing since 1950. The US has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events. As we'll find out later in this episode, a similar pattern is being seen in Australia as well as the rest of the world.

Ocean acidification. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 per cent. This is caused by the ocean's absorption of one third of the CO2 emitted by humans since the 1850s, where the ocean turns it into carbonic acid. The acidity of the oceans has increased by 26 per cent since this time, a rate of change about 10 times faster than anything seen over the last 55 million years. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about $2 billion tonnes each year.

All right. So there are nine lines of evidence for the fact that climate change is taking place in the world. Many will argue, "Yeah, but Pete, the climate has always changed. Why is it any different today?". And yeah, the first part of that, you're 100 per cent true. The climate has always changed in the past and it'll continue to change into the future. But it is different today.

In the past, the Earth's climate has been changing because of the Earth's orbit around the sun and the planets tilt towards or away from the sun, as well as a myriad of other different factors, you know, like gases in the atmosphere, reflectiveness of the surface of the earth, and many other reasons. The issue here is that human activity is speeding up this process to the point where it's occurring too quickly. It'll lead to hotter temperatures, extreme weather events like extreme storms, longer droughts, less arable land that can be farmed and, you know, used to produce our food, as well as the inundation of land where people live like in Bangladesh or on islands and places that are close to the sea.

Ultimately, the earth doesn't give a crap about climate change, the planet itself that is. We as humans give a crap about climate change because it directly affects us and our ability to feed ourselves, to shelter ourselves, as well as lead prosperous lives, at least in the near future.

Anyway, I'll get off my pedestal and stop lecturing you guys that are climate sceptics. But that's the main point of why climate change matters. It's going to directly affect human life.

So, in the transcript here, guys, I'm going to include a great SBS Insights episode from back in 2011, where in this episode, a scientist named Stephen Schneider, who is a climate scientist from Stanford University in the US, answers a whole heap of questions from an audience of climate sceptics. Let's have a listen to a quick snippet.

Tanya, do you believe in manmade climate change?

Manmade? Not a lot.

Peter Mock, what about you?

No, I don't believe in it at all. I believe in climate change, the climate always changes, but I haven't seen any evidence to date that discounts natural climate change. And I've seen nothing in any of the literature that I've read indicates that anything is abnormal A with the warming or the rate of warming.

Mark, you're nodding your head.

Well, I believe nature has its ways of balancing itself and if she went into to an extreme global warming, I'm sure it's got its own methods of cooling itself.

And Peter, you your son, what about what about you? How old are you, Peter?

I'm 15.

And what do you think?

Ah, I'm not too much of a sceptic, but I do believe that climate change is something that is happening naturally in our world. But I do think that it can be implemented by mankind, as in that what mankind is doing is just accelerating it. So, I don't believe that global warning... that global warming is manmade. I think that it is natural and it is... and that it does fall into our climatical pattern.

All right, Stephen Schneider, plenty for you to deal with it. You've been looking into these issues for 40 years. What's the most compelling argument that you can throw back at these people, and they're all doubters, to make the case for manmade climate change?

Well, I heard the word I don't 'believe'. Science is not about belief. Science is about evidence. And therefore, your beliefs have to be built upon looking at the whole wide range of evidence. And it is completely legitimate, as everybody said, to look over a long period of history. In fact, looking back at the geologic past, that's the backdrop against which we calibrate our understanding. But you have to be very careful not to make an analogy by saying that what happened in the past is caused by the same things that are happening now. So, the point is what we do in science is we look for underlying cause, not for the fact that before it's been warmer, in fact, that's been quite a bit warmer than now before, one hundred and twenty five thousand years ago, it was a degree and a half warmer than now. But we know that the Earth's orbit was twisted more toward the sun than now, and if we take that and we put it in the same climate models we use to study global warming, it predicts it was about that much warmer. So, what we try to do is look at the wide range of evidence and that we don't use analogies. What we do is we use the understanding built on how the system works. And I'll be happy to explain that more.

All right. So, let's get into the meat of this episode about how climate change is affecting Australia and its people.

So, let's start with the coastlines in Australia. The coastline around Australia is a relatively narrow dynamic zone where the ocean, land, and atmosphere all interact. It's not only shoreline, but it also includes estuary systems, which are sometimes or permanently connected to the ocean and extend inland.

Australia is a unique country, because of its entire population 85 per cent of us live within 50 kilometres of the coast, and the coastal region generates the majority of Australia's economic activity.

Climatically, these regions are exposed to sea level fluctuations, coastal inundation, and river flooding caused by short term weather cycles, as well as extreme weather events even without climate change. As a result, households and settlements, businesses, infrastructure industries like fishing and tourism, and essential services like water and electricity are all at risk. Not to mention the natural environment itself.

So, climate change acts to exacerbate the already existing climate risks for Australia's coasts, as well as creating new risks. For example, rising sea levels that raise the risk of damage caused by storm surges, which leads to coastal erosion with the risk of damage to coastal infrastructure, the removal of sand and rocks from beaches, and the loss of land. Flooding, which can affect low lying coastal communities and is exacerbated by rising sea levels combined with extreme events. Other coastal assets, including both built assets like residential buildings, ports and bridges, and natural assets such as wildlife, wetlands or coral reefs, these are all at risk from other variables and hazards like warmer sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, increased wind speeds, bushfires, and an increased frequency and intensity of heatwaves.

So, one of the most significant assets at risk in Australia is obviously the Great Barrier Reef. And I watched a recent story where David Attenborough was being interviewed by ABC News about global warming and he was warning that we needed to act. But I found it interesting that he talked about the Great Barrier Reef, what it was like when he first saw it compared to what it was like today. Let's have a listen.

When did you first go diving in the Great Barrier Reef? What did it look like then and how much has it changed?

I first went in the '50s, late '50s, and I was a hopeless underwater swimmer. When you do it in the place like the Barrier Reef where you have this fantastic paradise of things, which when you do for the first time, here are 50 creatures and you've never seen before in your life, and all of my fantastically beautiful, and you don't know the name of any of them, and they aren't afraid of you. I mean, what more do you want? And you can go out and have another look, you can follow them around.

I know that you went back just 10 years ago. What did you see them?

Well, I mean, you go where you want, depends what you want to see. But, I wanted... I was looking for evidence of things going wrong. And we found plenty. I mean, a bleached reef is a tragic sight. I mean, a desperately tragic site, particularly, if you if you've seen it before, you know. And you know, what it could've been like just this acre of deathly white coral. I mean, that's serious.

So, the Great Barrier Reef is a great example, because as climate change continues to take a toll on it, it will take more of a toll on the humans that work there or live there economically. And currently, $6.4 billion in tourism is generated annually by the Great Barrier Reef, which supports more than 64,000 jobs in Australia.

So, how exactly does something like climate change affect the Great Barrier Reef? Well, it's a consequence of a rise in sea temperatures, gradual ocean acidification, and an increase in the number of intense weather events like cyclones. And the biggest problem that these things cause is increased coral bleaching where the corals themselves die. Let's have a listen to this story from France 24 English on YouTube.

Parts of the reef are completely lifeless. Fish have fled. The coral has died. Half of the Barrier Reef has disappeared over the past 30 years as coral bleaching becomes more frequent. When the temperature of the water rises above 30 degrees, the corals expel an algae causing them to turn completely whites. This depletes them of their energy and many end up dying. Bleaching occurred on an unusually large scale in 2016 and 2017. And the phenomenon is happening in oceans all over the world.

So, there you go, guys. A rise in temperature of only two to three degrees will lead to 97 per cent bleaching every single year in the Great Barrier Reef. Furthermore, as acidity of the oceans increases, corals will find it harder to secrete calcium carbonate, and thus their growth will also slow dramatically.

Coral is important because it represents a home for a lot of marine animals, including a quarter of fish. So, if we lose those populations of fish, other animals that rely on those fish then die off. So, things like other fish, birds, sharks, and even whales could all end up having their populations decimated.

So, there's a bit about the Great Barrier Reef and our coastal regions in Australia and how they're going to be affected by climate change.

Let's head back to the mainland now.

There are a whole bunch of interrelated issues here where climate change is affecting the mainland of Australia. Rainfall, water availability, drought, how that affects agriculture and farming, then we have storms and bushfires and other extreme events that affect how people live as well as the native wildlife.

One of the interesting things that I came across about Australia and climate change recently was how it's affecting the Top End of Australia, so places like northern Queensland or the Northern Territory. So, these areas are experiencing faster than normal sea level rise and they're also experiencing many more hotter days than they have ever before.

So at the moment, they have 11 days above 35 degrees Celsius and this is expected to increase potentially 10 times by the year 2019. So, people are just leaving. There are mangrove forests that are turning to dust. Many animals are being affected like turtles, which can't reproduce properly anymore. Cyclones and storm surges are also going to strengthen and become more dangerous and severe. And these are all affecting communities that live there.

So, let's talk about water. This is one of the most important things in Australia. As you will know where a sunburnt country and water is definitely lacking at the best of times across the entire continent.

So, Australia's a bit of a fickle country when it comes to water. Typically, we don't have enough. Some places experience drought for years. Other places experience repeated floods year after year. So, often Australia has water, not enough of it, and we get it where we don't need it, and we don't get it where we do need it.

So, why is this happening? Rainfall patterns in Australia fluctuate a lot and they vary greatly from year to year and from decade to decade. These patterns are heavily influenced by large scale phenomena known as El Nino and La Nina. These are complex climatic events, but basically the El Nino period in Australia is associated with hotter temperatures and reduced rainfall, and thus droughts. Whilst the La Nina period is associated with cooler temperatures and increased rainfall.

Despite large scale natural variability and rainfall, underlying longer term trends are obvious in some regions and are likely related to climate change. More recently, there's been significant drying across southern Australia, particularly during the cool April to October growing season. In the south east of Australia rainfall during the period of 1996 to 2015 decreased by about 11 per cent since rainfall records started back in 1900.

Interestingly, whilst rain during winter periods has been decreasing, rainfall during summer periods has been increasing across much of the continent over the past 30 years. However, winter rainfall is what we're after as it evaporates less and is used by farmers to grow their crops during the growing season. Whereas rain during summer, although refreshing, it ends up evaporating much more quickly in hotter temperatures.

And let's talk about groundwater. Groundwater is the water that is present beneath the earth's surface and it is also vulnerable to climate change and climate variability. Risks from climate change include reduced groundwater recharge and supplies, seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers, reduction of available fresh water on small islands, and increased demand from industries and communities. Further risks to groundwater include extreme weather events like bushfires and floods, which can affect water quality and water infrastructure. Increasing temperatures could also lead to a higher risk of things like bacterial contamination of water supplies, blue-green algal outbreaks and acid sulphate soil issues.

The story is very similar for water in rivers, streams and lakes. A big issue recently that you guys might have seen on the news was the poor management of our freshwater systems like the Murray-Darling Basin, which covers parts of southern Queensland and much of inland New South Wales. The Murray-Darling Basin is home to two million people and Australia's food bowl, where much of the continent's agriculture takes place and our food is grown. Farmers pay to siphon off water out of the basin and use it for growing their crops or giving to their livestock to drink, however, poor management and illegal stealing of water combined with the current drought has led to much of the Murray-Darling Basin running dry for the first time in living memory. And this has occurred as the water has drained faster than it's been refilled in this recent drought.

Communities, industries, and the natural wildlife all suffered during this period. Millions of native fish died off and some populations were completely decimated permanently. Let's have a quick listen to this snippet from a story from Guardian Australia.

The Murray-Darling Basin system is about 3,200 kilometres long and stretches from Queensland down through New South Wales, Victoria, A.C.T., and then down into South Australia. It's absolutely the lifeblood of all those farming areas. Over the last 50 or 60 years, there's been a huge expansion of irrigated cropping. It includes cotton, citrus, wheat, rice, all sorts of amazing things that are growing in what was pretty arid country.

This really sad bloody shot here caused by the government environmental disaster. And look at these iconic fish of Australia being treated like this. Yous have to be bloody disgusted with yourself, you politicians and cotton grower manipulators.

So, there's controversy over what caused the fish kill. The Murray-Darling has almost stopped flowing at the moment. And so, these pools are very still. They've become hotter. They're growing blue green algae, which is very poisonous. One of the explanations is that the water became deoxygenated because it had been so hot, and then it became cold, and that killed the algae in the river, and then sucked out all the oxygen.

There's no oxygen in the water much at all. And they're getting a bit out of that little flow that's there. And it's only a few inches deep. They can't swim any further upstream. Depressing sight. That's what it is.

So the government is saying it's the drought and there is a drought in Australia. But the question is, what's gone wrong in the management of the river? Real questions about whether is still wildly over allocated in favour of irrigators.

All right. Now, let's dig in a little bit to drought.

So droughts are prolonged dry periods with below average rainfall. Okay? They're very common in Australia as it is, but as these temperatures increase, as the global temperature rises, droughts are going to become longer and more frequent. Let's have a listen to a snippet from this ABC Australia News story.

A third generation farmer, Peter Maler, leases much of his 6,000 acre property. Margins have always been tight on his rotating crops of wheat, chickpeas, and broad beans.

Everything we do is about trying to get a planting opportunity and these conditions are beyond our ability to manage. That's where we're at. So, heat is a compounding factor on losing the moisture that we need to get the crop growing.

Is it your bet that is going to get worse?

Yeah, absolutely. My bet is that the high temperatures are here to stay and that is a serious threat to the way that we farm and how how we manage that lack of rainfall.

He thinks climate change is now generating extremes beyond his vast experience to manage.

You can't keep arguing that this is just a cycle. Yes, there are dry periods and yes, there are wetter periods, yes, there are warm periods, and yes, there cool periods. But we have shifted the averages. The baselines have moved to the point now where we are unable to manage the impact of those extreme events in that set.

The farmers trick bag is run out of tricks?

We're running out of tricks. So, agriculture is a gamble and every time, you know, temperatures rise and, you know, the impacts of climate change rolls down, the odds keep moving in favour of the house.

So, 66% of Queensland and 98.4% of New South Wales are currently affected by drought. Other states and territories are not looking good either. Whilst not yet declared to be in drought, they're experiencing record dry months.

Australia's food bowl in the Murray-Darling Basin has experienced the lowest rainfall on record for the past two and a half years. Along with the lack of rainfall, record heat has compounded the stress where temperatures over the same period have been 1.65 degrees Celsius higher.

Scientists can't point to a given drought and say, "Aha! This was caused by climate change." But what they can say definitively is that climate change makes the effects of the droughts that already occur stronger and more damaging.

Australian industries.

This is a snippet from CNBC International TV. Let's have a quick listen.

So, what we're seeing in Australia with... it's really heartbreaking, it's devastating, the drought conditions and the eastern side of Australia. And the background context of that is we're seeing much more hotter, drier days. So it's... when we look back, it's been a very, very hot and dry winter. Last winter in Australia, we had 260 weather records. We had heat temperature records and we had low rainfall records. So, climate change is very much the driving force between many extreme weather events here in Australia. It's not just the drought, but we're also seeing more frequent and intense heatwaves. We're seeing devastating coastal flooding. And I look at one of four natural icons, the Great Barrier Reef, that's been back to back bleaching and 2016 and 2017. So, climate change is really placing huge pressure... and it's putting an economy, our agricultural system and our tourism sector.

So, when you look at tourism, it's a multibillion dollar asset and it employed... we had over 8 million people come to visit Australia. I mean, obviously just listening to my accent, you know, I come from Scotland, and I was attracted here for the natural icons in Australia, the beaches, the reefs, and the beautiful red dirt centre here in Australia. That's all in the front line for climate change.

So farmers rely heavily upon rainfall in order to grow their winter crops, which make up the bulk of the nation's output. Although, winter rain is increasing in the north and interior of the continent, this isn't where the crops are grown. Besides the location of where rain falls, its timing is also crucial. If we end up with our rain falling during periods of hot and dry weather, evaporation just sucks up all of the water that falls onto the land, making it effectively useless.

Although, the northern parts of Australia may receive more rain, the southern parts are receiving less, and the little it does may fall at a time that doesn't suit farmers who are raising livestock and growing crops.

Australia's primary industries, including agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, are all highly sensitive to climatic variations and weather extremes.

Climate change may be a double edged sword, presenting new challenges in some locations and industries, but simultaneously presenting new opportunities in others.

In the coming decades, climate change is expected to increase productivity risks for primary industries in various ways, such as: agricultural yields will likely be affected by increased frequency of drought conditions in southern Australia; increasing temperatures and more common extreme heat events will likely place livestock at greater risk of heat stress whilst also reducing their productivity and reproductive rights; forestry will likely experienced declining productivity and tree mortality in certain areas due to reduced rainfall, high temperatures, water loss, and natural disasters like bushfires; and crops and horticulture will potentially face changes in growing season and face more intense heatwaves and storm events.

So, what about Australian wildlife and ecosystems?

Needless to say, Australian flora and fauna, and the ecosystems in which they live, are facing the full effects of climate change head on. If we don't act soon, widespread extinctions are likely to take place all across the continent, let alone the entire world, and will lose many of our charismatic critters for good.

Let's have a listen to this snippet from SBS News.

The Climate Council has released a report detailing the damage climate change is having on Australia's ecosystems, and it shows environmental deterioration from the wetlands at Kakadu National Park to the Great Barrier Reef and highlights the fears held for endangered animals.

Carnaby's black cockatoos are found only in a section of Western Australia. a uniquely Australian animal that's also critically endangered. And with the species highly susceptible to heat stress, heatwaves can be devastating.

A single day at about 48 degrees killed several hundred of the Carnaby's black cockatoo.

It's just one example, the Climate Council says, of global warming pushing Australia's animals and ecosystems to the brink.

I feel deeply dismayed to have to stand before you today to explain the enormous damage that we are doing to our country's biodiversity.

The 2016 State of the Environment report found that climate change is one of the primary pressures on the Australian environment and that it's exacerbating other pressures such as land use, change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and invasive species. The impact of these existing pressures is increased by rising temperatures, undermining the resilience of native wildlife.

Scientists predict that climate change will cause changes to the geographic range and abundance of many species, as well as restrict or alter their movement and interfere with their lifecycle, such as when plants germinate. Climate change also poses a biosecurity risk for Australian ecosystems as pest and weed species have their distributions altered.

Compared to human systems, natural ecosystems have a limited capacity to manage these numerous pressures. Due to the present speed of climate change coupled with other pressures, the capacity of species to adapt in situ or to migrate to more climatically suitable areas, where and if they exist, is very limited.

So, what are some of the statistics we have?

Assuming a conservative 2 degrees Celsius increase in global temperatures, 41 per cent of plants face extinction; between 18 and 29 per cent of birds; 33 to 47 per cent of mammals; 58 per cent of amphibians; and 38 per cent of reptiles. With a catastrophic 4.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature these numbers are all between 53 per cent and 89 per cent extinction rate. These statistics are from the World Wildlife Fund.

So, I found a really good article from Business Insider called '10 Ways in Which Climate Change is Affecting Australia's Wildlife', and I wanted to list the 10 different points that they talk about in this article.

So, number one. Warmer oceans are going to cook The Great Barrier Reef and the Ningaloo Reef alive.

Number two. Marine turtles are producing more females than males, leading to decreased breeding. And this is happening because turtle gender, when they lay their eggs in the sand, the temperature of the sand decides whether the egg will be male or female. And the hotter the sand, I think about 34 degrees or more, it means it'll be a female. So, if all the temperatures have all the sand end up higher than 34 degrees, you end up with only female turtles.

Number three. Rock wallabies face food and habitat loss from extended drought.

Number four. Forests are less productive and more trees die.

Five. Koalas don't get enough nutrients from the leaves that they eat.

Six. Female butterflies in southern Australia are leaving their cocoons earlier, effectively being born prematurely.

Seven. Vector-borne diseases from insect bites are on the rise.

Eight. Breeding seasons happen earlier or later than normal and are shorter in length.

Nine. Snowmelt has pushed the Mount Pygmy Possum to the edge of extinction. Now, in this case, it's because the Mount Pygmy possum lives high up in the mountains and has very limited ranges, right? It can't expand its ranges down the mountains because it gets warmer. So, it can only go up mountains. And if you already live at the top of a mountain and the temperature increases, you've got nowhere else to go.

And lastly, number 10. Animals are leaving the hot, humid rainforests and moving up to the mountains to where it's cooler, though, they are not adapted for the climate.

So, one big issue that was covered in the news recently was the plight of the Australian koala. And this has been highlighted because of the recent November bushfires in southern Queensland and throughout much of New South Wales. Koalas already face habitat loss to extensive logging of their natural environment, but after these bushfires, it was found that thousands of them have died and a great deal of their habitat has been destroyed, razed to the ground and turned to ash. And they also face a risk from rising sea levels that threaten to inundate low lying schlerophyll forests where they live.

Let's have a quick listen to this story from ABC News.

A quest for answers is driving ecologist Rebecca Montagu-Drake. At the National Koala Conference, she's warned that oceans are rising along the East Coast, bringing bigger floods and higher tides.

This is a new thought that rising sea levels will inundate our swamp schlerophyll forests, even if it's only periodic inundation, effectively removing chunks of koala habitat.

And she says toxic salt will slowly poison coastal gum trees and koalas.

Koalas walk a really tight, tight rope with their diet between the leaf that they eat, the high levels of toxins that eucalypt leaves contain, and the amount of nutrients that they can extract from those leaves. When we start playing with the salinity levels in the soil, we're likely to see that fine balance in the leaf between the toxins and the nutrient values get way out of kilter.

All right. So, what about humans, Pete? Get on to the humans. How is it going to affect humans?

Obviously, people who live in Australia will be affected by the progression of climate change in a myriad of different ways, many of which are likely unforeseen.

Let's start with human health and wellbeing.

Here's a snippet from a story on the Kaiser Permanente Thrive YouTube channel.

It's hard to imagine a dimension of human health that climate change doesn't touch. It deepens poverty. It threatens our food and water supply. It tears people from their homes. It makes large parts of the world uninhabitable. If you care about climate change, you have to care about health. And if you care about health, you have to care about climate change.

As a pediatrician, my job is not only to take care of the children that I'm seeing in my practice, but also to advocate for a healthy environment for the children I'm taking care of. The health effects of climate change disproportionately affect children, people of colour, people living in poverty, the elderly, people living with chronic disease. And as climate change worsens, the health outcomes caused by climate change in these populations will worsen as well.

Human health is linked to environmental factors such as water and air quality and temperatures, extreme weather events like heatwaves, rising temperatures, and changing variability of rainfall will likely be the greatest threats to human health. Heatwaves are of significant concern as they're increasing incidents is leading to a greater risk of injury, disease and death. They've caused more deaths than any other natural hazard in Australia over the last century. The increasing occurrence and severity of other extreme weather events also poses risks to our health in the form of injuries, disease, and death, and also disruption of our health services. Lastly, drought has been shown to decrease mental health, especially in rural communities. For farmers in rural communities, suicide rates are twice as high as what they are for men in the cities.

Here's a snippet from a story on the Feed on SBS. Let's have a listen.

If you look at the official statistics, it's basically somebody's dying every four hours in Australia. Being rural communities, people don't talk about it a lot. So, there's definitely a lot more that have happened and a lot more that is going on.

The exact figures are hard to gauge, but studies show Queensland's farmers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than the general population. In recent months, there's been a spike in the number of attempted suicides in small farming communities with 60 per cent of Queensland drought, it's been that number will climb, particularly among younger farmers.

Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Australians are also likely to face the full brunt of climate change first, despite being a group of people who contribute very little to greenhouse gas emissions underlying global warming and climate change. They'll experience the direct consequences of climate change due to their dependence upon and close relationship with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties that vulnerable indigenous communities already face, including political and economic marginalisation, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination, and unemployment.

These people are vital to, as well as active in, the many ecosystems they inhabit in their lands and territories in Australia, and may therefore work to enhance the resilience of these ecosystems. Furthermore, they interpret and react to the impacts of climate change in creative ways drawing on their traditional knowledge of the land and other technologies in order to find solutions that may help society as a whole cope with these impending changes. And one big example in Australia is land management through traditional burning by indigenous people.

Let's have a listen to this snippet about how climate change is affecting indigenous people from this channel Seed Indigenous Youth Climate Network on YouTube.

The weather pattern is changing. The seasons are becoming more... dry season becoming more longer. We don't have much rain anymore this year. It's been really hard for this country because not much water anymore and a country already feel interrupted, because people don't realise that country is a gut feeling. So, when country feel that something good to happen to it, it always close up. And I think that's what's happening in here. Country is sick, is becoming slowly sick.

I want my kids to be able to feel safe and to have a healthy life, to still speak their language, still practice their traditions, and still do ceremony. I want my grandkids to have ceremony. I want my kids to have ceremony, to have song. And I want my kids to at least live on a land that is healthy and that they can know that they got to look after the country too.

Now, let's talk about the economy.

So, I was reading an article on the Climate Council website,, and this report was about the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy. It has a beautiful infographic on there about how climate change is going to affect our food system and is interlinked with things like job losses and debt, inflation, everything like that. So, check out the link in the transcript.

But I wanted to go through the five points that this report covered as how the economy is going to be affected by climate change.

Number one. Climate change is a major threat to Australia's financial stability and poses substantial systemic economic risks.

Two detailed new modelling based on the federal government's current approach to climate change finds the economic damage to Australia's property and agricultural sectors will be very significant.

Three. The property market is expected to lose $571 billion in value by 2030 due to climate change and extreme weather, and will continue to lose value in the coming decades if emissions remain high.

Four. Extreme events like droughts, heatwaves, cyclones, and floods have an impact on agriculture and food production. This is already affecting Australia's economy and will cost us much more in the future.

And five. The severe costs of climate change outlined in this report are not inevitable. To avoid the costs of climate change increasing exponentially, greenhouse gas emissions must decline to net zero emissions before 2050. Investments in resilience and adaptation will be essential to reduce or prevent losses in the coming decades.

So, it's a good article, guys. Go and check it out if you want to learn more about the effects of climate change on the Australian economy.

So lastly, guys, I thought we would talk about cities and the built environment in Australia.

Here's a snippet from a neat TedX talk called 'Making the Links' by Sarah Hughes. Let's have a listen.

First, cities are responsible for 75% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to climate change. And carbon dioxide is emitted when we burn fossil fuels for electricity, transportation, industrial processes, and most of these things take place in cities. This map shows just how easy it is to see all of the lights that we use in cities from space.

Cities are where we live, where we play, where we work, where we go to school, where we eat, drink, stay up all night. All of these things take energy. And at the moment, that means that they all emit greenhouse gases.

But cities are also where we're most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. When cities are hit by floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves, this is where we see the greatest casualties, the greatest economic disruptions, the greatest infrastructural losses.

This is a picture taken in the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. We know that not only our cities the sites of climate change impacts, but that the poor and minority groups and cities are likely to be hit the hardest.

All right. So today, more than two thirds of Australia's population live in large cities like Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. And more than two thirds of the country's economic activity is generated in these cities. Climate change and natural disasters impact location and design of our cities and the built environment, as well as how we manage our natural resources and support human communities. Climate change also poses challenges to an array of assets, both publicly and privately owned.

The primary climate risks to Australia's cities include: gradual impacts such as sea level and temperature rise, as well as extreme events such as floods, heatwaves and bushfires, which will pose challenges to our assets and infrastructure; hotter, drier conditions, as well as increased bushfire risk and the frequency of heatwaves will lead to greater risk of human injury and interrupt the productivity of our labour force; along the coast, more intense storms and cyclones combined with rising sea levels could worsen storm surge, coastal inundation, and erosion, which will also impact the built environment; biodiversity and ecosystems supporting social well-being, protecting people from natural disasters, and which provides services such as clean air and fresh water will also be damaged.

If a single city's social, economic, or infrastructure networks fail, there may be unforeseen cascading effects elsewhere. As population growth increases and urbanisation extends into areas at higher risk of diverse climate change impacts may increase our exposure to natural hazards.

So there you go, guys. There you go. It's a little bit dismal, you know, thinking about how climate change is affecting Australia, let alone the rest of the world. But I hope that we're going to get our act together. We're going to work together, and we'll get through this in the near future. I think definitely we're going to be developing some amazing technologies, whether it's renewable energy or it's technologies related to pulling out gases out of the atmosphere or maybe preventing those gases from being released into the atmosphere in the first place. But I have faith in humanity.

Anyway to finish this episode up, I thought I would give you a listen to David Attenborough once again giving his two cents on climate change and the future.

Young people see things very clearly and they are speaking very clearly to the politicians. They may not yet be old enough to have the vote, but they see things very... And it's their world, not my world, or even your world. It's their world that's coming along and it's their world that's going to be in hazard. And they want to make it clear to for politicians that they know that. And if they just sit on the sidelines and say that in a nice, reasonable way, you know, the kids, they're our kids. But if they actually do something in the way that they have been doing in this year, then politicians have to sit up and take notice.

We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of economic growth. How dare you?

We've got to convince every part of civilisation, of our societies, that you have to go that way and convince bankers and big business that, actually, in the end, the long term future lies in being... having a healthy planet, and that if unless we do something about it, big business is going to suffer. You know, you're going to lose your money.

So, that's it, guys, it's been a long episode than I might have to try and make them. Not as long in the future, but I hope you enjoyed it. Make sure that you let me know what you think in a comment, in an email, wherever you say this episode and I will chat to you next week. Peace.

Quickly and accurately convert audio to text with Sonix.

Sonix uses cutting-edge artificial intelligence to convert your mp3 files to text.

Thousands of researchers and podcasters use Sonix to automatically transcribe their audio files (*.mp3). Easily convert your mp3 file to text or docx to make your media content more accessible to listeners.

Sonix is the best online audio transcription software in 2019—it's fast, easy, and affordable.

If you are looking for a great way to convert your mp3 to text, try Sonix today.

itunes-logo (1)
spotify-small (1) (1)
icon-stitcher (1)

Get more out of every episode!

Here's what you get when you sign up!

  • Read while you listen using the Premium Podcast player.
  • Understand every word in every episode.
  • Download all PDF transcripts and MP3s for 600+ episodes.
  • Get access to bonus member-only episodes.

Download my eBook!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Recent Podcast Episodes

    Related Articles


    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.