Climate Science

Climate change impacts in Australia

Click here for a comprehensive guide to climate change. This CANA presentation explains the science behind climate change and looks at the impacts, Australia's role, and what you can do.

The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology have released the State of the Climate 2012, showing that temperatures in Australia are still rising, as are greenhouse gas emissions. The forthcoming impacts of changed weather, temperature and sea-level rise will be intense and irreversible for Australia -- join the effort to ensure Australia plays its fair part in a global solution to climate change before its too late.

Climate change is likely to lead to:

  • More intense storms and tropical cyclones
  • Water resources will be further stressed with a greater likelihood of droughts
  • The Great Barrier Reef at risk due to rising sea temperatures
  • Rising sea levels threatening Kakadu National Park and parts of the east coastline

Check out the IPCC's video about their climate change and extreme weather report.

Climate change is already impacting on agriculture, weather systems and health around the world, including here in Australia. To prepare for the impacts that will come Governments and research institutes have tried to investigate how increasing uncertainty for the climate will affect food prices, homes on the coast, and the spread of disease. Green Cross Australia is helping communities in coastal Queensland share images and stories about the impacts they are already experiencing from rising sea levels in their Witness King Tides project.

A 2002 Climate Change Health Risk Assessment found that heat-related deaths in over 65’s in Australia may double by 2050 as a result of more frequent heat waves.[2]

A report on Climate Change Risks to Australia’s Coast, found that mid-range predictions of sea-level rise this century would mean that “storm events that now happen every 10 years would happen about every 10 days in 2100. The current 1-in-100 year event could occur several times a year.” As an example, the "Pasha Bulka storm" in Newcastle in June 2007 was a 1-in-100 year scale event and saw more than 200,000 homes lose power, thousands of people forced to evacuate their homes, and insured losses exceeded $1.3 billion. The insurance industry has been collecting data on the losses they have incurred from severe weather events in the last ten years, and warn that “small changes to mean climate conditions can have disproportionate changes in damage and losses.”[3]

The Coasts report also identified between 157,000–247,600 homes as potentially exposed to inundation with a sea-level rise scenario of 1.1 metres: nearly a third of these are in coastal NSW, with Lake Macquarie, Wyong and Gosford the worst affected.

Other studies have quantified the increase in heat-related deaths, cases of dengue fever, and water security problems in south-east Australia. While such findings are uncertain to a degree, it is clear that climate change will increasingly impact on Australian households and that reducing greenhouse pollution here and around the world is a risk-averse strategy to ameliorate those impacts.

Australia is a large continent, and each area of the country will be affected differently as world weather patterns are affected by human activity. Click on the below links to see how climate change will affect your region and the rest of Australia.

Further information about the impacts of climate change in Australia is archived here.

Climate change impacts globally

In 2009, it was estimated that around 300,000 people are dying as a result of climate change already each year.[1]

Climate change is causing sea-level rise and changes in weather patterns and therefore agriculture and ecosystems world wide. This is already impacting on people's lives, and threatens the existence of entire nations. At a United Nations Security Council meeting in 2011, the impact of climate change on global peace security was discussed, and at the 2011 General Assembly, island nations from around the world used their voices to push for more attention to climate change, as did Suriname and a number of other c countries. You can see the summary of the plenary here.

The current famine in East Africa has been linked to changes in weather patterns and rainfall, and is devastating the lives of millions. You can give to aid gencies currently running appeals, including Oxfam,  the Red Cross, Caritas, UNICEF and CARE.  

In December 2010, the International Food Policy Research Institute released a report on Food Security, Farming, and Climate Change to 2050 which warned that food prices could rise by 130% by 2050 as a result of climate change.  From 2007 to 2008, due partly to the multi-year drought, wheat prices in Australia jumped 42% in one year.

More information about the global impacts of climate change is archived here.

What is the Greenhouse Effect? What does it all mean?

What is a greenhouse gas? What is the greenhouse effect? Is Australia’s climate really changing? To find the answers and more, visit the CSIRO’s Atmospheric Research Group website: CSIRO has answers to your greenhouse questions.

For those who question the link between humans and climate change, New Scientist provides this useful resource.

One of the keys to finding out more about climate change is in recording and analysing the weather. The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology records weather information such as rainfall and temperatures from all over Australia, so they’re in a good position to tell us if anything’s changing! See what the Bureau of Meteorology is saying

In 1988 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Association (WMO) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC regularly publishes scientific studies on various aspects of climate change. Their latest Assessment Report was published in 2007, and the next one is due in 2014. For more about the IPCC, go to the IPCC website

The excellent Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) from World Resources Institute allows you to easily compare almost any greenhouse statistic across countries http://cait.wri.org

Australia's contribution to climate change

How much greenhouse gas does Australia produce?
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency produces Australia's greenhouse gas inventories, which are updated quarterly. You can access this information on their website here. In addition, DCEEE also provide forward projections of Australia's emissions.

Currently, Australia is producing more than 500 million tonnes of pollution every year and has the highest emissions per capita of any country in the developed world.

Climate change: who's responsible?

Who's responsible for the global warming we've got already?

Greenhouse gases from human activity have been accumulating in the atmosphere for at least 150 years. Developed countries are responsible for over 70% of the cumulative CO2 emissions since 1950. That's why the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) says that "the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change". Fair enough. If we created the mess, we should be the first to start fixing it. Australia is a signatory to the UNFCCC, and you can see from the table below we do more than our share of polluting! In fact Australia pollutes IN TOTAL as much greenhouse gas as Indonesia (yes - Indonesia with 10 times our population!)



[1] Global Humanitarian Forum. The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis 2009.

[2] Commonwealth of Australia. Human Health and Climate Change in Oceania: A Risk Assessment 2002. 2003.

[3] Australian Insurance Group. The Impact of Climate Change on Insurance against Catastrophes 2002.

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