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Australia’s Bushfire Crisis: The Role of Climate Change

The impact of climate change in Australia will have a mix of different effects, with areas along the west coast of the country projected to experience the worst impacts. These areas will become mostly uninhabitable and are likely to see an increase in droughts, floods, and fires. Another major impact will be disruption to agriculture and food production.

What is the impact of climate change in Australia?

Since the start of the 20th century Australia has experienced a rise of nearly 1 °C in average annual temperatures, with warming occurring at twice the speed over the past 50 years than within the previous 50 years.

Recent climate events like extremely high temperatures and widespread drought have focused government and public attention on the impacts of global climate change in Australia.

Australia is susceptible to the effects of global warming projected in the future 50 to 100 years due to its extensive arid and semi-arid areas, an already warm climate, high annual rainfall variability, and existing pressures on water supply.

The impacts of global climate change in Australia are going to be complex and to some extent uncertain, but increased foresight may enable the country to safeguard its future through planned mitigation and adaptation.

Australia’s Bushfire Crisis due to climate change

One obvious effect of climate change is the increase of bushfires. The fire seasons in Australia are lengthening and fire events have become more frequent in the last 30 years. The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season was by some measures Australia’s “worst bushfire season on record”.

In New South Wales, the fires burnt through more land than the other blazes within the past 25 years, additionally to being the state’s worst bushfire season on record.

The chance of reaching the weather conditions that fuels the wildfires became over 4 times bigger since the year 1900 and can become 8 times more likely to occur if the temperature will rise by 2 degrees from the preindustrial level.

In 2019 Australian bushfires linked to global warming and climate change created air pollution 11 times above the hazardous level in many areas of new South Wales. Probably climate change also caused drier weather in Australia by impacting Indian Ocean Dipole what also increase wildfires.

Economic impacts of climate change in Australia

impact of climate change in Australia

Direct macroeconomic shocks from global climate change , including reduced agricultural yields, damage to property and infrastructure and commodity price hikes, are likely to steer to painful market corrections and will trigger serious financial instability in Australia and also the region.

The property market is predicted to lose $571 billion in value by 2030 because of climate change and extreme weather, and can still lose value within the coming decades if emissions remain high.

On current trends, the accumulated loss of wealth in Australia’s economy because of reduced agricultural productivity and labour productivity as a result of climate change is projected to exceed $19 billion by 2030, $211 billion by 2050 and $4 trillion by 2100.

By 2050, global climate change is projected to halve the irrigated agricultural output of the Murray-Darling Basin region, which currently accounts for 50% of Australia’s irrigated agricultural output by value (about $7.2 billion per year).

To avoid the costs of climate change increasing exponentially, greenhouse gas emissions must decline to net zero emissions before 2050. A credible national climate policy is required to safeguard against the economic impacts. Australia needs to reduce the direct costs of climate change, and avoid economic risks related to a sudden, disruptive or disorderly transition to net zero emissions.

What is Australia doing about climate change?

Australia's Bushfire Crisis

Australia is not only meeting its international obligations but is preparing for a lower emissions future and Investing in climate solutions. The Climate Solutions Package is a $3.5 billion investment to deliver on Australia’s 2030 Paris Agreement commitments, building on existing climate change mitigation policies and programs.

The Climate Solutions Fund, a $2 billion investment to continue investment in low cost abatement support for a range of new energy efficiency measures for homes, businesses and community organisations.

This funding will look to develop a national strategy for electric vehicles, that will examine public and private charging infrastructure and integration with the electricity system. The fund will also invest into industry opportunities and further support for pumped hydro projects.

Conclusion

Australia has committed to a 26–28% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. But this reduction needs to be 47% if its to meet the targets set in the Paris agreement and to achieve the global target of net zero by 2050.

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