IPCC: Nine key climate change risks to Australia

·Environment Editor
·3-min read

A ‘distressing read’ is how one veteran scientist described the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Finding global warming is occurring faster than previously thought, the United Nations' panel warned governments aren’t doing enough to mitigate or adapt to its impact.

Released on Monday, the report analyses 127 key risks to the planet, with human settlements, livelihoods and food and water security all set to be impacted.

Australians are set to have their daily lives interrupted by the impact of climate change. Source: Getty - File
Australians are set to have their daily lives interrupted by the impact of climate change. Source: Getty - File

That’s particularly bad news for Australia, as the IPCC predicts with "very high confidence" that the country faces “major impacts” and “irreversible change” to its natural systems.

Extreme weather will also impact our coastal settlements, while bushfires, less snow and coral bleaching will all harm tourism.

IPCC lists with 'high confidence' climate change impacts to Australia:

  1. Degradation of coral reefs

  2. Less snow and loss of alpine biodiversity

  3. More fires and collapse of forests

  4. Loss of kelp forests and marine heatwaves

  5. Human settlements in low-lying coastal areas will be lost

  6. Agricultural production to be impacted

  7. Increased human and wildlife deaths from heatwaves

  8. Extreme weather impacts on supply chains and infrastructure

  9. Inability of governance systems to manage climate risks

IPCC finds climate change worse than previously thought

In the near future, the world could reach 1.5 degrees of warming above preindustrial levels and that will change life as we know it.

Greenpeace’s Dr Alex Edney-Browne, who was as an official observer during the IPCC's plenary process, said central to the report is that climate change will be worse and have cascading impacts sooner than previously thought.

Coral reefs will die due to warming waters. Source: Getty - File
Coral reefs will die due to warming waters. Source: Getty - File

Due to the prevalence of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, warming over the next decade is guaranteed, but our efforts to cut emissions now will significantly impact years beyond that.

“This report is really distressing, and it highlights the need for governments to act as soon as possible,” Dr Edney-Browne told Yahoo News Australia.

“Not just for mitigation reasons, but to prepare for climate risks that are already locked in.”

Dr Edney-Browne said she hoped government would follow IPCC advice, and this includes engaging with Indigenous people who, by passing down knowledge, could enhance the country's ability to adapt.

Climate change set to impact Australia's economy

By continuing to drive global warming, Australia’s fossil fuel industry is set to have a heavy impact on the economy.

Climate Council economist Nicki Hutley criticised the Federal Government for reducing emissions for what she said was “at a snail’s pace”.

"The IPCC report makes it clear that Australia's economy faces significant and growing economic challenges due to climate change,” she said.

“However, it is also clear that urgent emission reductions through renewable energy and new clean industries could see us avoid the worst financial shocks and bring about incredible economic opportunities, especially for our regions.

“Anyone who thinks climate action is "not a race" has obviously not read this report.”

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