Seven dire reasons it might be time to leave Australia – from floods to fungus

This article isn't about causing alarm, but rather sharing some of the annoying changes facing our nation.

Dengue fever, swarms of marine stingers, and the spread of highly contagious fungus are not what most people think about when they hear the term climate change. But they’re precisely the kinds of emerging threats experts are predicting will impact our comfortable lives in Australia's major cities.

This article isn’t meant to scare anyone – a Curtin University study has found anxiety about climate disasters is manifesting as disturbing thoughts and stress among Gen Z, and influencing decisions about careers and family. And it's certainly not a yarn about existential dangers to life itself like the collapse of our oceans or mass displacement of human populations, but rather the uncomfortable changes experts predict we’re likely to see in our lifetimes.

And they could have dire consequences for our carefree Aussie way of life.

A woman in the water at Bondi Beach. Inset - fungus growing on a petri dish.
Climate change is resulting in the spread of venomous jellyfish, mosquitos and deadly fungi. Source: Getty

🦟 Dengue fever could become established

Dengue fever is not endemic on mainland Australia because the tropical mosquito species that carry it haven’t become established there. But that will likely change as the country becomes warmer.

“It would mean every traveller that returns to Australia that's been infected with dengue while on holidays in Bali, the Pacific, South America or Southeast Asia, has the potential to trigger a local outbreak of dengue,” mosquito expert Cameron Webb told us in January.

🪼 Marine stingers ruining swimming

Although deadly jellyfish occasionally hitch a ride to the southern states via a boat’s ballast, the water is too cold for them to breed and establish themselves. But that could change as ocean waters heat up. Right now scientists are debating whether Irukandji are breeding closer to K’gari following reports of several stings last summer.

🍄 Deadly fungi spreading as weather warms

While spores are in the air all the time, most types of fungus can’t survive at 37 degrees — human body temperature. But as the climate heats, new fungi are becoming accustomed to warmer temperatures, and other established varieties are spreading in these more desirable conditions.

“If you’ve ever seen like mouldy bread, there's beautiful fibrils radiating out, and aspergillus will do that in the lung,” Dr Megan Lenardon from the University of NSW told us last week.

People diving off a boat on the Great Barrier Reef. Inset : bleached coral.
The Great Barrier Reef is not what it used to be. Source: Getty (File)

🏡 New homes becoming unliveable

Houses have traditionally been built to keep us comfortable in historical weather conditions, but climate change is causing extremes in temperatures. This includes heatwaves, the most deadly natural disasters in Australia.

Our regular city planning contributor Samuel Austin believes this is particularly concerning in Western Sydney which four years ago was the hottest place on earth at nearly 50 degrees.

😷 Irritating bushfire smoke

Australia has the highest rates of asthma in the world — followed by Sweden, UK and Netherlands — and attacks are frequently triggered by smoke from bushfires – a problem that will get worse with climate change as severe blazes are expected to become more frequent.

People who work outdoors are also at increased risk of having their health compromised from working in a hot, smokey environment.

💰 Insurance on the rise

The list of homes across Australia that are now uninsurable due to the risk of bushfire, flood and coastal erosion is growing. Even Sydney’s airport could one day be affected by rising sea levels. Buying insurance, or a 30-year mortgage could be impacted by the increasing risk extreme weather poses to your home.

🏖️ Holidays ruined

When all of the problems of city life became too much, the Great Barrier Reef was a perfect place to get away from it all. But it's clearly dying.

Flyovers of the Great Barrier Reef this summer show it has suffered severe bleaching and the United States has warned yesterday the world is on the brink of a fourth mass coral bleaching event.

A beach getaway may also be compromised in the future with erosion from rising sea levels threatening beaches and coastal homes.

🌏 Countries where it will be better to live

It's not just location that's going to dictate how well a country weathers the impact of climate change, the wealth a country has to mitigate its impact is also key. Of course, no matter which country you're in, rich people will be able to afford houses in safe areas and keep the air conditioner on, while the poor will swelter.

According to the Notre Dame global adaption index Norway, Finland, Switzerland and Denmark will fare best, with all four having a good location, political stability, innovation and wealth. New Zealand comes in at number eight, and Australia at 12 misses out on being in the top 10. The last countries in the list of 185 are all African nations.

😱 Is it all over for Australia?

No. That's the blunt answer from the Climate Council, an independent, evidence-based agency studying climate science, impacts and solutions.

Its CEO Amanda McKenzie wants to offer a message of hope, but protecting the Aussie way of life will depend on whether leaders in government and business take meaningful action to address the problem.

"We're absolutely right in the thick of the climate crisis, and it will get worse and worse, unless we arrest rising greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution," she told Yahoo News after reflecting on the issues raised in this article.

"As a mum. I'm very concerned about my kids' future — I have a two-year-old and a six-year-old. Scientists have been warning us for years about the impacts we're already seeing today. And we know what will be down the line for our children unless we do far more. Many parts of Australia will be very difficult to live in."

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