Climate change pushing a sun burnt country to its limits

As described best by Dorothea Mackellar, Australian’s “love a sun burnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains”.

The love for Australia’s unique landscape stretches far past her jewel-sea, with over 8 million international tourists visiting in 2016.

But would these tourists still endure the gruelling flight to our corner of the world if our sunburnt country averages 35 degrees Celsius and our jewel-sea floods their hotel rooms?

A report by the Climate Council has revealed the alarming effect climate change is having on Australia’s iconic natural attractions.

Tourist Destinations Under Threat by Climate Change:

  • A 0.5m increase in sea level will see iconic sandy beaches and top tourist cities Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns, Darwin, Freemantle and Adelaide submerged by frequent coastal flooding.
  • The heart of Australia, including the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, is expected to scorch at 35 degrees Celsius for 100 days a year by 2030.
  • The Top End of Australia, including Kakadu National Park, is predicted to experience at least 265 days at 35 degrees Celsius by 2090.
  • Climate change is causing significant decline of natural snow fall in ski tourism regions.
  • Warmer ocean temperatures are causing thermal stress on coral in the Great Barrier Reef which results in accelerated coral bleaching and coral death.
  • Increasing ocean temperatures also impacts on migrating patterns of venomous box jelly fish species, Irukandji jellyfish, which are predicted to begin migrating as far as Hervey Bay, Fraser Island and the Gold Coast.
Credit: Bondi Icebergs

How does Climate Change effect the Australian Tourism Industry?

As someone who has grown up living, breathing and loving the harsh Australian environment, destroying any one of these natural icons feels like a personal blow. But for the 580,000 people employed in the tourism industry created by these natural wonders, the consequence of climate change also extends to Australian livelihood.

Ian Lowe, Emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University, said, “Notably, tourism employs about fifteen times as many people as the coal industry. So it is just short-sighted to propose expanding the coal industry, thus accelerating climate change, when that directly threatens tourism.”

How the effects of climate change will impact the Australian Tourism industry is simple because, in the words of Dr Liz Hanna, Honorary Fellow of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University, “Who will travel to Australia to see a bleached reef, beaches without sand, animals that no longer exist, burned landscapes or risk death in extreme heat?”

Credit: Underwater Earth

What can be done to protect iconic Australian destinations?

Experts in the environmental industry agree that the Australian Government will miss the final opportunities to slow climate change if action is not taken quickly.

Dr Liz Hanna said, “The current government’s priority focus on coal industry protection and company tax cuts is way off the mark and represents a flagrant disregard for the needs of all Australians.”

But whilst I encourage you to use your vote wisely, it feels as though waiting for politicians to take action against climate change is like waiting for washing to dry in the rain.

So, what action can we take to slow climate change? Dr Grant Wardell-Johnson, Associate Professor at the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration and School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin University and President of the Australian Council of Environment Deans and Directors, said,

“We must continue to cherish our treasures – even as they are diminished. We must focus efforts on climate adaptation to a very different world. At the same time, we must applaud the efforts made to reduce emissions wherever they are occurring. This is leadership society needs.”

Most importantly, you must realise that collectively your actions, whether it be the energy you save by avoiding single use items or the energy your household consumes by leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms, make a difference to the health of our environment.