What Does Climate Change Look Like in Australia?
Foreign Correspondent in Australia, Shivani Bhatt, explains how Climate Change is manifesting itself in Australia, from bush-fires to sea change.
On Friday 20th September, millions around the world took part in the School Strike for Climate march. Australia was no different. It is estimated that over 300,000 Australians took part in rallies that occurred that day. But how does the effect of climate change look on the other side of the world?
In the Gold Coast, Queensland, it is estimated that more than a thousand participated in the march. The march began at 1pm, but from 12pm onwards, speeches were given by a host of different people including: high school students from neighbouring schools, a Queensland Teachers Union representative, and a resident from the nearby small town Beechmont. The towns-person spoke at the march due to the devastating bush-fires that ravaged the area, just one week before the march. They went on to give a horrifying first-person account of the fires that swarmed their area on Friday 13th September. The 2016 Consensus recorded Beechmont as having less than 900 residents and only 17 households. With so few homes and residents, the individual spoke of how devastating bush-fires are for such a small community.
With so few homes and residents, the individual spoke of how devastating bush-fires are for such a small community.
The resident mentioned that bush-fires are not uncommon in Australia. In fact, bush-fires are expected all over the country at different seasons for each different region. However, to have devastating bush-fires so early in spring for Southern Queensland is something that raises concern. The Bureau of Meteorology noted that the number of bush-fires are projected to increase in the future. It cited one of the main causes as extreme heat, which can be linked to the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations and emissions. What occurred in the Beechmont region, and other surrounding areas in Southern and Eastern Queensland, is a frightening glimpse into a future that could wreck havoc on Australia, if something is not done soon.
Out of 9 supporting organisations, the Surfrider Foundation Australia is a global, not for profit organisation that aims to protect the world’s ocean, waves and beaches. They aim to do this through their policy of C.A.R.E – Conservation, Advocacy, Research and Education. Surfrider has a branch in the Queensland region of the Gold Coast, thus their support of the School Strike there. Considering Gold Coast beaches’ affinities for surfing, wildlife and leisure, their branch in this region is well situated. On Surfrider Australia’s website, their national campaign policy on climate change cite the rising of sea levels, increased frequency and severity of storms and changes in the chemical composition of the water as factors that will affect sea life. Whilst the upkeep of oceans and harbours is a necessity all over the world, beach and sea activities are embedded in Australian culture and livelihood. Thus, their maintenance is integral to what Australians know Australia to be.
Another organisation involved with the school strike was #StopAdani. Adani are a mining company that want to build a coal mine in the central Queensland area, and #StopAdani are fighting against this move. A number of issues are cited for this. Firstly, in Australia, mining and coal burning is the single biggest source of air pollution. Secondly, coal mining contributes to global warming. For Australia specifically, this would affect their already dwindling water resources. The mine would use at least 270 billion litres of groundwater and threaten multiple water sources for rural Queensland. Similarly, the effects of the mine will also affect the already suffering Great Barrier Reef. Furthermore, Adani infringes on Indigenous rights.
Whilst the upkeep of oceans and harbours is a necessity all over the world, beach and sea activities are embedded in Australian culture and livelihood. Thus, their maintenance is integral to what Australians know Australia to be.
The effect of global warming on Indigenous populations was a key part of the climate march. The chant “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” echoed throughout the march. The issue of global warming to Indigenous populations is a prevalent one. In regard to Adani, these polluting industries have to use land resources, and this infringes on the Native Title that Aboriginal nations have to their land. Furthermore, Warwick Baird, in a speech at the Native Title Conference in 2008 mentioned how an Aboriginal elder noticed the changing climate through a bird, which was often seen before rain season, that was not being noticed anymore. These kinds of observations show how Indigenous Australians have a strong connection to the land and an acute awareness of how climate change is affecting their environment.
The effects of climate change are only beginning to manifest now. Yet, while changes are being starting to be seen, they can be so slight that it is easy to deny. However, if these climate changing trends continue, the face of our globe will be noticeably different, no matter where on earth we are.