As the east coast of Australia says goodbye to La Niña and braces for a potential El Niño season, climate change continues to be a hot topic across the country. Further highlighting this is the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR6 Synthesis Report, Climate Change 2023.
The purpose of the IPCC AR6 is to summarise the state of knowledge of climate change, including its widespread impacts and risks as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation. It’s an essential resource to help governments and policymakers, as well as communities, businesses, and society more broadly to understand the current environment.
Some key findings of IPCC AR6 include:
- Global surface temperature was 1.09°C higher in 2011-2020 compared to 1850-1900
- human influence has unequivocally warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.
- The likely range of total human-caused global surface temperature increase for this time period is 0.8°C–1.3°C, with a best estimate of 1.07°C
- methane levels are currently higher than they have been at any other time in the last 800,000 years.
- CO2 concentrations are currently two million times higher than they have been at any other time in the past two million years.
While these numbers paint a catastrophic picture independently, the anecdotal evidence also demonstrates the dire circumstances the world faces. Climate change has caused substantial damage, and increasingly irreversible losses in ecosystems, with increases in the magnitude of heat extremes driving hundreds of local losses of species. In fact, mass mortality events have been recorded on land and in the ocean.
Moreover, the vulnerability of human mortality to ongoing climate change is increasing, as more than three billion individuals reside in regions highly susceptible to its effects. The report notes that human mortality from floods, droughts and storms was 15 times higher in vulnerable regions, compared to regions with very low vulnerability. And whilst increasing weather and climate events continue to put considerable development constraints on communities, reducing the potential to mitigate risk in such vulnerable regions.
While the report summary paints a devastating picture of where we currently are and what’s to come in terms of environmental damage and the effects of climate change, there is still time to reduce the more disastrous impacts.
What actions are necessary to be taken?
While much needs to be done globally to help mitigate the risk of climate change and reduce the overall human impact on the environment, there are a number of steps that can be taken locally to ensure Australia is on the front foot. One of the most effective and impactful steps that can and should be taken is to reduce the conversion of natural ecosystems.
By changing the conversion of the land, for example from native vegetation to agricultural usage, carbon is released from the soil which contributes to greenhouse gases and climate change. At the same time, it eliminates the native and natural vegetation and its capacity to sequester carbon, which effectively doubles down on the impact this has on the environment.
While up to one-fifth of global greenhouse gas pollution comes from deforestation and degradation, protecting land from clearing helps to preserve soil quality which stores three-times more carbon than the atmosphere or terrestrial vegetation. As such, buying land to expand national parks and protect and preserve as much land as possible is key in the fight against climate change.
Additionally, protecting land and natural ecosystems can help to reduce the loss of wildlife which is essential to help spread vegetation and continue its growth. Habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation of land is the number one driver of species loss in Australia, so it’s essential that steps are taken to reduce this potential.
While the window to create effective change is closing, Australia already has the requisite knowledge, technology, and tools to begin to make an impact locally. However, a whole of system approach that prioritises collaboration is needed, in conjunction with an increase in funding, to enact effective change.
How FNPW can help
The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife partners with national parks and wildlife services across Australia to help safeguard the nation’s valuable ecosystems, wilderness, and flora and fauna now and for future generations. As a non-government organisation, the Foundation works in partnership with First Nations, government agencies and organisations, as well as local communities and community conservation groups, to help support conservation projects around Australia and protect the country’s unique environment and to directly combat environmental change.
For more information on how your organisation can partner with the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife to help make a positive impact for the future of Australia, contact the team today.