It is only human nature that when someone gets sick, he or she asks for the prognosis. Generally speaking, functioning at less than full strength is simply unacceptable to us and, in order to tackle the issue, we have to first figure out what exactly is wrong and move on from there.
It would seem only natural then that when our planet started to function in an unusual, harmful way, scientists would strive to gain a long-term prognosis for what was going on. It was then that the notion of climate change first reared its head.
According to professor Will Steffen of the federal Climate Commission there is no longer a question as to whether or not climate change is happening worldwide; there is too much solid scientific evidence to suggest otherwise.
Steffen says to look no further than the now. While we wonder what the effects of climate change will be in the future, espcially in Australia, we are overlooking the current effects of climate change.
Peggy Lui, founder of the US-China Cooperation on Clean Energy (JUCCCE) says China’s recent response to climate change has been so rigorous due to the simple fact that it is a visible issue. Major cities across the country wake up to a halo of smog resting on their skyscrapers and rivers are littered with rubbish. These are strong visible cues that damage is being done to the environment.
If we look to the Maldives, what has been labeled as the ‘ground zero’ of climate effects, host to change refugees and inspiration for the sustainable Ark designs, its physical geography means that most of the islands are expected to be completely wiped out by rising sea levels.
”It is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain the islands, in the natural manner that these islands have been,” says Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed.
In Australia, we do not have the same overt symptoms of climate change but they exist and they are affecting both our natural and built environments.
According to CSIRO, climate change projections for South Australia include extreme heat and droughts, with conditions expected to cause shifts in the conditions affecting food production, biodiversity, bushfire severity, infrastructure damage and coastal erosion.
The average temperature in South Australia has already risen 0.96 degrees Celsius, higher than both the Australian and global averages. This increased heat is already causing infrastructure issues such as heat expansion on train tracks, the warping of buildings and the erosion of coasts, which in turn puts waterside developments at serious risk.
As Steffen explains, it is not just hot weather that is affecting our buildings and infrastructure. It is freak weather extremes that will only continue to become more extreme the longer climate change-related issues go unfixed.
According to a US Carbon Disclosure Report, 43 per cent of reporting cities revealed that they were already dealing with the immediate effects of climate change, with buildings, infrastructure, energy supply, water availability and human health the most prominent and serious of related issues.
Climate change is no longer a question, and neither are its effects. While we do need to make long-term development goals, we need to make them now and start implementing them because changes are occurring. The signs are there, we can no longer ignore them.