Describe about the Report for Climate Changes in Sydney-NSW.
The earth’s ecological system including both animals and plants are dependent on the climatic conditions of their surroundings. When conditions are favorable, they benefit and when the conditions are extreme, they suffer. Humans are part of this as well (“Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” 2014). Community resources like water, energy, and crops are all connected to the climate. More, the human and economic losses experienced through natural phenomena like floods, droughts, cyclones, bushfires, and even hails are also connected to the climate and constantly remind us of our susceptibility to climatic conditions. These climatic conditions are subject to change, a contemporarily currently more evident than before. While the traditional man learned to adapt to the naturally occurring climate change and variability, modern man is forced to live in a climate of his own making influenced by his economic activities. Interestingly, the current rate of climatic change had never been predicted throughout much of the human history (Parmesan et al., 2013).
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) notes that much of the global warming taking place during the past half-century can be attributed solely to human economic activities. The major activities include combustion of fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas which release large amounts of greenhouse gasses into the earth’s atmosphere. A majority of this greenhouse gasses can stay in the atmosphere for a very long time (El-Zein and Tonmoy, 2015). As such, even our earliest action to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses, there still will be vast amounts in the atmosphere implying significant effects for decades to come. Recent research studies continue to show that the earth’s surface temperature will gradually rise at an estimated 0.5o C throughout the 21st century coupled with subsequent impacts (Bindoff et al., 2013). Responding to the precedent climate change challenges requires a dual strategy of adaptation planning to minimize the levels of subsequent impacts, and reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses to slow down global warming rates.
Causes of Climate Change
The sun is the main source of energy driving the natural processes of the earth. Nearly half of the solar energy passes through the atmosphere and warms up the earth upon reaching the surface. Then, the ocean and land radiate the heat some of it being trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gasses. The main greenhouse gasses are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, water vapor and methane. The trapping of heat energy within the atmosphere is what is referred to as the ‘greenhouse effect’ which keeps temperatures above the normal just like the greenhouse system in crop production. Keith, Elith, and Simpson (2014) study indicates that the current surface temperatures would be negative -18 0 C instead of 15 0 C if it were not for the greenhouse effect.
The current issue of great distress is the human economic activities (mostly, land clearing, fossil fuel burning, and agriculture) that increase the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gasses. For the past 260 years, it is estimated that the amount of carbon (IV) oxide in the atmosphere has by approximately 36% which makes the current levels of concentration higher than anytime ever recorded. Nitrous oxide levels have also been on the rise with a record 17 % while methane has also risen with nearly 151 %. As a result, the greenhouse effect has intensified owing to more heat being trapped thereby causing global warming. In line with these findings, environmental scientists report that global warming will continue leading to a rise in sea levels with profound impacts on humans and the natural system. From a global perspective, these impacts include flooding of the coastal regions, high frequency and prolonged droughts and heat waves, less amounts of snow, frost and polar ice, increased populations with a reduction in food and water supplies, reduced animal and plant habitats with a loss in many of these species as well as increased levels of diseases such as asthma (Levitus et al., 2012).
Climate change in Sydney: NSW
Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO prepared a report in 2004 for the government of NSW indicating NSW’s past and likely future climate changes. In the report, NSW apparently became 0.90C warmer between 1950 and 2003 with hot days/nights increasing while the cold/nights decrease. The levels of precipitation decreased by 14mmm each decade with the highest levels of this reduction being experienced along the coast as result of increased El Nino frequency since the mid-70s. Additional, much of the state also experienced reduced daily rainfall frequency and intensity. This report projected that by the year 2030 several changes should be expected, namely:
- Increased average temperatures, warmer than the 90s.
- Hotter days (over 350C) and frostier days (below 00C).
- Reduced average annual rainfall frequency and intensity
- Reduced runoff and stream flows
- More severe droughts
- Increased likelihood of bushfire occurrence
- Increased intensity of extreme weather conditions especially rainfall in Sydney and the environs.
Table 1 below shows the details of these findings:
Source: Hennessy et al. (2001)
Sidney is the most populated city in Australia covering 1,840 square kilometers and with a population of 4.2 million people that grows relatively rapid making it the fastest growing area in Australia (Hennessy et al., 2004). Sydney is a metropolitan region with harbors, catchments, and beaches. The city’s natural resources are the main source of economic activity with major industries being extractive and manufacturing, finance, business and property, real estate development, recreation and tourism. The city is home to many of Australia’s tourist destinations including the famous waterway, the country’s oldest national park and both national and international wetlands. The landscape is quite diverse with bushland, market gardens, waterways and harbors, industry estate, coastal cliffs, river valleys, and sand dunes as well as urban areas that are densely developed. Sustainable water use is a challenge as well as land use which poses challenges to the environment and the living population. Though Sydney has had a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals, the pressure on biodiversity is high and many of these species may face extension (Hennessy et al., 2004).
Sydney has relatively warm summers with highs of up to 260C, recorded in the month of January. However, the catchments have been recording up to highs of 350C for three consecutive days within a year. Winters are usually cool with lows of up to 170C, recorded in the month of July. It is rear for temperatures to fall below 00C. Average annual rainfall is high at approximately 1100 mm with peak precipitation being between the months of January and March. Rainfall variability is high from one to another. Hailstorms are a common phenomenon with the worst being recorded in the year 1999 costing the taxpayer over 2 billion USD in recovery processes. Bushfires are also common (Greene, Begg, and Davies, 2012).
Sydney’s climate change
Sydney has been experiencing nearly 0.80C warming since the mid-20th century. This is largely due to human activities. At the same time, annual rainfall has been declining at approximately 55mm per decade; however, distinguishing the human contributions to this decline from natural variability is hard (Sullivan et al., 2015). Research indicates that Sydney’s future climate will be warmer and likely drier than is. Events of this nature are expected to increase the frequency of heat waves, increase the levels of evaporation, as well as fire risks and extreme winds. Table 2 below clearly shows the details of these projections comparing the present average conditions with projected changes from 2030 to 2070. These future projections are a representation of assumptions concerning the global emissions of greenhouse gasses and the differences in various climatic systems and models.
Source: Hennessy et al. (2004)
Impact of Climate Changes in Sydney
It is expected that the impact of these climatic changes will be experienced through extreme weather events. It is more likely that the consequences of the changes in average evaporation, rainfall and temperature will be a long time. Projections indicate that there will be hotter days and therefore bushfires, droughts, and more intense storms. All this place the human, plant and animal life, and property at risk (Davies and Wright, 2014).
Adaptations to Climate Change
This is risk management strategies with actions to minimize the negative effects of climate change while taking advantage of arising opportunities. The strategies adopted vary from one region to the next because today's plans will have future implications on climate vulnerability. Doing this helps minimize some social, economic and environmental costs associated with climate change. Examples of potential measures of relevance to the city of Sydney include:
- Improving the efficiency of water use through public education on appropriate usage and water recycling (Mukheibir and Currie, 2016).
- Enhancing supplies through desalination and groundwater extraction
- Development of housing designs that are energy efficient
- Instituting early warning systems and public communication against heat waves.
- Redesigning infrastructure to withstand climate change
- Developing and maintaining green spaces within urban areas.
- Evaluating disaster management strategies
Availing resources for these strategies needs a continuous expansion of the available knowledge through education and research.
Empirically, climate change is a reality. It is characterized by changes in rainfall patterns, sea level, winds, temperature, and humidity. Regional impacts and adaptations vary but generally, climate change impacts manifest in a wide variety of phenomena that result in social implications like food shortage, water, and energy inefficiency as well as refugee movements (Wise et al., 2014). Adaptions strategies depend on a particular and those of Sydney include mitigation measures for water and energy use efficiency as well as disaster management approaches.
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Davies, P.J. and Wright, I.A., 2014. A review of policy, legal, land use and social change in the management of urban water resources in Sydney, Australia: A brief reflection of challenges and lessons from the last 200 years. Land Use Policy, 36, pp.450-460.
El-Zein, A. and Tonmoy, F.N., 2015. Assessment of vulnerability to climate change using a multi-criteria outranking approach with application to heat stress in Sydney. Ecological Indicators, 48, pp.207-217.
Greene, G., Begg, G. and Davies, P.J., 2012. Climate change impact assessment-the sydney catchment authority’s approach.
Hennessy, K., Page, C., McInnes, K., Jones, R., Bathols, J., Collins, D., and Jones, D. 2004. Climate Change in New South Wales. Part 2. Projected Changes in Climate Extremes. Consultancy report for the New South Wales Greenhouse Office by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014. Climate Change 2014–Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Regional Aspects. Cambridge University Press.
Keith, D.A., Elith, J. and Simpson, C.C., 2014. Predicting distribution changes of a mire ecosystem under future climates. Diversity and distributions, 20(4), pp.440-454.
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Mukheibir, P. and Currie, L., 2016. A whole of water approach for the city of Sydney. Water Utility Journal.
Parmesan, C., Burrows, M.T., Duarte, C.M., Poloczanska, E.S., Richardson, A.J., Schoeman, D.S. and Singer, M.C., 2013. Beyond climate change attribution in conservation and ecological research. Ecology letters, 16(s1), pp.58-71.
Sullivan, J., Allen, G., Nelson, N. and Quinn, N., 2013. Sydney Water's climate change adaptation journey:[Sydney Water Climate Change Adaptation Program. Key research findings and organisational learnings.]. Water: Journal of the Australian Water Association, 40(6), p.57.
Wise, R.M., Fazey, I., Smith, M.S., Park, S.E., Eakin, H.C., Van Garderen, E.A. and Campbell, B., 2014. Reconceptualising adaptation to climate change as part of pathways of change and response. Global Environmental Change, 28, pp.325-336.