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Australia’s drastic climate changes have supposedly created significant economic and resource issues for the country, as well as negatively effected over living conditions for humans and wildlife. Continuing to reign as the nation with the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, both the state and federal levels of the Australian government attribute the climate change to global warming. A major man-made cause of global warming, experts claim, is that Australia is excessively reliant on coal to stimulate its economy and approximately 80 percent of Australian electricity comes from burning domestic coal. In consideration of the potentially dramatic effects on Australian ways of life, government leaders and citizens have turned their attention to climate. The following is an outline of climate change in Australia and the efforts taken to curb its effects.


Pre-Climate Change

Before climate change has supposedly changed the face of Australian economic and environmental life, Australia experienced consistently colder temperatures then it does currently. Additionally, previously considered a “wet” country, Australia has been experiencing dryness for decades, however it has been relatively inconsistent. The major lakes in Victoria’s Western district dried up approximately 20,000 years ago, but then were re-filled approximately 12,000 years ago. In the same manner, coral cores that are used to decipher differences in rainfall have not provided conclusive evidence that man-made climate change has actually occurred. Rather, studies over the course of Australia’s history indicate that it has consistently experienced heavy rain and wet conditions, followed by excessive dry spells, and then an eventual return to normal weather conditions.

Climate Change

According to Garnaut Climate Change Review and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, climate change is expected to create various issues for Australia, including negative effects on species, regions, and the economy.

Wildlife: In terms of wildlife effects specifically, the Stern Report and the Garnaut Review indicate that it is possible ocean temperatures will rise, and the coasts will continue to suffer heavy erosion, which will create great challenges for The Great Barrier Reef and its inhabitants.

Resources: The main resource in Australia that experts claim to be drastically effected by climate change is water. In June 2008, these experts came together for a panel from which they warned Australian leaders that the Murray-Darling basin could experience long term, potentially irreversible damage if did not receive enough water. Australia then went under various water restrictions, which are still in place today. In addition, scientist Tim Flannery indicated that, if changes were not made among Australian citizens, specific Australian cities could become “ghost” cities, vacated due to the lack of water needed to sustain its people.

Economy: In 2008, the Minister for Climate Change and Water released a report that stated that the Australian economy would flourish with an emissions trading scheme. Yet, in 2009, the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts indicated that a sea level rise could potentially flood $150 billion worth of buildings and property over the next 30 to 60 years. Also, starting in February 2011, Australian governmental leaders have been considering the possibility of a carbon tax. With power prices consistently increasing, the prime minister's office characterized the price on carbon as "the cheapest and fairest way to cut pollution and build a clean energy economy." Overall, experts believe it will cost less to attempt to mitigate the issues then it would cost Australia to let global warming go unchallenged.

Attempts at Mitigation

Government Action

National: In 1998 the Australian Government created the Australian Greenhouse Office, the world's first government agency with the mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2010, a plan to initiate a emissions trading scheme was under contemplation. Yet, in April of 2010, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd decided to wait to implement the plan until the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (see international treaties) was complete which will be in 2012. Despite the delay of the scheme, the Australian government plans to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. Additionally, climate change is the main focus for most environmental and social justice non-government organizations.


Victoria: The state of Victoria began an initiative entitled the Greenhouse Challenge for Energy Policy package. The aim of this campaign was to reduce Victorian greenhouse gas emissions. Originally, the goal of the program was to have a 10 per cent share of Victoria’s energy consumption being produced by renewable technologies by 2010. The goal was not met. The Victorian government then made it law that electricity retailers must purchase 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2016, and 20 percent by the year 2020.

Western Australia: In the year 2007, Western Australia engaged in a new project via the Climate Change Office that would aim to make a variety of climate targets. The first was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. The second was to create a $36.5 million Low Emission Energy Development Fund. The plan also set to increase renewable resources, create a mandatory energy efficiency program, increase the number of solar school programs, create a Household Sustainability Audit and Education program to teach families how to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and developing climate change legislation.

Legal Action

Various groups such as Rising Tide and the Queensland Conservation Council have engaged in legal action against coal mines. Queensland Conservation began the efforts in 2006, turning attention to the costs of greenhouse gas emissions from coal mines and seeking to have regulations imposed on new mines to limit or eliminate completely greenhouse gas emissions. The Land and Resources Tribunal ruled against the case.

Campaigns & Organizations

Adopt a Politician: A youth organization promoting the "adoption" of a politician with which individuals attempt to persuade candidates to generate better climate policies.

Switched On: Switched on was a conference held by the AYCC and ASEN in which young climate activists would get together to discuss the current climate issues and generate potential solutions.

Sustainability Convergence: A combination of individuals and community associations that attempt to educate citizens about the ways they can save energy and reduce emissions.

Climate Change: Be the Change: A series of workshops sponsored by the Gaia Foundation to teach about personal responsibility in accordance with the environment.

The Anvil Hill Alliance : Combination of community members, organizations, and environmental groups seeking to stop the expansion of coal mines.

Climate Witness: Program designed to educate by finding speakers to discuss their experiences with the impacts of climate change to the public.

The Climate Action Network of Australia: Network that manages the collaboration of 38 Australian NGOs advocating for action against climate change.

Six Degrees: Organization that works with and represents communities that are threatened by the creation of new coal mines.

Rising Tide: Group that often holds peaceful protest demonstrations and advocates independence from coal.

Clean Energy Future for Australia: Sponsored by WWF Australia, Clean Energy Future for Australia is a detailed list of policy recommendations that aim to conserve energy.

Queensland Conservation Council: Group that works to formulate policy recommendations, which they then present to elected officials to try and persuade them to take action against climate change.


Earth Hour: Held in March of 2007, Earth Hour was a set time when specific companies pledged to turn off their lights for one hour. Originating in Australia, several European cities participated as well.

Greenpeace: Organization through which members chained themselves to a loader in a coal pit.


"About Queensland Conservation." Queensland Conservation. Queensland Conservation Council. Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <>.

"Parliament of Australia: Senate: Committee: Report on The Heat Is On: Australia's Greenhouse Future." Parliament of Australia: Home. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Ayre, Maggie. "BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Metropolis Strives to Meet Its Thirst." BBC News - Home. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

"BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Saving Australia's Water." BBC News - Home. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

"ALPF Index." Australian Government, The Treasury. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

CSIRO (2007), Climate change in Australia: Technical report 2007, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra; Preston, B. and Jones, R. (2006), Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A consultancy report for the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change, CSIRO, Canberra.

Preston, B.L., and R.N. Jones. "Climate Change Impacts on Australia and the Benefits of Early Action to Reduce Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions." CSIRO. Web. <>.

Allan, Robert J., and Malcolm R. Haylock. "Circulation Features Associated With The Winter Rainfall Decrease In Southwestern Australia." Journal of Climate. CSIRO. Web. <>.

"BOM - Australian Climate Extremes." Bureau of Meteorology - Home Page. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Foley, J.C.; Droughts in Australia : review of records from earliest years of settlement to 1955; published 1957 by Australian Bureau of Meteorology

"Outlook Message (Long Paddock)." The Long Paddock. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

"Annual Australian Climate Statement 2009." Bureau of Meteorology - Home Page. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Green, H.J.; Results of rainfall observations made in South Australia and the Northern Territory : including all available annual rainfall totals from 829 stations for all years of recording up to 1917, with maps and diagrams: also appendices, presenting monthly and yearly meteorological elements for Adelaide and Darwin; published 1918 by Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology

Water Research Foundation of Australia; 1975 symposium

Flannery, Tim, The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australian Lands and People; p. 115 ISBN 0802139434

"AUSTRALASIA." Biological and Environmental Sciences Directorate: Environmental Sciences Division. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

"Making Decisions for the Future: Climate Change." Government of Western Australia. Web. <>.

"Transcript of Doorstop Nepean Hospital, Penrith." Interview. Prime Minister of Australia. Web. <>.

"Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO)." ACCC Home. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Ayre, Maggie. "BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Metropolis Strives to Meet Its Thirst." BBC News - Home. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Bryant, Nick. "BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | Australian Rivers 'face Disaster'" BBC News - Home. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Herald Sun, "Victoria's Stormy Forecast", Oct, 28, 2009

"ALPF Index." Australian Government, The Treasury. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Lough, J. M. (2007), "Tropical river flow and rainfall reconstructions from coral luminescence: Great Barrier Reef, Australia", Paleoceanography, 22, PA2218, doi:10.1029/2006PA001377.

Water Research Foundation of Australia; 1975 symposium

"DECCW | Climate Change." Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Office of Climate Change. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Tackling Climate Change in South Australia - Welcome. Web. 06 Mar. 2011. <>.

Johnston, Tim. "Climate Change Becomes Urgent Security Issue in Australia." New York Times. Web. <>.

Water Research Foundation of Australia; 1975 symposium: the 1973-4 floods in rural and urban communities; seminar held in August 1976 by the Victorian Branch of the Water Research Foundation of Australia.

External Links

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