Climate change impacts national security through critical infrastructure disruptions, diminished defence capabilities and deteriorating economic and trade relations with regional partners. These impacts can be reduced through aggressive mitigation policies, but a certain amount of global warming is unavoidable.
Local government environmental health officers are a potentially under-utilized source of knowledge and skills that could be used to support human health risk assessment during a public health emergency. They also play a crucial role in human health vulnerability and adaptation planning.
Climate change is a political issue
The televised debates between the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition in South Australia have largely ignored climate change, despite recent polls showing it as one of the top three issues for voters. Nevertheless, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that action on climate change is urgently needed. The IPCC has released a series of working group reports on the latest scientific evidence and will release its Synthesis Report in March 2023.
Climate change is a global phenomenon resulting from the accumulation of heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere, caused by human activities. These activities include burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas, deforestation, land-use changes, and agriculture, which all increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The accumulated heat causes global surface temperatures to rise, which is reflected in the warming of the oceans and sea level rise. Climate change is predicted to have a wide range of effects on people, animals, and plants, both globally and regionally.
Observed changes in the climate system include increases in global air and ocean temperature, rising sea levels, long-term reduced snow cover, and changing atmospheric and ocean circulation patterns, which influence seasonal rainfall conditions. These are all attributed to the added heat to the climate system by greenhouse gases.
In addition, the increased heat causes more frequent and severe extreme weather events such as bushfires and floods. These events threaten the economic security of South Australians, and they could also lead to social instability and a loss of economic vitality.
While the climate-related impacts are widespread, they vary by region and by human activity. In the short term, these impacts are likely to be more severe in areas that have higher emissions and that are more vulnerable to climate change. In the longer term, they are likely to be less severe in regions with lower emissions and that are less vulnerable to climate change. This is why it’s important for climate-health advocates to communicate with portfolio holders in their local areas and push for policy responses that address health impacts.
Climate change is a social issue
Climate change is a global issue that affects all people and communities. It is caused by the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These gases act as a blanket and trap heat from the sun, warming the planet.
This warming has many impacts on people and natural systems, including hotter days, less rainfall, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events. However, climate change can still be avoided by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The South Australian Government has developed an action plan to build a strong, climate smart economy and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan also supports South Australia to adapt to a changing climate. To find out more, visit the Climate Smart SA website or follow them on Facebook.
In addition to lowering their greenhouse gas emissions, businesses can adopt more energy efficient practices and invest in renewable energy sources. These measures will not only help to protect the environment but will also save them money. For example, by converting to solar energy they can generate their own electricity and reduce costs, while investing in wind or marine energy will lower their carbon footprint.
South Australia has a number of community organisations that are active in the fight against climate change. These include Doctors for the Environment, Climate and Health Alliance, and For Purpose. These groups offer training in policy and advocacy, coalition building, and values-based messaging.
Local councils can contribute to addressing climate change issues by incorporating climate-smart development into planning policies and processes. This approach will ensure that future developments are designed for the local climate, and minimizes water and energy efficiency, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from construction and operation.
Climate change is a social issue that requires everyone to take part in the solution. This can be done by taking a proactive role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the community to adapt to changes. In addition, it is important to support politicians to take up the challenge and demonstrate leadership in tackling climate change.
Climate change is a health issue
Climate change is a health issue because it is associated with a wide range of human health impacts, including heatwaves, severe storms and floods, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, changes in food systems and increases in vector-borne diseases. These impacts affect the most vulnerable populations, particularly those with a low income or living in isolated communities, ethnic minorities, children, older people and those with chronic illnesses. They also undermine key social determinants of health, such as access to income and services, housing and the ability to manage risk.
The health effects of climate change depend on the severity of the changes, the vulnerability of populations and the extent to which they can adapt. Taking immediate action to reduce emissions and prevent future warming will help avoid the worst health impacts. Moreover, it will help avoid the onset of dangerous temperature thresholds and irreversible tipping points.
South Australia is already experiencing climate change, with warmer and drier conditions. Recent trends show that the average annual temperature in the state has increased by 1.6 degC since 1910 and temperatures are projected to continue rising over the coming decades. This increase is being driven by greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.
In order to tackle climate change, we need a whole-of-government approach. This includes addressing policy, planning, education, and the delivery of programs to reduce the impact of climate change on human health. The department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) is responsible for climate change policy and the administration of the state’s climate change legislation. It has recently published a series of consultation papers seeking input from the public and industry to develop a new Climate Change Strategy for SA.
The government’s new climate strategy aims to position South Australia to take advantage of opportunities for green investment and build resilient, low-carbon economies. It will encourage job creation, support the growth of clean energy industries and promote policies to enable South Australians to save on their electricity costs. It will also support projects that help reduce emissions.
This strategy is in line with the federal and international agreements that aim to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Achieving this goal will require an urgent reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The strategy outlines the steps that will be required to achieve this objective, and is supported by a comprehensive research program.
Climate change is a financial issue
Climate change impacts across a wide range of sectors important to our economy and society, including agriculture, energy, water, health and human wellbeing. Many of these impacts are already being felt locally in South Australia and around the world. However, they are often worse for vulnerable communities, who lack the resources to respond. This can lead to increased vulnerability and longer-term effects, such as droughts, heatwaves, flooding, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Fortunately, we can reduce the risk of climate change impacts by reducing emissions. A growing number of countries are committing to net zero emissions by 2050, which means huge declines in the use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. In addition, renewables like solar and wind can also reduce the need to burn fossil fuels.
Australia’s current climate is warming rapidly, with a high probability of exceeding the 1.5 degC limit recommended by scientists. The increase is mainly driven by excess greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, which act as a blanket and trap heat near the surface of the planet. These gases are produced by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas to produce energy. The climate is getting warmer and more erratic, with hotter days, less rainfall, rising sea levels, and an increasing frequency of extreme weather events.
The State Government has released new tools to help businesses, governments and community respond to these emerging challenges. The Environment Trend and Condition Report Cards show the current status of key indicators in South Australian regions, as well as projections into the future. The online Climate Projections Maps tool allows users to select 10km and 50km grids, or specific SA landscape regions, to view maps of projected changes in temperature and rainfall.
These maps are based on the National Climate Model (NARCliM), which is developed by the State Government in partnership with the NSW and ACT governments, as well as the CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology and IPCC. It is designed to support risk management and planning decisions in areas such as flood protection, urban greening and water sensitive urban design.