Climate change has been a global issue that has raised big concerns worldwide. It has caused significant impacts on both the human systems and the biophysical systems. It is determined that climate change is mainly caused by the increase of greenhouse gasses emissions into the atmosphere (Dale et al., 2016). Due to the industrialization, the rate of greenhouse gasses emission has significantly increased and still continues to increase leading to substantial global warming which triggers serious climate change. Focusing on Queensland, Australia’s community, it is vulnerable to a number of climate change impacts. The impact of climate change impact on this community relies on the exposure to the climate system changes, the nature and sensitivity of those exposures as well as the capacity for the adaptations of the changes that the community is sensitive to. Queensland’s level of exposure and sensitivity to the effects of climate change is quite high due to the high production of greenhouse gases because of the high levels of industrialization and the economic activities such as mining activities that contribute to the production of the greenhouse gases (Dale et al., 2016). The vulnerability and potential of these climate change impacts need to be determined. But, it is critical to consider that the extent at which the potential of impacts are likely to occur will substantially depend on the success as well the timing the national greenhouse gas mitigation and the community-level greenhouse gas adaptation efforts (Bajracharya, Childs, & Hastings, 2011). In essence, Queensland has a high capacity for planning and responding to climate change. This paper will assess the potential climate change impacts of the Queensland community as well as the adaptation options that can enable the community to adapt to these impacts. It will also link Queensland’s climate change to both the national and the global climate change picture.
Description of study areas
Queensland is Australia’s second largest state located at the northeastern part of the country. This state covers a total area of 715, 309 square miles with a population of about 4,921,259. Most of the largest cities in the country are found in this state. Queensland has a rich economy which is the third largest in the country taking up 19.5% of the total national GDP (Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, n.d.). The most significant and important economic activities here are mining, agricultural, manufacturing, financial services as well as tourism. The state has a good economy due to its consistent increase of export goods. It is now exporting goods worth over $49.4 billion. This is an indication that export goods are the most vital economic sector for the state. These export goods include; fertilizers, copper ores, beef, aluminium, animal feeds, coal, copper concentrates, and copper. The state has a lot of industries and the retail industry makes up 11.7% of the workforce in the entire state whereas construction makes up 11% of the workforce. Normally, the states’ GSP per capita get above that of the national average (Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, n.d.). Queensland is a beautiful state popular for its pristine beaches as well as the tropical islands. It has more than 200 parks covering the over 6.5 hectares of land. It also has lush mountainous rainforests, creeks, bushlands, and also flat tablelands which are suitable for farming. The agricultural products mainly produced are; citrus, wheat, peanuts, sugarcane, pineapple, cotton, bananas, beef and wool (Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, n.d.). Moreover, there are several mining exports as well as commodities such as coal and metals.
Potential impacts of climate change on human systems
Food production and water security
In Queensland, the prevalent changes in the weather patterns caused by climate change create a potential threat to the quality of water sources and food production and security by damaging and lowering the productivity of main agricultural areas in Queensland. Interference with water quality and food production may significantly impacts the human system resulting in health complications, starvation and eventually leading to death due to diminished food security and water quality (Bajracharya et al., 2011). Queensland is vulnerable to severe weather calamities such as floods in the flat tablelands and cyclones in the coastal regions. These natural calamities have the potential of interrupting water and sewerage treatment service in the area leading to low water quality due to water pollution. Flooding and cyclones increase the rate of water pollution putting risk to human health to contracting waterborne diseases. These events can also interrupt the transportation and supply of food products as well as medicines and other basic supplies (Nalau, Preston, & Maloney, 2015). The occurrence of these events tends to damage the existing infrastructure such as roads, which definitely cut short food and basic supplies. As a result of these natural calamities triggered by climate change, the existing food gets spoiled while also agricultural products are damaged. Additionally, water safety impacts also will rise.
Essentially, there is a potential of a high risk of climate change at 1 or 2°C above the preindustrial level being experienced in Queensland. The area is currently experiencing a mean temperature increase of 4°C which puts this area into a likelihood of experiencing a climate change with the temperature of even up to 1°C which will lead to desertification and food security issues (Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence, 2008). Extreme high temperatures tend to cause desertification as rainfalls decreases, water bodies dries up and vegetation and agricultural products are damage leading to low food production. The level of greenhouse gases emissions are found to be high in this area making it vulnerable to experience these climate change impacts very soon. Essentially, every aspect of food security is vulnerably impacted by climate change, comprising of limited access to food due to food shortages due to the damage of agricultural production. Another cause of limited access to food that is likely to be encountered is damage of infrastructures such as roads and food storage facilities. As a result, limited access to food or food shortages impacts price stability of food leading to a high cost of living (Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence, 2008). Many studies have implied that negative impacts of climate change on crop production are more prevalent than positive impacts. The fact is that the current increases in temperature at 4°C, combined with the alleviated food demand, is certain to pose significant risks to food security at Queensland.
Potential impacts of climate change on biophysical systems
Rising sea levels and Loss of Biodiversity
The coastal areas of Queensland have the potential of experiencing rising sea levels caused by global warming triggering climate change resulting in increased average global temperature resulting in the rise of sea levels. The Sea Level Monitoring Report implies that the average sea levels at Queensland coastal areas have significantly increased by 90 millimetres in the last thirty years (Mills et al., 2016). It is anticipated that there is a likelihood of the sea level along Queensland to increase by even double the current average increase in the few years to come. Rapid urbanization along Queensland coast aggravates the vulnerability of rising sea levels. This is because of the availability of several buildings and the over-extraction of underground water by humans, which minimized land load carrying capacity and resulting in the land sinking (Mills et al., 2016). With the increased rates of global warming enhanced by industrialization and urbanization the sea level rising increases making Queensland vulnerable to this climate change.
Queensland is a place rich in biodiversity. It has various species of both plants and animals. Rapid industrialization has led to the degradation and loss of biodiversity. Urbanization and industrialization have been determined to be the main contributor of greenhouse gases which tends to trigger climate change. As a result, they have led to the destruction of natural habitats and increased health complication for the animals leading to their death (Keogh, Apan, Mushtaq, King, & Thomas, 2011). Even though pollution, as well as urbanization, are the main causes of biodiversity loss, it is certain that climate change is a contributing factor to the loss of biodiversity by changing the ecosystem structure. Actually, it is implied by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that supposes the global average temperature increases by 1.5 to 2.5 °C, about 20 to 40% of global species are likely to face extinction (Keogh et al., 2011). This puts Queensland at facing this form of loss of biodiversity through extinction because it is currently experiencing high-temperature increase. In fact, gradually effects have begun to be noted by the dwindling populations of most mammal species. These are evident by the increased conservation measures for the endangered and threatened species in the state. Moreover, rainfall has significantly decreased thus threatening the ecosystem and the food source for the biodiversity. Currently, 731 plants and 224 animals have been declared as the threatened species in Queensland (Keogh et al., 2011). The population of the threatened species continue to increase this implying that there is a likelihood of that Queensland will experience biodiversity loss due to the uneven rainfall distribution as well as the increasing rates of temperatures.
Adaptation options to climate change impacts
Protecting food security
Protecting food security is very important in ensuring the wellbeing of the people. Therefore, with the possible impacts of climate change that may affect Queensland, it is important to protect food production and secure the existing food. Climate change results in drought causing food to decrease leading to food security issues and shortages. Adopting this climate change can be done by prioritizing the agricultural sector (Hamin & Gurran, 2009). Given the impact of climate change, access to food and availability of enough food can be ensured by adapting to the changes caused by drought, the people of Queensland can adapt by planting drought-tolerant seeds, the introduction of irrigation systems as well as ensuring and improving access to seasonal weather forecasts.
Protecting water quality
High water quality is essential for humans’ wellbeing, therefore, there is a need to adapt to climate change in order to protect water sources and water quality (Hamin & Gurran, 2009). Therefore, along Queensland’s coastline, it is critical that the freshwater should be protected from saline intrusion and damage of water infrastructure from strong storm surges. Water quality can be enhanced too through adapting to floods by building seawalls along the coastal line and protecting water catchment areas.
Rising sea levels
Due to the dense population as well as a developed economy in Queensland, embankments need to be erected to protect the people and infrastructure from flooding. A seawall is an efficient tool for eradicating the effects of sea-level increase along the shores. It should be considered that long and high enough seawalls are erected such that they are able to manage the rising sea levels and maintain safety standards required (Mills et al., 2016). To ensure that the standard safety level is met, the seawall should be wide and high enough that sea water cannot go through. Its design should be straight, accompanied by a high protection standard with regards to the trends of the sea-level increase. The establishment of the seawall prevent s both the coastline recession and reduces the impacts of storm surge as well as tidal bores. In essence, it is vital to sustaining both the landscape’s safety and integrity.
Loss of biodiversity
Biodiversity loss can be adopted by increasing the level of adoption of sustainable practices. This can be achieved by integrating sustainability in every development activity or any activity (Mills et al., 2016). Over-exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the natural habitat should be avoided. Wildlife and plants should conserved and protected so as to ensure their wellbeing.
Link to the global picture
Climate change is a global issue affecting all countries worldwide. It has caused environmental problems that significantly impact human systems and biophysical system. Queensland is therefore vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to the global temperature significantly increasing at a rate between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius. Being a global issue, Queensland will not escape this (Nalau et al., 2015). The rate of industrialization growth is high both in Queensland and global context. However, the adoption and mitigations strategies vary from country to country depending on the level of the impact.
To sum it all, climate change is a global issue that poses serious environmental problems affecting both human systems and biophysical systems. It is certain that Queensland is vulnerable to climate change impacts including; food security, water security, loss of biodiversity and rising sea levels. Therefore, it is important for Queensland to adapt to these impacts in order to avoid adverse impacts.