Climate Change in Victoria
What is Climate Change?
The Earth’s climate has changed over the last century. Increases in average temperatures have been seen around the globe and there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed of the last 50 years is due to human activities. While climate change is a global issue, it will affect us all. Climate change has the potential to adversely affect our environment, our communities and our economy unless we take action now to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the impacts. Climate change will alter global and local climates. In Victoria, this means a warmer and drier future, with an increasing likelihood of more extreme events such as heat waves, bushfires and storm surges.
Impacts of Climate Change
The impact that climate change summarises some of the potential impacts we can expect from these changes, informed by both actual research and examples described overseas. It is hoped that by exploring these potential impacts that we can facilitate thinking on how we can begin to moderate risks and prepare for change. Water resources and management
Victoria's water resources are likely to become increasingly vulnerable to climate change, due to projected drying trends over much of the state. At the same time, demand for water may grow as a result of increasing population, warmer temperatures and higher evaporation rates. These impacts could, however, be offset if we get more rain in summer. Water quality may be affected by changes in the number and types of organisms, water temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, transportation of water sediment and chemicals, and the volume of water flow. Decreases in stream flow, impacts on coastal underground water and intertidal habitats, and increased salinity will be critical issues for the management of our water supply and natural resources.
Agriculture and primary production
Climate change may affect crops and livestock, depending on their tolerance to increased maximum and minimum temperatures, moisture availability and tolerance of water stress, changes in exposure to pests, impacts of storms, and elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide. Climate change could also have indirect social and economic effects, as regional and international markets respond to climate change. Projected warming would also increase the ability of some pest species to survive in winter. For example, fruit fly numbers could increase under warmer conditions. A warmer climate would also enable more tropical species to spread southwards. There is also a greater likelihood of invasion and establishment of exotic animal and plant species.
Future forest productivity will depend in part on the balance between the benefits of increased carbon dioxide concentrations, and the patterns of change in rainfall and temperature. For example, a doubling of carbon dioxide with a warming of 3°C and no significant changes in rainfall would encourage tree growth in much of southern Australia. However, higher temperatures, limited nutrients and reduced rainfall, as well as increases in pests and bushfire risk, are likely to limit these benefits.
Increased sea surface temperatures, and changes in coastal processes, such as nutrient upwelling and seabed sedimentation, could have significant effects on our fisheries and aquaculture systems. In their Implications of Climate Change for Australian Fisheries and Aquaculture report, CSIRO concludes that Victoria's south eastern coastal waters are among the most vulnerable in Australia to the impacts of climate change and the drought conditions already being experienced in Victoria's inland waterways are expected to continue.
Cropping and grazing
Broad acre cropping is likely to benefit from higher carbon dioxide concentrations, but these benefits may be limited or overwhelmed by higher temperatures and reduced rainfall. Likely reductions in water resources may reduce...
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