The greenhouse effect is a natural process, which keeps the earth at a temperature range suitable for the organisms inhabiting it. The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect however is the result of human induced increases in greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels. The effect of having an increased level of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere is leading to higher global temperature averages with scientific models predicting further increases if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We have already experienced an average global rise in temperature of around 0.7°C since 1910 with Australia being subject to a 0.9°C rise over the same period. It is predicted that due to the time lag between the increases in CO² concentrations and temperature changes, we are already committed to another 0.5°C warming. It is difficult to determine how much of this rise can be attributed to human activity as opposed to natural variability, however the link between temperature and levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are well established.
As well as having global effects on climate, it is predicted that a range of regional specific effects will also be felt in the Sydney region that may include:
- An increase in extreme weather events including; heat waves, hail storms, extended droughts, extreme winds, and storms events
- Precipitation levels will become particularly hard to predict, however there will be an overall drop in average rainfall over Sydney’s catchments. Currently the average annual rainfall is around 1100ml which has been subject to a 55ml drop per decade since the 1950s. The current forecasts are that there will be a further 5% reduction by 2030 under a moderate change in climate.
- Possible changes in vegetation in the Sydney Basin as climatic changes may favour some species over others. Invasive species may also become more prolific or access parts of the region that have been traditionally too cool.
There are a wide range of resources on climate change and its potential effects available to the public including:
- The Commonwealth Department of Environment website is a good site to keep in touch with developments on policy, research, and government rebates relating to energy efficiency.
- The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website provides information on how climate change will affect NSW, details on what actions are being taken by the State Government to tackle climate change, and useful tools that you can use to reduce your carbon footprint.
- The CSIRO provides comprehensive, rigorous science to help Australia understand, respond to and plan for a changing climate. This website includes research papers, lectures and videos on industry specific issues relating to climate change, as well as broader research on adaptation and mitigation technologies.