Commentary: Things you love that are being wrecked by climate change

Commentary: Things you love that are being wrecked by climate change

Use this list as motivation to think, talk, and act in response to climate change, says an observer.

Composite climate change
Composite picture of a Koala, coffee, and skiing - what climate change will affect. (Photos: Reuters, Unsplash)

CANBERRA: There are so many stories flying around about the horrors already being wrought by climate change, you’re probably struggling to keep up.

The warnings have been there for decades but still there are those who deny it. So perhaps it’s timely to look at how climate change is affecting you, by wrecking some of the things you love.

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1. HOLIDAYS

We often choose holiday destinations with weather in mind. Sadly, climate change may see your usual destinations become less inviting, and maybe even disappear entirely.

But there’s more to think about than your favourite beach retreat being drowned, or the Great Barrier Reef decaying before you see it.

READ: Commentary: Tourism's impact on the environment is larger than we think 

Now we have to worry that “extreme weather events pose significant risks to travellers”. The warnings here range from travel disruption, such as delayed flights due to storms, to severe danger from getting caught in cyclones, floods or snowstorms.

Simply getting where you need to go could become an adventure holiday in itself, but not a fun one.

2. WILDLIFE

There are more and more examples of animals falling victim to extreme weather events induced by climate change, such as the horrific mass “cremations” of koalas in the path of recent Australian bush fires or bats dropping dead during heatwaves.

Koala bear
File photo of an Australian koala. (Photo: AFP/Guillaume Souvant)

On top of that, news of the latest climate-related animal extinctions are becoming as common as reports of politicians doing nothing about it.

3. HISTORY AND HERITAGE

The Italian city of Venice recently experienced its worst flooding since the mid-1960s, and the local mayor clearly connected this with climate change.

Aside from the human calamity unfolding there, we are seeing one of Europe’s most amazing and unique cities and a World Heritage site devastated before our eyes.

READ: Commentary: Venice flooding is getting worse – and the city’s grand plan won’t save it

Climate change threatens more than 13,000 archaeological sites in North America alone if sea levels rise by 1m. That goes up to more than 30,000 sites if sea levels rise by 5m.

UNESCO is worried that climate change also threatens underwater heritage sites, such as ruins and shipwrecks. For example, rising salinity and warming waters increases ship-worm populations that consume wooden shipwrecks in the Baltic sea.

4. SNOW SPORTS

Warming temperatures have already had negative impacts on the US snow sports industry since at least 2001.

In Australia, ski resorts are expected to see significant drops in snow fall by 2040 and, as temperatures warm, they will be unable to compensate for this by snow-making, because it doesn’t work if ambient temperatures are too high.

How to ski for less this winter lex-valishvili-1132672-unsplash_mod
(Photo: Unsplash/Lex Valishvili)

Perhaps recent efforts to make artificial snow will give us a few more years on the slopes, but I’m not holding my breath.

5. SPORTS AND EXERCISE

It’s not just snow sports that will be affected. As temperatures warm, simply being outside in some parts of the world will not only be less pleasant, but more harmful, causing greater risk of heat stress doing any sports or exercise.

READ: Commentary: Why Japan shifted the Olympic marathon from Tokyo to Sapporo

That also means lower incentives for – and greater difficult in undertaking – incidental exercise, such as walking to the bus stop.

6. COFFEE

As the climate changes, your coffee hits will probably become rarer and more expensive, too.

A report by the Climate Institute in 2016 suggested coffee production could drop by 50 per cent by 2050.

READ: Commentary: The single-use coffee cup is generating a mountain of waste

Given how rapidly negative climate predictions have been updated in the three years since, this might now be considered optimistic. Yikes.

7. HEALTH

As the climate changes, the health of your children, your parents and your grandparents will be at greater risk through increases in air pollution, heatwaves and other factors.

FILE PHOTO: A woman uses her phone on an observation deck as the skyline, shrouded by haze, is seen
FILE PHOTO: A woman uses her phone on an observation deck as the skyline, shrouded by haze, is seen in Singapore September 13, 2019. REUTERS/Feline Lim/File Photo

It can be heartening to see the strong, intelligent and positive action being taken by the world’s youth in response to the lack of climate action by many governments.

But the fact that this is a result of a literal existential crisis becoming a normal part of everyday life for young people is utterly horrifying.

READ: Commentary: A year of resistance, as youth protests shaped climate change discussions

8. HOMES

The recent bush fires in Australia and the United States reveal how dramatic and destructive the effects climate change can be to where you live. Hundreds of houses have already burned down in Australia this fire season.

Fires are getting more frequent and more ferocious. The seasonal windows where we safely used controlled burning to clear bushfire fuel are shrinking. It’s not only harder to fight fires when they happen, it’s becoming harder to prevent them as well.

READ: Commentary: We call it climate change. It's more like a global health crisis

Fires aren’t the only threat to homes. All around the planet, more and more houses are being destroyed by rising seas and increasingly wild storms, all thanks to climate change.

9.WINE

Still not convinced climate change is wrecking things you love? What if I told you it’s even coming for your wine?

Less water, soil degradation and higher temperatures earlier in the season all lead to dramatic negative effects on grapes and wine-making.

A burnt field is seen at a vineyard in Adelaide Hills
A burnt field is seen at a vineyard in Adelaide Hills, Australia, Dec 24, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Vinteloper)

One small upside is that disruption to traditional wine growing regions is creating opportunities to develop new wine growing areas. But there is no reason to believe these areas will maintain stable grape growing conditions as climate change progresses.

WHAT NOW?

It’s easy to be sad. But to change our trajectory, it’s better to be mad. In the words of that great English singer songwriter John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), “anger is an energy”.

So maybe use this list as motivation to think, talk and act. Use it as fuel to make small, large or a combination of changes.

READ: Commentary: Forget bamboo straws. Let’s name the elephants in the room of Singapore’s climate debate

Share your concerns, share your solutions, and do this relentlessly.

What’s happening right now is huge, overwhelming, and also inevitable without concerted action. There’s no sugar-coating it: climate change is wrecking the things we love. Time to step it up a notch.

Dr Rod Lamberts is Deputy Director of the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University. This article first appeared on The Conversation.

Source: CNA/el(sl)

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