Catastrophe in all its Facets

BROUGHT TO YOU BY JACOBS UNIVERSITY’S ENVIRONMENTAL CLUB


Climate Change – a term thrown about in nearly every corner of our life. It has, in fact, become so omnipresent that it is hard to spend a day without being confronted with images of wildfires in the Amazon, with Greta Thunberg or politicians in suit and tie making grand declarations on policies they stride to introduce. At this stage we can confidently put climate deniers on the same level as flat earthers – and this is a fact, not my opinion.

Extinction Rebellion protestors in Berlin | October 2019

Extinction Rebellion protestors in Berlin | October 2019

Nevertheless, the effects of what activists call Climate Catastrophe often seem rather abstract, or at least far away from us here in Bremen Nord. Even though the news are full of pictures of protestors shutting down entire cities in their “Extinction Rebellion”, it seems hard to grasp what extinction they are speaking of. Sure, we all know what rising sea levels and temperatures mean, we know that the rate of specie extinction we are observing is everything but normal (up to a dozen a day!). But how does it affect us?

A tragically perfect example for the effects of Climate Change is Australia, my second home country and therefore a case very close to me. There are few countries in the world that have experienced the impact and effects of Global Warming from as many facets as the Big Red Continent. Australia’s unique biosphere, with everything from kangaroo to platypus, makes it particularly vulnerable to any changes in environmental conditions. I myself have swum in the Great Barrier Reef, where the colourful and diverse beauty are no longer as breathtaking as they used to be; I was working in the blistering heat of South Australia when Sydney broke its all time temperature record of 47 ˚C; my great uncle is one of thousands of cattle farmers in Queensland who can’t afford to buy water anymore…

In the following, I will provide a short overview of the areas most effected by the catastrophe we humans have created for ourselves.

 

Heat and Drought

In 2018 and arguable still to date, Australia experienced its worst drought in living history. Temperature records have continuously been broken and without any significant changes in human activity, a temperature increase of up to 5 ˚C by 2090 can be expected. Cattle farming being one of Australia’s main industries, the amount of cows dying of dehydration or heat stroke is absolutely shocking – when driving through rural Victoria, it is no rare sight to see the corpses of dead livestock on the field next to the road.

Greg Jerry, owner of a 3,300 hectare farm near the town of Coonabarabran in NSW, has lost 60 sheep and a dozen cows to the drought © Graham Jepson/FT

Greg Jerry, owner of a 3,300 hectare farm near the town of Coonabarabran in NSW, has lost 60 sheep and a dozen cows to the drought © Graham Jepson/FT

 

Bushfires

“Trends from 1978 to 2017 in the annual (July to June) sum of the daily Forest Fire Danger Index—an indicator of the severity of fire weather conditions.”

“Trends from 1978 to 2017 in the annual (July to June) sum of the daily Forest Fire Danger Index—an indicator of the severity of fire weather conditions.”

Fires have always been part of the Australian ecosystem. Long before Captain James Cook, British discoverer of Terra Australis, was even born, the Indigenous knew to harness and control fires as part of their agricultural cycle. However, this ancient balance has been brought out of equilibrium as bushfire season has become significantly longer since the 1950s. In addition to that, fires have also become more severe and extreme, making it harder for them to be controlled with up to 200 burning at the same time in Queensland alone.

 

Agriculture

As already mentioned, the meat and dairy industry are experiencing rough times and especially considering we are talking about sentient beings, their suffering due to human actions seems all the worse. Wine grapes, the country’s biggest fruit industry, is faced with up to 70% of wine growing regions being less suitable to cultivation as soon as 2050. The same goes for the country’s largest vegetable growing industry, carrots.

 

Ocean Acidification and the Great Barrier Reef

 I gave the example of my own experience swimming in the Reef. Coral bleaching is unfortunately a process occurring on a large scale all around Australia’s coasts. Due to ocean acidification (which we won’t be able to explain here) and overall warming of the water surface, Great Barrier Reef, the biggest single structure made by living organism is confronted with the greatest threat since its existence. Even though coral can recover from acidification, since 2016 30% of coral has died.

A turtle swims over the bleached coral at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef in February 2016. Credit: The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey/Richard Vevers.

A turtle swims over the bleached coral at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef in February 2016. Credit: The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey/Richard Vevers.

 

This overview provided just a glimpse at the many ways in which Climate Change is affecting and will affect Australia’s ecosystem and in that also the people of Down Under, including my family.

Considering Australia exports more coal than any other country in the world, one might see all of this as sadly ironic – a kind of terrible Karma that has struck my beautiful home country.

By Kelly Bebendorf (Australia) | Class of 2021

 

Sources:

https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-climate-change-affecting-australia

https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/impacts

https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/

Photo Sources:

https://www.ft.com/content/34798fb4-ac22-11e8-94bd-cba20d67390c

https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Vierter-Klima-Demotag-Viele-kleinere-Proteste-von-Extinction-Rebellion-4551642.html

https://www.carbonbrief.org/great-barrier-reef-at-unprecedented-risk-of-collapse-after-major-bleaching-event

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