Australia is predicted to be one of the nations to be most affected by climate change, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Even with a small temperature rise of around 1 degree centigrade, the IUCN has stated that this would be enough to render many endemic species extinct. With 87% of Australian mammal species being endemic alone, many belonging to exceptionally fragile habitats, this could spell ecological disaster. The pacific nation already has the worst mammalian extinction rate in the world. Ironically, the Australian government site on such issues is much more reticent to suggest such things. Whilst it can be difficult for the public to get too outraged over the loss of relatively unknown species, imagine the uproar if the Great Barrier Reef- a World Heritage Site- were to be destroyed by the impacts of climate change. With several mass coral bleaching events in recent history, it follows that the iconic reef will be badly, if not irreparably, damaged.
Other World Heritage Sites are under threat of course, however, we cannot forget the possible impact on the people themselves. With Australia already experiencing extreme temperatures (remember how they had to add a new colour to the temperature chart?) further future increase is inevitably going to cause loss of both crops and life in the long term. Note how the recent 2009 Black Saturday bushfires were the deadliest on record, killing 173 people- with temperature rise, the frequency of these events is only going to increase. For nearby Pacific Island nations, the threat is even more severe. Their reality is both a stark warning for the rest of the world, but also a tragedy in its own right, with some nations beginning to sink beneath the waves with rising sea levels. In 30 years, Kiribati might not exist anymore; so too the Marshall Islands, with just a 2-degree rise in temperature.
Ultimately, there is clearly a high threat to Australia’s wildlife, habitat and people. It would be foolish not to acknowledge, however, that this presents a much wider issue than just domestically within Australia. The Australian government might have been able to put its head in the sand, but what of the Pacific Islanders without any sand left?