Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

Fahan School 5/6 Sustainability Class

Our Questions

When did climate change start in Tasmania?
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Answer provided by: Kathleen Beyer
Is everyone in the world affected by climate change?
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no answer provided yet
Will politicians change the countries trade system to prevent climate change?
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Answer provided by: Dr Phillipa McCormack
Can we make our world better than it was before? Or is it just going to stay the same and not get worse if we stop using fossil fuels?
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Answer provided by: Alexander Burton
Why doesn’t the government do much about plastic waste?
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Since the 1950s the rate of plastic production has rapidly increased. This has led to a rapid increase in the amount of plastic we find in our bins and unfortunately, the environment. It is expected that our global plastic use will double by 2040. Historically, Australia has not been very good at reducing or recycling our plastic waste with 13% of all plastic waste recycled and around 130,000 tonnes of leaking into the marine environment. In 2021, the Australian Government introduced a plan called “The National Plastics Plan” to:

  • Reduce the amount of plastic waste Australia creates,
  • Increase recycling rate of plastic within Australia
  • Find alternative products and materials to replace unnecessary plastics

So, although historically Australia has had low recycling rates for plastics, the 2021 plan aims to take strong action to reduce plastic waste in our bins and the environment.

Answer provided by: Dr Kathy Willis
Who discovered the changes?
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Answer provided by: Dr Nick Earl
How did you know we were going through climate change?
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Answer provided by: Dr Beth Fulton
How did it start?
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Answer provided by: Dr Nick Earl
Where would the worst place be if climate change got worse?
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There have been quite a few questions asking which countries and which places in the world are most affected by climate change, and about which countries are getting hotter, quicker.

As you know, the effects of climate change are different everywhere. Overall, we are seeing the planet heating, but this has different impacts in different places.

Did you know that climate change is also affecting where rain falls? How windy it is? When and where cyclones occur? There is nowhere on Earth that climate change isn’t having an impact, but the ways that climate change affects different countries depends on lots of different factors, including their geographical location, their exposure to different types of change, the sensitivity of the environment to change, and the capacity of their human population to adapt. 

Understanding which is the most affected country depends on the risk criteria you are looking at.

If you wanted to know where the highest number of people are affected by climate change right now, you might think of countries affected by more intense extreme weather events, like Pakistan, Haiti, and the Philippines.

Also greatly impacted are countries with large cities in south-east Asia like Indonesia, and Bangladesh, which are losing coastal land with sea level rise, or countries in Africa affected by drought, like Kenya. If you wanted to know which countries are being faced with becoming unliveable or being lost altogether, you might think of countries in the Middle East reaching 50°C more often, or low-lying islands like Tuvalu, the Torres Strait Islands, and the Maldives. 

Walking through flood water in Jakarta, Indonesia

In Bangladesh, salt water flooding over land has made farming impossible in many areas and finding fresh drinking water challenging.

In other parts of the world, the effects of climate change will be most felt by millions of people in terms of access to water. Many countries rely on water from glacier and snow melt both for drinking water and for agriculture. Countries like the Andean nations especially Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and countries in Southeast Asia that rely on glacier meltwater from the Himalayas could be strongly affected, as glacier ice is now melting faster than ever and less snow is tending to fall in some places – meaning there will be less water available in the long term.

Of course, parts of the planet that are already hot will become much more difficult to live in as it becomes hotter. Tropical areas around the Equator are most at risk here. Tropical areas could be pushed towards the limits of what humans can survive if temperatures rise more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. Humans can tolerate dry heat better than they can humid heat. Humans are unable to tolerate what is called a “wet bulb temperature” (that’s a measure of heat and humidity together) of over 35°C for very long. In these conditions, the human body is not able to cool itself down by sweating and such conditions can be fatal. Such conditions may have dire consequences for many animals as well. With temperatures increasing everywhere, this could have very serious consequences as about 40% of the world’s population currently lives in tropical areas. This effect of climate change alone could cause a huge refugee crisis with potentially millions of people displaced by climate change by 2050.

Just in terms of temperature rise, perhaps surprisingly, some of the coldest areas have warmed the most due to climate change. Though the global average temperature rise is currently at 1.1°C above preindustrial levels (and Australia’s average temperate is currently  1.44°C higher than when records began) the Arctic is heating up much more dramatically. Between 1971 and 2019, the Arctic’s average annual temperature rose by 3.1°C, meaning it’s heating almost three times faster than the rest of the planet – with drastic consequences on Arctic ecosystems and Indigenous peoples who call the Arctic home. The following video can help us to visualise which parts of the world have heated up most over the past 140 years, and therefore helps us understand which areas are currently most affected by climate change

While some countries might be worse off than others, and some countries might have more capacity to do something to limit the impacts, climate change is affecting ALL OF US and we all have a responsibility to make a positive difference.

Answer provided by: Karen Palmer
Answer provided by: Dr Gabi Mocatta
How long will it take to clear up climate change fully?
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Answer provided by: Professor Zanna Chase
Why aren’t we doing much about climate change?
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What will happen if we don’t do anything now?
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Your question is very important to answer. I want to answer it because I have been interested in and worked on managing the interaction of people with the Earth for as long as I can remember. At your age, I was asking what the world was like before people and what difference we have made, good and bad. What a tough question. And 1.5 degrees does not seem like much, does it? Your question is so important that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) devoted a whole special report of 630 pages in 2018 to this question. The answer I give is only a snippet of what you might wish to learn.

What does it mean to have a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise?  This means that the average surface temperature (across all land, sea, and ice) of the Earth will have risen by 1.5 degrees since pre-industrial times. Pre-industrial times were times when the impacts people had on the Earth were very small and local to where they lived.

Because this is the average whole-Earth-surface temperature increase, the increase in average temperature will be different in different places – hot, dry areas will become hotter and drier. Cool, wet areas will become warmer and may either become drier or wetter depending on where they are. Frozen areas will become ice-free. The tropics will become places difficult to live in, for people, animals, and plants.  The polar environments will reduce and may disappear in some places. This is happening now with the bleaching of coral reefs, the burning of rainforests, the drying of the continents and the reduction of ice-dependent systems, particularly in the Arctic and in the highest mountain ranges. And the sea level is rising. Thus, an average increase of the Earth’s temperature even before we reach 1.5 degrees can have wide ranging effects because of this variation around the Earth.

According to the IPCC, the Earth will not be doomed when the average temperature of the Earth goes past 1.5 degrees but, increasingly, life will become very different to what we are used to and, for many people, animals and plants, it will become very much harder to live (thousands of species are expected to go extinct as a result and many people will die).  Our dreams and stories about life on the Earth will more and more become memories of past days rather than opportunities for experiencing in the future. But why would that be?

There are two very important factors to consider. The first is how rapidly and how far the sea level will rise. In Tasmania, many low-lying areas with townships (e.g. Kingston Beach) will become more frequently flooded, to the point when insurance companies will no longer insure houses for damage.  Who will pay for those people to move their homes? Where will they go? More significantly, many low lying countries will become uninhabitable because of sea-level rise and floods.  The people from those countries will need to move. How many millions of people will that be? Where will they go? Will they be helped to relocate? How understanding will the world be to people forced out of their homes?

The second factor is what a warmer atmosphere and ocean will do? Communities and livelihoods built on or around ice (permafrost, glaciers, snow) will reduce and possibly disappear. The IPCC has well established that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will increase. Increased storms and floods will compound the impacts of sea level rise as well as disrupt ports, coastal airstrips, roads, electricity grids and so on. But it is not just about storms and floods, it is also about heat waves and droughts. Hotter and longer heat waves will result in more people dying from heat stress. Longer and more frequent droughts will mean farms, grasslands and forests will become much drier and more difficult to sustain. This will lead to starvation and lack of water in many communities. In Australia, our Great Artesian Basin that gives water to so many of our rural communities will begin to dry up. Some of the more sensitive areas will be lost, like the Great Barrier Reef.

Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees will give us a greater chance of restoring the world to what we know and love. The greater the Earth warms the longer the impacts of that warming will last – rather than the effects of warming remaining until the end of the century it is likely to remain long after that time. Many scientists fear that if the Earth warms beyond 2 degrees then it may reach tipping points from which we cannot return to what we know. How can we believe this will happen when we have not experienced these levels of warming? The IPCC has well established mathematical models able to assess the nature of the climate, weather and state of the physical Earth system.  These models have been tested in many ways to ensure they can be validly used to assess what the world will be like. These models then are used to determine what might happen to farms, forests, cities and ocean systems.  For Tasmania, this has been done in a Climate Futures Tasmania project, which was one of the first projects globally to undertake these kinds of assessments to help communities and governments better plan and adapt to the future.

Can you believe these results? Ask your parents or grandparents how reliable the weather forecasts were during their childhood. Compare that to the forecasts we have now when we can plan at least four days in advance for what the weather will be like. These forecasts are based on atmospheric models, the same kind of models used for climate assessments.

Answer provided by: Dr Andrew Constable
climateFuturesUnviersity of TasmaniaTas Gov Sponosored
We acknowledge the Palawa/Pakana people, the Traditional Custodians of lutrawita/Tasmania. We recognise and respect their collective wisdom and knowledge about country and change.
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