Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

Riverside High School Climate Council

Our Questions

Do you think we, as a state, can make a difference?
View Answer

While Tasmania is net zero greenhouse gas emissions already thanks to protecting and not over-logging our vast forest reserves, this only masks that we still have similar levels of emissions per person from other sources such as transport, waste and industry as other Australians and people from other wealthy countries.  Therefore we in Tasmania can very much make a difference by making more sustainable choices at all levels of our community, from individuals, through to schools, businesses and governments.  By being good examples of how we can have a very good quality of life while impacting less on the environment not only can we be proud of ourselves but share how we have done that with other Australians and around the world so they can be inspired by our efforts (and we should be of other good roles model as well).

Answer provided by: Corey Peterson
What are you doing to make a difference in Tasmania's carbon footprint?
View Answer

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) is very much working hard to help reduce Tasmania’s carbon footprint through a range of actions.

UTAS became the second carbon neutral certified university by the Commonwealth Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard in 2016 and in 2023 a third university in Australia has achieved this. Joining Race to Zero in early 2021 supports our commitment and recognises the climate emergency. Already carbon neutral, UTAS meets all Race To Zero criteria (pledge, plan, proceed, publish).

UTAS has reduced emissions even before these public commitments. Key initiatives include: complete fossil fuel divestment in 2021; reduced embodied carbon emissions in new buildings; transitions from natural gas to electric; all new developments solar power ready and many buildings now have solar panels; 13 years of supporting transport mode shift to more sustainable options such as bus, bike, carpooling and car sharing; and our efforts to reduce waste to landfill. While emissions reductions are already embedded in energy, transport and waste plans, our Emissions Reduction Strategic Plan 2022-2030 requires a minimum 50% reduction in total emissions by 2030. This will be accomplished by focusing on 15 emission sources with 42 specific actions. Remaining emissions are offset through domestic and international projects with environmental and social co-benefits, delivering a zero net emissions UTAS from 2016. We produce publicly available greenhouse gas emissions inventories every year as well as Public Disclosure Summaries for government websites.

Beyond Climate Active/Race to Zero related initiatives, UTAS’s climate action also includes research, learning and teaching, and engagement, with various internal and external (collaborative partnerships) groups working in these areas, such as:

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) leadership/authorship at forefront of Australasian contributions to global understanding of climate change. Five UTAS-linked scientists are among just 20 lead authors from Australia for the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the IPCC. Research of this quality has been made possible by the strong collaboration between the University, CSIRO, and the Australian Antarctic Division.
  • Climate Futures leads the nation in impact mapping to a fine scale, winning the 2012 Resilient Australia Award from Emergency Management Australia. This project was an Australian leader and one of the first of its kind internationally due to its localised projections. Data from the project is now being made available to many sectors of the community including state and local government, emergency services, water authorities, power companies, farmers, graziers, fruit growers, vignerons, and researchers. Academic staff regularly present to company Boards and CEOs.
  • Other groups with activities relating to climate action, include the Centre for Renewable Energy and Power Systems (CREPS), the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre led by UTAS, the Centre for Marine Sociology, and the Global Climate Change Week committee, as well as various groups researching ecological restoration in the face of climate change.
  • Hundreds of students at all levels have been involved in climate related projects through the Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS). Between 2017-2020, 271 students undertook on-campus energy projects, 66 worked on sustainable transport, 113 undertook waste projects including audits, and 21 were involved in food and garden projects involving diverting food waste from landfill. Examples of student-led projects include options for Study Abroad students to offset their carbon footprints, a benchmarking study to understand climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies at Australian universities, student wellbeing for climate active students, support for Global Climate Change Week, and understanding financial divestment for the Tasmanian University Student Union. Postgraduate research project examples include a PhD project on sea level rise impacts on UTAS properties and a Masters research on diverting organic waste from landfill.
  • UTAS currently offers 100+ courses with climate-focused units.

Climate Active information here:

Race to Zero information here:

UTAS Greenhouse Gas Inventories available here:

UTAS Public Disclosure Summaries available here:

Answer provided by: Corey Peterson
What are you doing in your offices to make them more eco friendly?
View Answer

The University of Tasmania (UTAS) has a range of initiatives to make our campus more eco-friendly, including:

  • Engagement:  We run a Green Impact program for staff and students to get directly involved in activities to improve their sustainability.  This is a fun and competitive program between teams to be the most sustainable, with prizes and awards to recognise high performers.
  • Transport: UTAS was the first Tasmanian fleet to include electric cars and the first to install electric bike charging starting in 2012 (min 10% of parking spots).  We have also provided electric car charging in all Tasmanian campuses. We have installed literally hundreds of bike parking spots as well as spaces for motorcycles.  We also partnered with Metro Tasmania to provide better services to our campuses and new bus stop shelters as well.
  • Resources and waste: The first UTAS Waste Minimisation Action Plan has a target of a minimum 25% reduction of waste to landfill by 2025. Initiatives being implemented include deployment of organics waste collection in all buildings; expansion of the Recycling Walls for non-standard recyclables; use of products with recycled content such as Reconophalt™ asphalt for new carparks at our Inveresk campus that has diverted over 710,000 plastic bags and 20,700 toner cartridges from landfill and uses reclaimed asphalt as well as aggregate and sand from street sweepings; carpets throughout as recycled and recyclable; and designs with ‘deconstructability’ for materials re-use when buildings are no longer needed. Our Re-Use Program started in 2016 with furniture and has since then expanded in number and types of items being relocated or donated generating over $800,000 in savings already. Sustainability with a circular economy focus is also embedded in the new Asset Management Procedure (2021) and a Clean out and Disposal Process Guide (2020).
  • Procurement has played a critical role in recent years from embedding sustainability in purchasing documents with a focus on sustainability as a key value alongside value for money and quality, development of our Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Commonwealth) statement with a focus beyond compliance from our suppliers, and working with our IT Services teams to reduce the number of printers and removing the need to print at all. Staff are encouraged to access the Re-Use Program prior to buying new; there is a focus on embodied carbon reduction in design and builder contracts. Where possible, materials are reused from discarded materials or low embodied carbon materials are used (i.e., materials manufactured in a way that produced lower carbon emissions than standard materials). All other initiatives around reduction of waste to landfill are based on circular economy principles.
  • Buildings:  We are building all new campuses across the state with very efficient and sustainable buildings that includes better insulation, double-glazed windows and environmentally friendly furniture, carpets, and paint.

All of the ways that UTAS seeks to be a leading sustainable university is publicly shared in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) website.
Answer provided by: Corey Peterson
What impact will electric vehicles have on Tasmania's climate?
View Answer
Answer provided by: Associate Professor Evan Franklin
Why aren't we using more renewable energy in government facilities?
View Answer

Switching to renewable energy – especially wind and solar – is essential if we are to completely decarbonise the way we produce energy. Australia is lucky as we have particularly abundant renewable resources. We have really picked up the pace here in Australia on converting to renewable energy: 35.9% of Australia’s energy was generated by renewables in 2022, up from just 16.9% in 2017.

Yes, governments can and should lead the way, and they can do this by building new buildings that produce at least some of their own energy as well as ensuring existing buildings are very energy efficient, so they use less power. Multi-storey buildings, like government office buildings, often don’t have much roof space to accommodate rooftop solar panels. This is one reason why many government buildings don’t make their own power. But new types of solar energy technology now mean that multi-storey buildings can be clad all over with a “solar skin” like this proposed (non-government) building in Melbourne.

Sourced from:

Some government buildings do have large roofs that are really suitable for generating all the energy they use, and more. For example, Australia’s airports – mostly federal government-owned buildings – have huge amounts of roof space that can accommodate large scale photovoltaic (or solar) systems. These can generate energy for the airport as well as thousands of homes and businesses. Other buildings with large roofs – for example, swimming pools which are often local government-owned – can produce more energy than they need for water heating and put power back into the grid.

One sector that is leading the way in getting government buildings to generate renewable power is – you guessed it – Australia’s schools. Schools all over the country are running solar fundraising campaigns and initiatives, like Solar My School in Sydney, some supported by local or state government. It’s bringing renewable power to thousands of classrooms with cost savings for the schools. It’s also a great learning opportunity for students to see how their school communities can lead the way in decarbonising and going renewable.

Answer provided by: Dr Gabi Mocatta
Are you communicating climate issues with other states?
View Answer
Answer provided by: Kathleen Beyer
How do you aim to maintain Tasmania's pure air quality?
View Answer
Answer provided by: Dr Vanessa Adams
How can we better protect Tasmania's forests?
View Answer

In the last few years, Tasmania has made quite a bit of progress towards protecting native forests, but there is still a lot of space for us to do better.

The first step to protecting nature, whether on land or on sea is to identify what the threats are. For Tasmanian forests some of the key threats today are logging and clear-cutting and the effects of warmer temperatures. These threats feed into each other. When trees are cut down carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere and less is taken out. When this happens, the global temperature rises. Not only this, trees and other plant species work together to create their ideal growing conditions. When trees are lost from an area it also means there is, for instance, less shade to help the remaining plants keep each other cool. Like us, all species have a limit to how much of heat or cold they can withstand; in the same way that we find it hard to do anything when it is too hot, trees are also less able to do the things that they need to do to live. Recently, there was a lot of research, including one done in Huon Valley during a heatwave, that found that trees are less able to feed themselves through photosynthesis when the temperature is too high for them. When it’s too hot, trees also emit more Carbon dioxide into the air, this is because, as with all species that breathe (this includes trees!) they respire more when it is hot. So, in more ways than one, less trees means more heat and, unfortunately more heat also means more fire danger.

It is important for us to know and understand that fire is a natural part of the life cycle of many forest plants in Australia. Fires help some plant seeds to germinate, it helps clear the forest floor allowing sunlight to reach the seeds on the ground. It kills off weeds and insects that might be harming the surrounding plants, and it even helps add nutrients that plants need to grow into the soil. So, fire is not bad, fire is needed for forests to continue growing, but all things in nature (us included) needs delicate balance. Too little or too much of something can impact your health and growth, for instance, you need carbohydrates and proteins in your diet to be healthy, but too much of either will lead to health issues. In recent years, bushfires have been burning too hot and for too long for forests. Instead of helping seeds grow and clearing away things that are harming them, these fires, often made worse by climate change, is burning the forests away.

So, what can we do to reduce these threats and help forests thrive? We need to take into account all those things that our forests need in order to grow, and make sure that management plans for these forests are correctly and efficiently addressing these needs. Aboriginal knowledge and scientific research in recent years, tell us a lot about what conditions Tasmania’s plants grow best in. It is important that we push for forest management that synthesizes these knowledge systems. With the changing climate, we need to think about how we can make our forests more resilient heat and other changing conditions too. So, forest managers will need to carefully nurture and cultivate forests by working with the environment in the same way that Aboriginal communities have done for centuries past. For instance, seeds of species collected from warmer forest areas can be sown to grow trees that are better able to handle warmer temperatures. There is always variation even within a single population – my brother, for example, is much better at handling cold weather than I am! Research can help identify individual trees that can withstand heat better and we can grow these in forests to help the secure the future of the forest. This is something that researchers are trying right now to help bring back Giant Kelp forests in eastern Tasmania.

As part of forest management, we also need improved fire management in Tasmania. This means working towards reducing large bushfires while also applying planned fires to areas that need regular burning. This requires quite a lot of careful planning that considers species that are sensitive to fire, species that need fire, threatened species and habitats that need protection, safety conditions, etc. Forest management also needs to reduce other threats, such as logging and pollution. This is quite a lot to think about and plan for, but it is entirely doable by working together with the right sources of information, the right tools and with a united goal. In other words, we know how we can protect forests better and what is needed to do this… but more resources, such as funding for more research and planning, and support is needed if we are to properly conserve our forests.

By advocating for and asking your councils and political leaders for better, more sustainable forest management, we can increase the amount of funding and resources that governments put towards protecting and managing them. In Australia, there is always space to be involved in decisions made by governing bodies, you can find out what your local council is doing through their website, or simply by giving them a call. Be involved where you can and ask those around you to do the same. Your voice always counts! We can of course also contribute to protecting our forests through everyday things. The best way to reduce deforestation and logging, not just in Tasmania but globally, is to reduce demand for it. Re-using, recycling, upcycling, and reducing consumption of things like paper would reduce the need for trees to be cut down at all.

All things on earth only work when working together, whether it’s a colony of ants, a forest system, or a nation of people – it is the simplest law of nature. Protecting one system means to protect another. Protecting forests will benefit us all. All things considered, to better protect Tasmania’s forests, it would truly be enough simply to remind ourselves and everyone around us of this!

Answer provided by: Dimuthu Jayakody
How long will it take for change?
View Answer

Stopping, or reducing climate change, known as mitigation, is something that is really important so I’m very glad you’ve asked how to do this. 

Reducing climate change will involve lowering the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This means reducing the emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This is done by reducing the use of fossil fuels and moving to renewable energy sources, like wind, solar and ocean wave energy instead. The effectiveness of these energy sources is improving all the time and around the world (especially in Australia) they are becoming a major source of energy already. Increasing efficiency and finding ways of reducing energy use and waste is also very important. Around the world businesses and governments are making commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels and to transform manufacturing, food production and transport (e.g. trucks, cars, trains and shipping) to electricity or other fuels (like hydrogen). 

Another way to help mitigate climate change is to support processes that actively remove carbon out of the atmosphere. Healthy oceans, forests and soil are great carbon stores. This means restoring and protecting these environments and supporting sustainable practices will help. Growing trees is a great way of helping remove carbon from the atmosphere. This effect is so large that the natural regrowth of Tasmania’s forests means that the state is currently a carbon sink – meaning more carbon is removed from the atmosphere than is emitted. This means as a state Tasmania is doing better than the net zero emissions target governments around the world are talking about.  

Rather than just letting the trees do all the heavily lifting though we can help Australia and the world by reducing our individual emissions. On a personal level that means turning lights and appliances off when you’re not using them; putting on a jumper rather than turning the heating up to full; and walking, cycling, or using public transport if we can. Also finding out about what you eat and changing to options that contribute less to climate change can also help. Agriculture is a major producer of greenhouse gases so look for low carbon meals, such as sustainable seafood and local seasonal foods, and try having at least a couple of red meat free days a week.  

In addition to reducing energy use we can also consume less (e.g. use clothes for longer rather than chasing the latest fashion look), increase recycling and appropriately dispose of organic waste (e.g. food scraps). Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, over twenty years it is about 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide. When food and garden waste is buried with general garbage the microbes and chemical processes that break the waste down cannot easily access oxygen and so they produce a lot of methane (known as anaerobic breakdown). However, if you put the organic waste into a compost bin (at home or one provided by the council) the microbes can access oxygen and so they use a process that produces much less methane (known as aerobic breakdown). The nutrient rich compost that results also means more plants can be grown (absorbing carbon) and less energy is needed to make artificial fertiliser. A win-win-win. 

The biggest thing you can do to help climate change is to stay informed, to help share useful information and to think about your actions – each little bit really does help. Around the world innovations and action by young people is helping accelerate action to reduce climate change. 

For starters, you might like to find out how Tasmania’s tree growth is helping our carbon budgetNASA also has a great page on climate change, which mentions some solutions. The United Nations also has some high-level information on different activities around the world.  

You might also like to play with the simple climate model at en-Roads, explore options for reducing climate change 

Answer provided by: Dr Beth Fulton
Why has it taken so long to start change?
View Answer

Answer provided by: Dr Chloe Lucas
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.
(c) copyright 2024 University of Tasmania.
About this site