Curious Climate schools
Curious Climate schools

Climate Impacts

Human activity is changing the climate. The speed of the current climate change is much faster than most changes in climate in the past, making it more difficult for the natural world and human societies to adapt. Climate change is causing damage and loss to nature and people in many parts of the world. Some of these impacts are irreversible, but there are things we can do to reduce our vulnerability to these changes.

What does climate change mean for people living in Australia?

More hot days and heatwaves
More ocean warming and sea-level rise
More rainfall in the north
More extreme fire weather days in the south and east
Less snow

The latest IPCC report identified some key risks for Australia:

Loss and degradation of coral reefs and the plants and animals that depend on them, due to warming and heatwaves.
Loss of plants and animals on our high mountains, due to less snow.
Potential loss of alpine ash, snowgum woodland, pencil pine and northern jarrah forests in southern Australia, due to hotter and drier conditions with more fires.
Loss of kelp forests in southern Australia due to ocean warming, marine heatwaves, and overgrazing by fish and urchins that have moved south as waters warm.
Loss of coastal areas including wetlands, sand dunes, and human infrastructure such as houses and roads, due to sea level rise.
Disruption of farms and food production and increased stress in rural communities in southern and eastern Australia due to hotter and drier conditions.
More heat-related deaths for people, especially in towns, and also for wildlife, due to heatwaves.
The combined effect of more frequent and severe bushfires, floods, droughts, heatwaves, storms and sea level rise may lead to even greater impacts on human systems and services, as they become overwhelmed.

Increasing inequality

Climate change is expected to increase existing vulnerabilities, and social inequality. This would mean a widening gap between:
Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples
Older and younger generations
People in rural and urban areas
People on high and low incomes
People with and without health problems
Further climate change is inevitable, with the rate and magnitude of future changes largely dependent on the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions released globally. However, every small fraction of a degree of warming that we can avoid improves the outcome for people and for natural systems. There are things we can do to reduce our impact, as well as to adapt to climate change.

For Teachers

Inquiry Ask your students to research the ways climate change impacts on:
  1. A native species habitat. Good examples might be coral reefs, mountains, tropical rainforests, coastal zones, or kelp forests. As temperatures rise, habitats are coming under pressure, and many species are being forced to move. Fifty per cent of species have changed where they live because of climate change. Inquiry questions - How is this habitat changing because of climate change? Are species moving, or do they have nowhere to move to?
  2. Extreme weather. Bushfires, heatwaves, storms, river floods, coastal storm surges, and droughts are all made more frequent and severe because of climate change. Inquiry questions - Who and what is being impacted by extreme weather? How can we adapt to be more resilient to extreme weather events?
You can find lots of information on these inquiry topics in our Experts' answers.

Who is behind Curious Climate Schools? Curious Climate Schools is run by climate change and education researchers at the University of Tasmania. It’s funded by the Tasmanian Climate Change Office, the University’s College of Science and Engineering, and the University’s Centre for Marine Socioecology (CMS). Curious Climate Schools builds on the first successful Curious Climate project which answered climate questions in communities around Tasmania.

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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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