Wasps, algae and fires; how global warming will affect Canberra

Australia’s bush capital faces a drastic makeover, and a string of dire environmental consequences, by the end of the century if global temperatures continue to rise.

Regular fires and dirty water are some of the ramifications experts warn could be commonplace, while water experts say blue-green algae could turn Kingston Foreshore into a “stinking clogged mess”.

ANU Climate Change Institute deputy director Janette Lindesay said the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, even with strict action to limit greenhouse gas emissions, temperatures were still expected to rise by about two degrees by 2100.

Professor Lindesay said in the worst case temperatures could increase by four degrees or more.

Water expert professor Ian Falconer said that as a result of warmer temperatures, Canberrans could expect more unattractive blue-green algae in Lake Burley Griffin, possibly making Kingston Foreshore almost uninhabitable due to the smell.

Dire consequences of climate change are predicted for the bush capital. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
Dire consequences of climate change are predicted for the bush capital. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

“There is a lake in Manly [Sydney] which gets a lot of urban pollution and it just turns into a stinking clogged mess. And, unfortunately, the location of the main stinking clogged mess we’d get in Lake Burley Griffin would be in the new eastern lakes development,” he said.

Professor Falconer said that while the overall level of rainfall in the ACT wasn’t expected to drop, heavier, monsoon-type rainfall caused by climate change could lead to turbidity in Canberra’s water supply.

He said this would result in dirtier water, which would be costly to clean, making the end product more expensive for ACT residents.
ACT Parks and Conservation Service head Brett McNamara said the fire risk in the territory would increase as climate change took hold, increasing the number of summer days registering extreme to catastrophic fire danger ratings.

Mr McNamara said that as the number of intense fires increased, the ability of Australia’s wildlife to recover would be tested.

“The alpine ash requires fire to germinate from a seed bank, so when fire comes through the alpine ash says thank you very much and the seeds disperse,” he said.

“But then if that same area receives [another] fire in three-to-five-years, those young juveniles are killed, so that species cannot repopulate in that location.”

He said deforestation was already occurring in parts of the Victorian Alps and other Canberra species such as the snowgum could be affected.
Elsewhere, Mr McNamara said recent mild winters had seen ACT populations of European wasps stay over the middle of the year, resulting in bigger nests and a larger populations.

“We’re seeing an increase in large wasps nests being found in the urban environment and, if they’re getting a foothold in the city environment, will they move into the non-urban environment?” he said.

The predictions come less than a week after American president Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping announced a breakthrough deal to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions in their countries.

Professor Lindesay said she was always hopeful of ensuring a global two-degree rise in emissions, but more extreme results were still a possibility.

“We are hoping, fingers crossed, that the world sees sense and that countries can agree and put in place what’s needed to get our emissions under control as soon as possible, so that we have a chance of meeting this two degree target [by 2100],” she said.

“If we don’t, and I think there’s a real likelihood we don’t, then we’re going to go above that.”

Professor Lindesay said there was no one answer to how much temperatures might rise as a result of global warming, as it was impossible to know all the permutations of what might occur over the next century.


Photo: ACT Parks and Conservation Service head Brett McNamara says the ACT could see some changes due to climate change. Photo: Melissa Adams

View original article at: Wasps, algae and fires; how global warming will affect Canberra


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