Australia’s 17 World Heritage areas will be devastated by global warming this century, predicts a recently released report of the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Implications of Climate Change for Australia’s World Heritage Properties.
Among Australia’s imperilled World Heritage areas are Kakadu National Park, the Great Barrier Reef, remote islands such as Lord Howe, as well as Macquarie and Heard Islands in the Southern Ocean, and buildings such as the Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Exhibition Buildings.
How realistic are the department’s predictions?
The report notes the fact that “Australia is one of the oldest continents on earth”. In light of the far larger heating and cooling changes that have taken place over the hundreds of millions of years that geologists say Australia has existed – and even over the most recent geological period – it would be reasonable to expect that the report would refer to the resilience to climate change of Australia’s natural environment.
This resilience has been enhanced by the natural extremes of heat and drought to which all parts of the continent are periodically subjected.
In fact, the report concedes none of it. Instead, we have a series of apocalyptic predictions, based on the IPCC forecast, then exaggerated further by the climate change spin-doctors.
Typical of the way in which figures are used can be seen in two statements in the report. In relation to sea-level rises, it approvingly quotes one study which maintains that “global mean sea-level has been rising at a rate of around 3 mm/year in the decade 1993 to 2003”. Over a 10-year period, this amounts to 3 cm, and over 20 years, 6 cm.
Later, it projects that over the next 21 years, the “sea level is expected to increase by 2030 by an average of 17 cm under a continued ‘high greenhouse emissions’ scenario”. There is, of course, no explanation of the discrepancy.
Further, there is no concession to the fact that over the past 10 years, average surface temperatures have actually fallen, not risen, and the quantity of sea ice has remained almost exactly the same, while the quantity of ice on the surface of the earth, particularly Antarctica, has actually grown.
Inside the front cover of the report, which was prepared by the ANU School of Environment and Society, the following disclaimer appears in very small type: “The Australian National University cannot accept any responsibility for any use of or reliance on the contents of this report by any third party.”
A little further on, there is a further disclaimer: “The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Australian Government or the Minister for Climate Change and Water and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts.”
Yet the report was extensively reported in the Australian and international media as an authoritative study on the effects of climate change on Australia’s World Heritage areas.