​Climate firing line: Australia’s natural attractions at risk

AUSTRALIA’S MOST POPULAR tourist destinations are in the firing line, with intensifying climate change posing a significant threat to the nation’s iconic natural wonders, according to the latest report released by the Climate Council today.

The Climate Council’s ‘Icons at Risk: Climate Change Threatening Australian Tourism’ report shows Australia’s top five natural tourist attractions could be hit by extreme heatwaves, increasing temperatures, rising sea-levels, coastal flooding and catastrophic coral bleaching.

Climate Councillor and ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes said Australia’s iconic beaches, wilderness areas, national parks and the Great Barrier Reef are the most vulnerable hotspots, while our unique native wildlife is also at risk, as climate change accelerates.

“Tourists travel across the globe to see Australia’s remarkable natural wonders. But these icons are in the climate firing line as extreme weather events worsen and sea levels continue to rise,” she said.

“Some of our country’s most popular natural destinations, including our beaches could become ‘no-go zones’ during peak holiday periods and seasons, with the potential for extreme temperatures to reach up to 50 degrees in Sydney and Melbourne.”

“Climate change is placing one of Australia’s most valuable and fastest growing sectors under threat. In 2016 alone, more than 8 million international visitors arrived on our shores to see our natural icons, bringing in more than $40 billion dollars.”

“In fact, tourism employs more than 15 times more people in Australia than coal mining.”

KEY FINDINGS INCLUDE:

  • Australia’s top five natural tourist attractions (beaches, wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef, wilderness and national parks) are all at risk of climate change.
  • Beaches are Australia’s #1 tourist destination and are threatened by rising sea levels.
  • Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns, Darwin, Fremantle and Adelaide are projected to have a least a 100 fold increase in the frequency of coastal flooding events (with a 0.5m sea level rise).
  • The Red Centre could experience more than 100 days above 35ºC annually, by 2030. By 2090, there could be more than 160 days per year over 35ºC.
  • The Top End could see an increase in hot days (temperatures above 35ºC) from 11 (1981-2010 average) to 43 by 2030, and up to 265 by 2090.
  • Ski tourism: Declines of maximum snow depth and decreasing season length at Australian ski resorts have been reported for over 25 years, increasing the need for artificial snow-making.
  • Tourism is Australia’s second most valuable export earner, employing a workforce of more than 580,000 people, over 15 times more people than coal mining in Australia.

Climate Council Acting CEO and Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice said the Federal Government’s Tourism 2020 Plan has missed the boat when it comes to protecting Australia’s natural attractions from worsening climate change.

“Without credible climate policy that cuts Australia’s rising carbon pollution levels, the impacts of climate change will only intensify and accelerate across the country over the coming decades,” he said.

The report also highlights moves by individual tourism operators including hotels, resorts, airlines and even Australian zoos that are taking action to tackle rising pollution.

“States and territories, local governments and individual tourism operators should be congratulated for rolling up their sleeves and doing their bit to slash pollution by embracing renewable energy and storage technology.

“Now, for the sake of our iconic attractions, we just need the Federal Government to do the same.”

For more information, please contact Senior Communications Advisor Alexia Boland on 0430 511 068.

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