Nine things you love that are being wrecked by climate change



If coffee and wine are things you love, then you need to pay attention to climate change.
Shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Rod Lamberts, Australian National University

There are so many stories flying around about the horrors already being wrought by climate change, you’re probably struggling to keep up.

The warnings have been there for decades but still there are those who deny it. So perhaps it’s timely to look at how climate change is affecting you, by wrecking some of the things you love.

1. Not the holiday you hoped for

We often choose holiday destinations with weather in mind. Sadly, climate change may see your usual destinations become less inviting, and maybe even disappear entirely.




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But there’s more to think about than your favourite beach retreat being drowned, or the Great Barrier Reef decaying before you see it.

Now we have to worry that “extreme weather events pose significant risks to travellers”. The warnings here range from travel disruption, such as delayed flights due to storms, through to severe danger from getting caught in cyclones, floods or snowstorms.

Simply getting where you need to go could become an adventure holiday itself, but not a fun one.

2. Last chance to see some wildlife

There are more and more examples of animals falling victim to climate-change induced extreme weather events, such as the horror of mass “cremations” of koalas in the path of recent Australian bush fires or bats dropping dead during heatwaves.

On top of that, news of the latest climate-related animal extinctions are becoming as common as reports of politicians doing nothing about it.

3. History and heritage at risk

The Italian city of Venice recently experienced its worst flooding since the mid 1960s, and the local mayor clearly connected this with climate change.

Aside from the human calamity unfolding there, we are seeing one of Europe’s most amazing and unique cities and a World Heritage site devastated before our eyes.




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Climate change threatens more than 13,000 archaeological sites in North America alone if sea levels rise by 1m. That goes up to more than 30,000 sites if sea levels rise by 5m.

UNESCO is worried that climate change also threatens underwater heritage sites, such as ruins and shipwrecks. For example, rising salinity and warming waters increases ship-worm populations that consume wooden shipwrecks in the Baltic sea.

4. Taking the piste

Warming temperatures have already had negative impacts on the US snow sports industry since at least 2001.

Enjoy the skiing while the snow lasts.
Yun Huang Yong, CC BY

In Australia, ski resorts are expected to see significant drops in snow fall by 2040 and, as temperatures warm, they will be unable to compensate for this by snow-making, because it doesn’t work if ambient temperatures are too high.

Perhaps recent efforts to make artificial snow will give us a few more years on the slopes, but I’m not holding my breath.

5. Too hot for sport and exercise

It’s not just snow sports that will be affected. As temperatures warm, simply being outside in some parts of the world will not only be less pleasant, but more harmful, causing greater risk of heat stress doing any sport or exercise.




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That also means lower incentives for – and greater difficult in undertaking – incidental exercise, such as walking to the bus stop.

6. Pay more for your coffee

As the climate changes, your coffee hits will probably become rarer and more expensive, too.

Start saving up for your next coffee.
Flickr/Marco Verch, CC BY

A report by the Climate Institute in 2016 suggested coffee production could drop by 50% by 2050.

Given how rapidly negative climate predictions have been updated in the three years since, this might now be considered optimistic. Yikes.

7. You and your family’s health

As the climate changes, the health of your children, your parents and your grandparents will be at greater risk through increases in air pollution, heatwaves and other factors.

It can be heartening to see the strong, intelligent and positive action being taken by the world’s youth in response to the lack of climate action by many governments.

But the fact this is a result of literal, existential crises becoming a normal part of every day life for young people is utterly horrifying.

8. Home, sweet home

The recent bush fires in Australia and the United States reveal how dramatic and destructive the effects climate change can be to where you live. Hundreds of houses have already burned down in Australia this fire season.

Fires are getting more frequent and more ferocious. The seasonal windows where we safely used controlled burning to clear bushfire fuel are shrinking. It’s not only harder to fight fires when they happen, it’s becoming harder to prevent them as well.

Fires aren’t the only threat to homes. All around the planet, more and more houses are being destroyed by rising seas and increasingly wild storms, all thanks to climate change.

9. Not the wine, please!

Still not convinced climate change is wrecking things you love? What if I told you it’s even coming for your wine.

Less water, soil degradation and higher temperatures earlier in the season all lead to dramatic negative effects on grapes and wine-making.

One small upside is that disruption to traditional wine growing regions is creating opportunities to develop new wine growing areas. But there is no reason to believe these areas will maintain stable grape growing conditions as climate change progresses.

So, what now?

It’s easy to be sad. But to change our trajectory, it’s better to be mad. In the words of that great English singer songwriter John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), “anger is an energy”.




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So maybe use this list as motivation to think, talk and act. Use it as fuel to make small, large or a combinationof changes.

Share your concerns, share your solutions, and do this relentlessly.

What’s happening right now is huge, overwhelming, and also inevitable without concerted action. There’s no sugar-coating it: climate change is wrecking the things we love. Time to step it up a notch.The Conversation

Rod Lamberts, Deputy Director, Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wrong way, go back: a proposed new tax on electric vehicles is a bad idea


Jake Whitehead, The University of Queensland

In recent years, false claims have circulated that electric vehicles are “breaking our roads” because they don’t use fuel and so their drivers don’t pay fuel excise.

Heeding such concerns, both the Victorian and New South Wales governments are reportedly considering a new tax for electric vehicles. It follows a report by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia which recommended a per-kilometre tax for electric vehicles.




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But this shortsighted approach risks killing the golden goose of our transport system. Such a tax would limit the economic, health and environmental benefits promised by electric vehicles which, together, far exceed any loss in fuel excise.

Instead, Australia needs a mature public discussion about holistic road tax reform to find a fair and sensible way forward.

Electric vehicle owners do not incur petrol costs.
ganzoben/Shutterstock

The problem is structural

Fuel excise is built into petrol and diesel prices, charged at around 40 cents per litre. For more than 20 years – well before the introduction of electric vehicles – net fuel tax revenue has been declining, largely due to improvements in vehicle efficiency, meaning engines use less fuel.

But if we take into account fuel tax credits – subsidies for fuel used in machinery, heavy vehicles and light vehicles on private roads – gross fuel tax revenue has actually increased in recent years.

This suggests the tax suffers from a structural problem. Simply applying a new tax to electric vehicles won’t fix it.




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It’s also worth remembering that while electric vehicle owners don’t pay fuel excise, they generally pay more in purchase taxes such as GST, because their vehicles tend to be more expensive to buy.

The federal government should encourage uptake of electric vehicles.
AAP

Benefits of electric vehicles

Electric vehicles help reduce our dependency on foreign oil and save owners over 70% in fuel costs by swapping petrol for electricity. Electric vehicles also lead to cleaner air, resulting in significant savings in health costs. They create new local jobs in mining and local energy, and importantly, are key to meeting global climate change targets.




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Comparison of annual road accident fatalities vs premature deaths due to vehicle emissions in NSW.
Asthma Australia/Electric Vehicle Council.

An electric vehicle tax would increase costs for motorists, curb sales and may even encourage the purchase of cheap, fuel-efficient vehicles, driving fuel tax revenue down even further.

Congestion is the bigger problem

The proposed taxes will do nothing to tackle the biggest problem with Australia’s transport system: road congestion.

Sweden, where I lived for several years, offers a possible way forward. In 2006, the city of Stockholm introduced a congestion pricing scheme which charged vehicles for driving in and out of the city centre at peak times.




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The scheme meant normal weekday traffic was considerably lighter. Low-emission vehicles were also temporarily exempted from the charge to encourage sales.

Unfortunately, despite the proven benefits, Australia is unlikely to introduce such a scheme due to a lack of public and political support.

Towards a sustainable road tax

The transport sector faces massive disruption in the near future, from electrified vehicles, automated vehicles, and the shift to shared vehicles.

Focusing solely on electric vehicles misses the broader point: we need to proactively prepare for the transition to a new transport system. This means ditching our unfair, outdated and unsustainable road tax model while reducing congestion.




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Instead of simply penalising electric vehicle owners, I suggest an approach where electric vehicle owners could voluntarily opt-in to a new road tax model. Here’s how it would work:

  • the tax would include a low per-kilometre fee for all travel, and an additional fee for inner-city travel during peak weekday periods

  • in exchange for opting in, owners would be exempted from the old road tax system, that is: vehicle registration, stamp duty, import tax, luxury car tax, fringe benefits tax, fuel excise, and road tolls.

  • to ensure a true financial incentive to opt-in to the new road tax model, a significant discount would initially apply. This discount would gradually be phased out as electric vehicle uptake increases, as has occurred with similar overseas schemes

  • the new road tax model could easily be extended in the future to apply to automated vehicles, and to more accurately reflect the burden transport poses in terms of congestion and pollution.




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This is just one example of a balanced approach that would encourage both local adoption of electric vehicles, and public support for fairer road taxes.

Such holistic reform would enable a future transport system with less road congestion, quicker travel times, cleaner air, lower costs and a sustainable road revenue stream.

Let’s be smart and not miss this golden opportunity.The Conversation

Jake Whitehead, Research Fellow, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘The size, the grandeur, the peacefulness of being in the dark’: what it’s like to study space at Siding Spring Observatory



Today we hear about some of the fascinating space research underway at Siding Spring Observatory – and how, despite gruelling hours and endless paperwork, astronomers retain their sense of wonder for the night sky.
Shutterstock

Cameron Furlong, The Conversation and Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

How did our galaxy form? How do galaxies evolve over time? Where did the Sun’s lost siblings end up?

Three hours north-east of Parkes lies a remote astronomical research facility, unpolluted by city lights, where researchers are collecting vast amounts of data in an effort to unlock some of the biggest questions about our Universe.

Siding Spring Observatory, or SSO, is one of Australia’s top sites for astronomical research. You’ve probably heard of the Parkes telescope, made famous by the movie The Dish, but SSO is also a key character in Australia’s space research story.

In this episode, astrophysics student and Conversation intern Cameron Furlong goes to SSO to check out the huge Anglo Australian Telescope (AAT), the largest optical telescope in Australia.

Siding Spring Observatory, north east of Parkes.
Shutterstock



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And we hear about Huntsman, a new specialised telescope that uses off-the-shelf Canon camera lenses – a bit like those you see sports photographers using at the cricket or the footy – to study very faint regions of space around other galaxies.

Students use telescopes to observe the night sky near Coonabarabran, not far from SSO.
Cameron Furlong

Listen in to hear more about some of the most fascinating space research underway in Australia – and how, despite gruelling hours and endless paperwork, astronomers retain their sense of wonder for the night sky.

“For me, it means remembering how small I am in this enormous Universe. I think it’s very easy to forget, when you go about your daily life,” said Richard McDermid, an ARC Future Fellow and astronomer at Macquarie University.

“It’s nice to get back into it to a dark place and having a clear sky. And then you get to remember all the interesting and fascinating things, the size, the grandeur and the peacefulness of being in the dark.”

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Additional audio

Kindergarten by Unkle Ho, from Elefant Traks.

Lucky Stars by Podington Bear from Free Music Archive.

Slimheart by Blue Dot Sessions from Free Music Archive.

Illumination by Kai Engel from Free Music Archive.

Phase 2 by Xylo-Ziko from Free Music Archive.

Extra Dimensions by Kri Tik from Free Music Archive.

Pure Water by Meydän, from Free Music Archive.

Images

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Cameron Furlong




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The Conversation


Cameron Furlong, Editorial Intern, The Conversation and Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.