Home' Position : Position Feb Mar 2015 Contents Last year’s G20 meeting in Brisbane
was notable for its historic
agreement between the biggest
emitters of carbon dioxide: the US and
China. Cheered on by most other nations,
the two global giants agreed on strategies
to limit the extent of their emissions.
It may well not be enough to judge
by some reports. The agreement came
in the wake of the latest report by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change. The IPCC says it is far too late to
prevent climate change from occurring.
Indeed, it is already measurable. The
world is around 1.2 degrees warmer than
it was in 1860. About 0.6 degrees of that
has occurred since 1950.
Now the IPCC says the best-case sce-
nario is that the world will be two degrees
warmer by 2100. But they caution that
the most likely future is that by the end of
the 21st century, we will need to survive in
a world that is, on average, four degrees
warmer than our own. An increase of six
degrees is quite possible if nothing is done.
However, this tells us nothing about
the consequences on a local scale. We
already know that the effect will be
distributed unequally. We know, for
instance, that the atmosphere has warmed
more in the northern hemisphere than in
the southern. It seems quite likely that the
Arctic Ocean will be free of summer ice
within the next 20 years, but the impact
on Antarctica will be much less dramatic.
We know that in both hemispheres,
higher latitudes have warmed more than
average. At the equator, the effect has so
far been minimal.
The local effect
At the local level, the impact of climate
change will be even more variable. In
Australia, for instance, most climatic
models seem to show that temperatures in
the centre of Australia will increase more
than average, but coastal regions will be
less affected. In the same way, changes
in rainfall patterns will also be variable.
The centre and north west of the country
will get slightly more; most centres of
population on the coast will get a lot less.
From the point of view of individuals
and communities, this matters. It is at
the local level that the effects of climate
change will be felt, at the local level that
mitigation policies must be implemented,
and at the local level that changes to flora
and fauna are experienced.
Now, Stephen Farrell at Spatial
Vision (www.spatialvision.com.au) and
Geoff Park at Natural Decisions (www.
naturaldecisions.com.au) have developed
a tool that helps the managers of natural
resources to examine such localised
impacts. Their project, called Spatial
Identification of Climate Change Impacts
on Natural Resource Assets, uses new
datasets from CSIRO to look at the
impact of climate change on the Victorian
landscape in 2020, 2050, 2070 and 2090.
They motivated their project with a
simple question: “How can climate change
be better incorporated into planning the
nation’s natural resources?”
It might be a simple question, but the
answer is distinctly non-trivial. Climate
change itself is inordinately complex, and
trying to nail down the likely impact at
specific locations is even more so. In part,,
this is due to the sheer volume of data
that is required.
The researchers applied GIS to the
task. At one level, this is an obvious
choice: GIS is about location. Moreover,
the technology is designed to handle
large volumes of data. But reducing the
question to one that can be handled by
the layer-based logic of a GIS it is not
quite so obvious.
To help, they developed their own
conceptual model of the problem. They
started from the fact that climatic change
can be expressed as change in temperature
and rainfall. They call these the primary
climate stressors. The CSIRO has recently
released datasets that map the predicted
changes across Victoria. CSIRO’s work is
designed to support organisations plan for
anticipating the likely impacts of climate
change. The data is necessarily coarse: the
Mapping the local effects of climate change
Key project outputs.
Ariel da Silva
34 position February/March 2015
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