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Queenscliffe Herald Article - August 2006

Impact of Climate Change on the Borough of Queenscliffe

Bob Fuller
of the Swan Bay Environment Association

Hardly a week goes by without articles in the press or stories on the TV about global warming and the effects this is likely to have on our environment. In general, these are rising sea levels, an increase in extreme weather events and temperature, and changes in rainfall patterns. Almost all of the world's leading climate scientists now believe that global warming is real and is caused by the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The excessive burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) to supply the energy for our everyday lives is one of the main causes of this increase. So how might global warming effect us in the Borough of Queenscliffe?

The CSIRO is the main organisation that studies the impact of global warming in Australia. Unfortunately, there is no published research specific to the Bellarine Peninsula. There are, however, a number of studies that either mention our Borough specifically or report effects that will have direct bearing on the lives of residents in this unique place. Over ten years ago, the Port of Melbourne authority assessed the vulnerability of the Victoria's coastline to the impact of climate change. The study found that 'greenhouse changes may increasingly submerge the saltmarsh (of the western and northern shores of Swan Bay), causing it to migrate landward, invading farmland’. The dunal system from Shortlands Bluff to Point Lonsdale was also identified as vulnerable because of beach erosion leading to undercutting and instability.

Another report from the former Department of Conservation and Environment looked at the effect of climate change on a selected number of Victorian fauna. The study's authors used a computer model to predict the impact of changing climate on various species' habitat. The orange bellied parrot, which uses Swan Bay as a wintering site, was one of those that was particularly vulnerable to changing climate. In all but one of the scenarios investigated, the bioclimatic range of this endangered bird declined dramatically. The main food source of our local emblem, the Black Swan, may also decline. The seagrass appears to grow better in periods of drought and calm weather. Periodic heavy rains from storm events may increase run-off into Swan Bay, adversely affecting the growth of the seagrass.

In general, rainfall is likely to decline in this area. A recent government study forecast reductions of 12% and 23% on the current levels of water availability for the Geelong and District Region by 2030 and 2055 respectively. At the same time, they predict there will be an increase in demand due to population growth and increased industrial and agricultural activity. The volume of the water deficit is predicted by 2055 to be almost 80% of today's annual demand.

All these studies clearly show that our unique and special place in Victoria is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. There are many things we can decide to do as individuals and families to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that we generate going about our daily lives. Our environment and future generations will benefit from those decisions.

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