Environment

Perth, Southwest bear climate change brunt

South-western Australia, including Perth, is feeling the brunt of climate change more than most other parts of Australia, according to climate change and sustainability researchers.

University of Western Australia climate scientist Karl-Heinz Wyrwoll says climate change is happening extremely fast in Perth and Western Australia’s Southwest region.

“There is a question of whether this is abnormally fast, and it certainly is a fast change,” Dr Wyrwoll says.

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Dr Wyroll at his UWA office

He says the impact of climate change on Perth and the Southwest is one of the most significant in Australia.

“In terms of the changes taken place, we’re probably one of the places in Australia that’s experienced the most change since the 1970s,” he says.

“Southeastern Australia has some of that as well, but it’s not as severe as we are.”

He says drought is the main issue facing the area which is roughly the size of New Zealand.

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Dr Rauland at Curtin University

Curtin University sustainability researcher Vanessa Rauland says drought is a big concern for Perth and the Southwest and that the area will become drier and have hotter days.

“I think Perth and around this region will suffer more from drought rather than floods,” Dr Rauland says.

“I can see this region getting drier and other regions may have more floods and storms.

“The Perth region in particular is going to get drier.”

Curtin University climate researcher Ross Edwards also sees Perth and the Southwest as very vulnerable to the heat.

“On one perspective, it lacks rainfall at a very dry continent,” Associate Professor Edwards says.

“So it doesn’t take much to impact the Southwest, so it is vulnerable.”

The CSIRO State of the Climate 2014 report shows the area has been seen a 17 per cent drop in rainfall since the mid-1970s.

Dr Wyrwoll says the farming community will be one of the most affected.

“That should put a stress on people’s activities, agriculture activities specifically,” he says of the drier climate.

“It affects things like water resources, but it puts pressure on the farming community in terms of profitability.”

Professor Edwards says decreased rainfall is a concern in relation to Perth’s water supplies and that the city should do more to conserve ground water.

However, he says that with impacts appearing quicker than elsewhere in Australia, people of Perth and the Southwest have had an early warning and so have more time to adapt.

“We need to have tight restrictions on [greenhouse] emissions and minimise as quickly as possible the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere,” he says.

Photos: Cesilia Faustina

Categories: Environment

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