CSIRO WARNS: Up to 3.7°C hotter and up to 25% drier
UP to 3.7°C hotter and up to 25% drier; these extremes are the potential reality for the Northern Rivers if current trends continue, CSIRO has warned.
The hotter and drier conditions from runaway climate change will push endangered wildlife and ecosystems in the Northern Rivers region of the state closer to extinction, a new report has found.
The Nature Conservation Council report titled Hot, dry, and deadly: Impacts of climate change on nature in NSW also found farm productivity in some sectors and parts of the state could fall up to 13% if carbon pollution is not slashed.
NCC Campaigns Director Daisy Barham said "rainfall and temperature changes will alter many elements of the region's ecology, including flowering times for eucalypts and other plants, the migration pattern of birds, and the frequency and intensity of bushfires."
"The coastal ecosystems will also change significantly because of rising sea levels and more intense storms battering the beaches and coastal lagoons."
She said the region has experienced an extremely dry July, with long term average rainfall measurements down 80% in Lismore and 90% in Ballina.
Ecosystems and species
The region's forests, woodlands, rivers and wetlands would deteriorate if we didn't act urgently to slash carbon pollution.
Koalas, water birds and key ecosystems - coastal swamp forests, saltmarshes and seagrass meadows are likely to shrink or disappear in some places, Ms Barham said.
"Many species will suffer, including koalas and water birds, and key ecosystems coastal swamp forests, saltmarshes and seagrass meadows are likely to shrink dramatically or disappear entirely in some places," she said.
Climate change has now joined common threats such as habitat loss and dog attacks to the survival of koalas, where north coast numbers have been estimated having crashed 33% from 1990 - 2010.
"Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will reduce the nutritional quality of eucalypt leaves, causing malnutrition and starvation. Koalas will also be affected by rising sea levels, which will inundate swamp forests, one of the species preferred habitats in coastal areas.
"Ecosystems are complex, so it is hard to predict exactly how these changes will play out, but we do know small changes can trigger catastrophic knock-on effects."
Ms Barham said falling agricultural productivity also threatens biodiversity, by "hampering the ability of farmers to be good environmental stewards, as most want to be".
Sheep meat production across the state will decline more than 13%, along with significant declines in diary, beef and wheat production, Federal Government agencies have warned.
What needs to happen
Ms Barham said NSW is among the worst-performing states in transitioning our electricity system to renewables, "sourcing almost 80% of its electricity from coal-fired power stations".
"We call on Premier Berejiklian to commit to sourcing our electricity from the sun and wind, to act on climate change, and ensure a stable climate for our future in this region and beyond."
The report will be launched at two free public events:
Lismore: 6pm, Tuesday, August 29, at Friends of the Koala Centre, Friends of the Koala Centre, Rifle Range Rd, Lismore.
Ballina: 6pm, Wednesday, August 30, at Jullum Room, Ballina Surf Club, Ballina.
The Nature Conservation Council will invite people to join the #Repower campaign, a national movement of communities who want to accelerate the transition to renewable energy needed to protect the climate, nature, and farm productivity.