South Gippsland communities are worried about the potential danger bushfire season could bring due to extreme weather worsened by climate change.

By Shae Danilo

THE latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released on Monday, August 9, letting the world know the dire situation we’re in.

The report offers criticism and recommended solutions – but climate action is needed now more than ever before it is too late.

The IPCC reports the global temperature is warmer than it has ever been, and human activity has increased temperatures by almost 1.2 degrees Celsius – and the chances of crossing 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next decade is very possible.

According to the IPCC report, scientists are observing changes in our atmosphere’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system.

Many of the changes seen across the globe are unprecedented and have not been seen in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years.

The sea levels continue to rise, more intense rainfall and flooding are occurring, marine heatwaves are common, and so are bushfires.

Jessica Harrison, co-founder of Bass Coast Climate Action Network (BCCAN), expressed her concerns for the planet.

“I’m seriously worried, and it’s so scary to think about future generations and what the future holds.

“Australia experienced awful bushfires last year, and we were so lucky that they didn’t burn everything around us down. But this summer it could happen again, and the fires could hit the places that didn’t burn,” Ms Harrison said.

The IPCC reports strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.

When climate action is taken, air quality would quickly improve, but it could still take 20 to 30 years to see a stabilisation in the global temperature.

Many South Gippsland community members are frustrated at governments.

“The IPCC didn’t mention one of the main driving factors into climate change – capitalism,” said Ms Harrison.

“The council makes it so hard for local farmers to sell locally, and food miles are a real thing.

“Selling locally not only supports locals, but it reduces farmer’s carbon footprint,” she said.

Climate and conservation activist Dave Sutton is also worried about the future but is trying to stay hopeful.

“I’m optimistic of change because there are so many people doing great things across the South Gippsland area,” Mr Sutton said.

“I’m not surprised by the IPCC report, and I think everyone has to take ownership and think about our emissions and find a way to fix the issue,” he said.

Groundswell is a giving circle, created in response to the climate crisis.

The team at Groundswell is accelerating action and supporting solutions by funding high-impact climate advocacy in Australia.

Farmers for Climate Action received a $40,000 grant from Groundswell to assist their goal to build a movement of farming and rural communities on the frontlines of climate change to advocate together for solutions.

Farmers for Climate Action works across the agricultural and climate sectors to manage risks and find opportunities to adapt and mitigate climate change.

“While distressing, this report shows there is still a narrow path to curbing climate change and this rests on global action to reduce emissions. In Australia, this means the federal government must commit to net-zero emissions no later than 2050,” Farmers for Climate Action chair, Charlie Prell, said.

South Gippsland farmers Deb and Fergus O’Connor are a part of the Farmers for Climate Action community and believe the government is doing the bare minimum.

“Our main concern is that the federal government is not doing enough. Australia is being laughed at by the rest of the world because we are so far behind in terms of a climate change action plan,” said Fergus.

“In a way, COVID-19 aided the government because they could cover up the pending climate crisis. The government is making it all about their next election and getting voted for, but they need to focus on climate change.”

Deb and Fergus run a beef farm near Berrys Creek.

Deb has always been aware of climate change and Fergus became aware of climate change after seeing the day-to-day impacts in his management of the farm.

“We do rotational farming, which is quite important, so our paddocks always have some cover. We’ve planted over 18,000 trees since buying the farm in 2012.

“We have also fenced off and revegetated waterways to keep them clean and active – our cows have their own natural spring dam,” Deb said.

The Bass Coast Shire Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019.

“We have developed a Climate Change Action Plan together with our community, establishing a strong vision and plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2030,” Mayor Cr Brett Tessari said.

“We are leading the way, as one of 46 Victorian councils to form the largest ever emissions reduction project by local government in Australia, switching to 100 per cent renewable energy.”

The IPCC report shows human actions still have the potential to determine the future course of climate – evidence is clear that CO2 is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate.

Common regional changes

• Australian land areas have warmed by around 1.4°C and New Zealand land areas by around 1.1°C between ~1910 and 2020 (very high confidence), and annual temperature changes have emerged above natural variability in all land regions (high confidence).

• Heat extremes have increased, cold extremes have decreased, and these trends are projected to continue (high confidence).

• Relative sea level rose at a rate higher than the global average in recent decades; sandy shorelines have retreated in many locations; relative sea level rise is projected to continue in the 21st century and beyond, contributing to increased coastal flooding and shoreline retreat along sandy coasts throughout Australasia (high confidence).

• Snow cover and depth have decreased and are projected to decrease further (high confidence).

• Frequency of extreme fire weather days has increased, and the fire season has become longer since 1950 at many locations (medium confidence). The intensity, frequency and duration of fire weather events are projected to increase throughout Australia (high confidence) and New Zealand (medium confidence).

• Heavy rainfall and river floods are projected to increase (medium confidence).

• An increase in marine heatwaves and ocean acidity is observed and projected (high confidence).

• Enhanced warming in the East Australian Current region of the Tasman Sea is observed and projected (very high confidence).

• Sandstorms and dust storms are projected to increase throughout Australia (medium confidence).

• Changes in several climatic impact-drivers (e.g., heatwaves, droughts, floods; see Introduction fact sheet) would be more widespread at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels.