Impacts of climate changeIndicator
Climate is impacting on the ACT’s community, economy and the natural environment. Observed changes include reduced inflows to water storages, increased tree mortality, greater fire danger, and more algal blooms in Canberra’s lakes.
Indicator assessment legend
Environmental condition is healthy across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have negligible impact on environmental condition/human health.
Environmental condition is neither positive or negative and may be variable across the ACT, OR pressure likely to have limited impact on environmental condition/human health.
Environmental condition is under significant stress, OR pressure likely to have significant impact on environmental condition/ human health.
Data is insufficient to make an assessment of status and trends.
Adequate high-quality evidence and high level of consensus
Limited evidence or limited consensus
Evidence and consensus too low to make an assessment
Assessments of status, trends and data quality are not appropriate for the indicator
This section assesses the current impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems, biodiversity, the urban environment, and human health and wellbeing.
Condition and trends
Attributing environmental changes to climate change alone is difficult due to the range of factors that affect the environment. However, available data suggest the following impacts from climate change:
- reductions in rainfall have led to a long-term trend in reduced inflows to water storages, with all but two years below the long-term average between 2001–02 and 2018–19. The total inflows during 2018–19 were the lowest since records began in 1912 (see Indicator HS5: Water resources).
- climate change is causing tree dieback (see Indicator B4: Extent and condition of native vegetation).
- increased mortality of urban trees (see Chapter 4: Urban trees in the ACT – nature in the city).
- higher temperatures have led to an increase in the average and maximum Fire Danger Index and an increase in the number of days with a very high Fire Danger Rating (see Indicator F2: Fire risk).
- the occurrence of dust storms due to higher temperatures and reduced rainfall are affecting air quality (see Indicator A1: Compliance with air quality standards).
- fuel reduction burns undertaken to manage increasing fire danger is also having an impact on air quality (see Indicator A1: Compliance with air quality standards).
- increase in cyanobacterial blooms in Canberra’s lakes, reducing amenity and recreational activities (see Indicator W4: Recreational water quality).
There will be many other impacts which are not captured by data obtained for State of the Environment reporting. This is particularly the case for subtle changes that occur over long periods. For example, it is widely accepted that climate change is having a significant impact on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and the biodiversity they support. The repercussions of climate change on human health and wellbeing are also well documented.Watts, M.A. et.al., 2018, The 2018 Report of the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Shaping the Health of Nations for Centuries to Come, The Lancet, 392(10163): 2479–2514.
It is also difficult to determine climate change impacts at the local level, particularly for the natural environment. This is because the severity of changes depends on a range of factors including landscape types, elevation, and the sensitivity and resilience of ecosystems. This means that the implications of climate change will differ across the ACT with some areas and ecosystem types more affected than others.
Despite this, the broad impacts that climate change has on the ACT region are well known and are shown in the following figures.