Intensifying climate change is a significant risk to Australia's natural wonders, putting its A$40 billion (US$31.5 billion) tourism industry under threat, according to a report released by the Climate Council.
The “Icons at Risk: Climate Change Threatening Australian Tourism” report shows Australia’s top five natural tourist attractions could be hit by extreme heatwaves, increasing temperatures, rising sea-levels, coastal flooding and catastrophic coral bleaching.
These attractions are its iconic beaches, wilderness areas, national parks, which are the most vulnerable hotspots, while native wildlife is also at risk, said Climate Councillor and ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes.
“Some of our country’s most popular natural destinations, including our beaches could become ‘no-go zones’ during peak holiday periods and seasons, with the potential for extreme temperatures to reach up to 50 degrees in Sydney and Melbourne,” Prof Hughes said.
She noted that the tourism industry under threat was worth more than A$40 billion dollars in 2016, drawing more than 8 million international visitors. It is Australia’s second most valuable export earner, employing a workforce of more than 580,000 people, over 15 times more people than coal mining.
Call for Federal Government action
Climate Council Acting CEO and Head of Research, Dr Martin Rice said the Federal Government’s Tourism 2020 Plan has missed the boat when it comes to protecting Australia’s natural attractions from worsening climate change. This is when there are moves by individual tourism operations including hotels, resorts, airlines and even Australian zoos that are taking action to tackle rising pollution.
“Without credible climate policy that cuts Australia’s rising carbon pollution levels, the impacts of climate change will only intensify and accelerate across the country over the coming decades,” he said.
“States and territories, local governments and individual tourism operators should be congratulated for rolling up their sleeves and doing their bit to slash pollution by embracing renewable energy and storage technology.Now, for the sake of our iconic attractions, we just need the Federal Government to do the same.”
Key findings of the report include:
- Australia’s top five natural tourist attractions (beaches, wildlife, the Great Barrier Reef, wilderness and national parks) are all at risk of climate change.
- Beaches are Australia’s #1 tourist destination and are threatened by rising sea levels.
- Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Cairns, Darwin, Fremantle and Adelaide are projected to have a least a 100 fold increase in the frequency of coastal flooding events (with a 0.5m sea level rise).
- The Red Centre (a landscape of desert plains around the famed Ayers Rock and some of aboriginal territory’s most sacred sites) could experience more than 100 days above 35ºC annually, by 2030. By 2090, there could be more than 160 days per year over 35ºC.
- The Top End (the northernmost section of the Northern Territory) could see an increase in hot days (temperatures above 35ºC) from 11 (1981-2010 average) to 43 by 2030, and up to 265 by 2090.
- Ski tourism: Declines of maximum snow depth and decreasing season length at Australian ski resorts have been reported for over 25 years, increasing the need for artificial snow-making.
The full report can be downloaded here.