YOU can forget about climate change being a future phenomenon, according to Professor Lesley Hughes.
“It’s a now phenomenon,” she said during her visit to Bathurst on Monday.
She says the effects of climate change are already being seen in Australia – from more intense droughts to a longer bushfire season – and those impacts are only set to grow so “the status quo is not an option”.
Professor Hughes, a Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Macquarie University and a former federal Climate Commissioner, gave a lunchtime presentation on Monday hosted by Bathurst Community Climate Action Network and introduced by Councillor Jess Jennings.
She was brought to Bathurst courtesy of the Climate Council, whose Cities Power Partnership recently added Bathurst as a participant.
Speaking after her presentation, Professor Hughes was at pains to emphasise that the climate had already changed and would continue to change based on what was being put into the atmosphere now.
“What we will get for the next few decades is already on the way now,” she said.
Professor Hughes said farmers were on the frontline when it came to climate change.
“Agriculture is completely dependent on climate,” she said. “You grow what you grow where you grow it because of the climate.”
She said Australian farmers had proven themselves to be adaptable and would need to be adaptable again.
Adding renewable energy to their farms – “mining the sun and wind” – was a “no-brainer”, she said.
She said local councils, meanwhile, needed to make decisions now about their street trees, about what sort of houses were being built and where they were being built – with the knowledge that temperatures were only set to get hotter.
Told there had been criticism locally about the density of houses and lack of green spaces in some of Bathurst’s new subdivisions, Professor Hughes said a new direction had to be set.
“You can’t have the same sort of designs from 50 years ago,” she said.
Cr Jennings said scientific modelling showed Bathurst’s future climate was set to be similar to the present climate in Albury or Adelaide as temperatures rise.
”Bathurst can expect a 330 per cent increase in the number of days per year over 35 degrees Celsius on average,” he said.
He said the city should be looking at medium density around the heritage conservation area to limit the housing sprawl on the edges.
An example of what Bathurst should try to avoid was Canberra, which he said was about 60 kilometres these days from end to end.
“I don’t see that is the method we should be following,” he said.
Under the free Cities Power Partnership, councils that sign up pledge to take key actions in renewable energy, efficiency, transport and working together.