As climate change intensifies, more (not fewer) natural areas will be needed to protect nature, to store carbon, and to benefit society. We can’t afford more losses. We need to reduce or remove threats to natural areas.
The threats we know – clearing, pollution, housing development, unsustainable harvesting, weeds, over-grazing, feral animals and unsuitable fire regimes – will continue to threaten natural areas, regardless of climate change. We will always have to deal with these hard issues. Under a new climate, most of our work will be “business as usual”.
Climate change does not make any of this work less relevant; it makes it more important than ever. Intact ecosystems, large connected patches, and large populations of native plants and animals have the greatest potential to adapt to a new climate.
The best way to help nature adapt to a new climate is to help nature survive in the current climate.
As climate change intensifies and Australia’s population grows, natural areas will experience new threats, many caused by people. For example, engineering works that are designed to protect coastal suburbs from rising sea levels could well damage marine ecosystems.
To address big social and environmental problems, we will (ultimately) need to find the types of solutions that social scientists call transforming solutions rather than reacting responses.
Transforming solutions seek new ways to think about and address problems, in ways that aren’t tied to past practices. By contrast, reactive responses create quick, short-term fixes that lock in past practices.
The quest for transforming solutions is not naive or over-optimistic; in the end, all of our big responses to climate change will be transformative. Our goal is to get there sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, we don’t need to “solve” every long-term problem now, or anguish because we cannot. With our local communities we can develop adaptation pathways: plans that describe future “triggering” events (like big floods) and which suggest ways to respond after each event occurs.
Adapting to a changing climate will always be a “process of adjustments over time” rather than a problem we can solve in one hit.
Banner image: Monitoring feral deer populations. Credit Federation Training students.
This content is adapted with permission from text written by Dr Ian Lunt for the VicNature2050 booklet 10 things we can all do to help nature adapt to a new climate.
VicNature2050 was organised by the Victorian National Parks Association, The Royal Society of Victoria and The University of Melbourne’s Bio21 Institute, and supported by the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria.
Other organisations who have participated in the VicNature2050 partnership include La Trobe University; Deakin University; Greening Australia; and the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research.