The Territory’s lifestyle, the economy and our globally significant conservation values are threatened by climate change.
Climate models indicate global carbon pollution levels must fall by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent the world’s climate from overheating and seriously damaging ecosystems, economies and communities.
This is a massive undertaking.
The amount of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in Earth’s atmosphere has been rising steadily since the Industrial Revolution started in the mid to late eighteenth century.
The concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from about 280 parts per million (ppm) in the late 1700s to about 390 ppm, and continues to rise by about 2 ppm each year.
Scientists predict that without very significant cuts in global carbon pollution, carbon dioxide levels will continue to increase to between 450 ppm and 650 ppm between the middle and end of this century.
Computer models of the future climate indicate these levels of greenhouse gases would increase global average air temperatures by perhaps three to four degrees Celsius, with much larger temperature increases in some regions, such as in the Arctic.
Such changes would have dramatic consequences for the world’s ecosystems and species, our economy and human health and wellbeing.
Climate change impacts in the Territory
In the Northern Territory, climate change will affect our health, our homes, infrastructure, ecosystems and species.
The CSIRO estimates that on current global carbon pollution trajectories, the number of days that Darwin experiences air temperatures above 35oC will rise from the current 11 days to up to 69 by 2030 and up to 308 by 2070.
These hotter temperatures, together with humid weather, is likely to make it harder for people with impaired health, and those less able to afford to adapt of shelter from the changing climate.
Higher temperatures will make it harder for land managers to control wildfires, causing greater risks to the safety of firefighters and the wider community.
A rise in sea levels of 1.1 metres would place at risk of inundation several hundred buildings in Darwin, and over 2000 kilometres of roads. Sea levels in Darwin Harbour have been rising at an average 7mm per year for the past 20 years.
Warming of the Arafura and Timor Seas, and Gulf of Carpentaria, is predicted to cause more damaging cyclones and storm surges around the Top End.