Science for survival in Australian-first climate textbook
Published:17 January 2023
CQU Adjunct Professor Steve Turton.
In the past three decades of climate wars, the Australian conversation about our changing world has been dominated by debate about the science.
Queensland-based climate scientist Professor Steve Turton is determined to cut through the noise, and urgently focus on survival.
The CQUniversity Adjunct Professor in Environmental Geography has just published Surviving the Climate Crisis: Australian Perspectives and Solutions, the first textbook to offer local and practical approaches to the global challenge.
While climate experts describe the book as a “tour-de-force” at “the frontlines of the climate crisis”, Prof Turton says he aimed to fill knowledge gaps for Australians, with information relevant to Australian conditions.
“Australia has been identified as a climate change hotspot – we are already seeing the impacts of changing climate in worsening weather disasters, and all our major industries are considered vulnerable or highly vulnerable to adverse climate impacts,” he explains.
“We know with very high confidence that Australian land areas have already warmed by around 1.4 degrees between 1910 and 2020, and continuing increases will mean a huge range of disastrous weather impacts for Australia."
Prof Turton’s book amasses the concerning projections, such as triple the number of days above 35 degrees by 2070 for key towns and cities, longer and more intense heatwaves, and double the number of extreme fire risk days in south-eastern Australia.
The climate scientist, who has spent the past 40 years researching across Australia, says survival relies on planned adaptation alongside carbon emissions mitigation.
“Our state, territory and federal governments have committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, but even if net-zero global emissions are achieved by 2050, our country will still be locked into more climate change and extreme weather events over the coming decades,” he says.
“The shift to renewable energy sources must also ensure climate resilient energy sources, so we can have reliable power in the face of increasingly severe weather events.
“That should be a national adaptation priority – but local adaptation is also possible, for instance improving micro-climates in urban developments, by planting trees for shading and breeze corridors, to lessen the climate impacts.
“Other adaptation priorities will need to focus on coastal urban areas at risk of sea-level rise, increasing risk for riverine and coastal flooding, heat stress to human communities, bushfire risk and water scarcity during droughts.”
Prof Turton says his book is aimed at advanced students who might not have a science background, to ensure climate challenges can be widely understood, and to prompt creative, innovative thinking about survival solutions.
Surviving the Climate Crisis: Australian Perspectives and Solutions is published by Routledge, and is available now.