What is Climate Change?
“Climate change” refers to any significant change in the “average weather” of the Earth over long periods of time (hundreds to thousands to millions of years). Climate change can involve cooling or warming. “Average weather” includes temperature, rainfall, humidity, storm frequencies and wind patterns.
The Earth’s climate is always constantly changing! Some changes have been so severe that they have caused mass extinction of animals and plants. Global average temperature is currently approximately 15ºC. In the past, scientists believe that average temperatures have been as warm as 27ºC and as low as 7ºC.
Current usage of “Climate Change” refers to what is going on right now to the modern climate. The main concern is why our current climate is changing at such an accelerated and rapid pace.
What is Global Warming?
“Global warming” is the term used to describe the increase in the Earth’s average air and ocean temperatures that has taken place since the mid-20th century (1900’s). It also refers to the prediction that the temperature will continue to increase into the future.
Scientists are concerned that the natural fluctuation in climate has been overtaken by a rapid warming caused by human activities (e.g. burning of fossil fuels and deforestation). Temperature measurements taken around the world in recent decades along with studies of tree rings, corals, and ice cores, show that average global temperatures have risen since the industrial revolution began and has accelerated over the past few decades.
Based on some evidence, scientists predict the Earth’s temperature will increase 1-3.5°C) over the next 100 years.
Is Global Warming Real? Are Temperatures Rising?
Average earth temperatures are increasing. Global surface air temperatures have increased about 0.5°C since the late 1800’s. Current climate models predict a global temperature increase of 1.4 – 5.8°C by 2100.
Most scientists agree that this increase is a result of man’s activities on earth – primarily the increased release of large amounts of greenhouse gases which have created the greenhouse effect.
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
Our atmosphere is made up of gases (e.g. nitrogen, oxygen, methane, CO2 and water vapour) that surround Earth like a “blanket”. These greenhouse gases form a barrier between the earth’s atmosphere and outer space – they absorb radiation (heat from the sun) and reduce the amount of heat that escapes back into space. This is the Greenhouse Effect.
It is essential to have some of these greenhouse gases, otherwise all the sun’s energy and warmth would leak out of the atmosphere and Earth would be too cold to sustain life (approximately 20 – 30ºC colder than it is now). However, as this ‘blanket’ gets thicker and thicker with more gases, more and more heat is trapped, which results in increased temperatures on Earth. Around Venus, for example, the excessive build-up of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere has led to an average surface temperature of 500ºC!!
Human activities release greenhouse gases into the atmospheres (e.g. carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels). Greenhouse gas concentrations have increased significantly in the past few hundred years. The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) has risen by more than 30% since the 1800’s.
What Gases are Considered Greenhouse Gases?
There are many gases that are classified as greenhouse gases. The most common ones are:
- carbon dioxide
- nitrous oxide
All of these come from modern industry, agriculture and the burning of fossil fuels.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
A “carbon footprint” is the amount of greenhouse gases produced (measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide) for a person, organisation, company, nation or activity. It gives an indication of the level of impact of that person, company or activity in contributing to global warming.
A carbon footprint audit can be used to identify areas that can be addressed and mitigated.
You can eliminate your carbon footprint when travelling with Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises by contributing $1.00 per person to our Offset Program. This can be paid at check in or on the vessels, should you choose.
What Changes Are Predicted For North Queensland & the Great Barrier Reef?
Globally, scientists predict and increase in extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, heat waves, droughts). Changes will vary greatly from region to region.
In our region, the tropics of Queensland Australia, scientists predict the following changes:
- More and longer lasting heat waves
- More rainfall & associated flooding
- More intense tropical storms and cyclones
- Rising sea levels and associated coastal flooding
- Warmer ocean water temperatures – leading to more coral bleaching events, reduced marine life health (due to heat stress), reduced biodiversity (heat intolerant species become locally extinct).
- Increased ocean acidity – will make it harder for shellfish, plankton and coral to produce their shells and hard skeletons.
What You Can Do To Help?
Be energy conscience – reduce gas emissions. Every little bit will help the environment!
- Turn off lights and computers when they are not in use,
- Use mass transport – public transportation or carpooling,
- Driving less – walk or bicycle more,
- Recycle everything you can,
- Minimise what you throw away,
- Buy recycled goods,
- Buy energy efficient appliances,
- Buy fuel efficient vehicles and engines,
- Buy locally grown foods (to cut back on truck transport),
- Buy “green” electricity from a company selling power generated from renewable sources (e.g. wind, hydro, solar).
- Vote and support political candidates who are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Encourage your current state and national legislators to support legislation to slow climate change.
- Offset your travel and other activities by contributing to a recognised Carbon Offset program
- Plant some trees on your property.
By choosing to travel with an Eco Certified operator you are already helping to reduce your carbon footorint and assist the fight against Climate Change!
What is Big Cat doing to curb climate change?
There are many ways that companies can curb the amount of greenhouse gases that they emit into the atmosphere.
Innovations – Big Cat Green Island Cruises is taking a leading role in investigating and introducing new technology and innovative strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the Great Barrier Reef. To date the company has reduced fuel emissions by approximately 30%.
Big Cat takes this obligation very seriously, and has been recognised for our efforts by being awarded Advanced Ecocertification status (by Ecotourism Australia), and High Standard Operator (by the Great Barrie Reef Marine Park Authority). We are also a member of the Planet Safe Partnership (Tourism North Queensland).
Climate Change Policy – Our Company’s Climate Change Policy considers all areas of operation. Big Cat is committed to:
- Using energy-efficient office equipment,
- Using recycled and recyclable materials wherever possible,
- Minimising and recycling waste,
- Purchasing ‘green’ energy from renewable sources,
- Using low emission vehicles & vessels,
- Encouraging employees to drive less and use alternative transport methods (walking, bicycles),
- Using local products and services to minimise transport times,
We believe that our international travellers today are very aware of environmental issues and strive to minimise their impacts by selecting tourism businesses that are committed to polluting less and contributing more to preservation of the coral reef and its amazing marine life.
For additional practical ways to lessen your impact on global warming and assist climate change action:
- Worldwatch’s Guide to Consumer Items: http://www.worldwatch.org/new-guide-helps-consumers-make-wise-buys
- Green Ribbon Pledge: http://www.greenribbonpledge.org/
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/zoning-permits-and-plans/environmental-assessment-management
- Australian Government Department of Climate Change: www.climatechange.gov.au/
- Planet Safe Partnership: http://www.cowry.com.au/planetsafe/index.php
- Eco Tourism: www.ecotourism.org.au/
- Climate Action Australia: http://www.tourism.australia.com/industry-advice/sustainable-tourism.aspx