The 2 Degrees Project is a new WWF initiative that will help show (in degrees of separation) just how close Australia is to climate change. It is the first of its kind ever conducted.
By connecting to the 2 Degrees Project - to tell and share compelling climate change stories, you will be taking part in the first project that aims to show that every Australian is, at most, two degrees away from climate change.
Some people think climate change is an issue threatening polar bears or impacting other people in other parts of the world. But scientists have found that it is happening here in Australia and it is happening now.
Some people also think it’s too hard or too late to act. But it’s not! Australia has the solutions, the resources, skills and knowhow to solve this problem.
So how will this project make a real impact?
Australians are seeing climate change impacts in their lives, work, and health; in their backyards and neighbourhoods, and many are involved in the solutions.
By sharing the experiences of experts and everyday Australians, like you, we will show that climate change is not just a phenomenon happening to other people in other parts of the world.
And it will remind us that we need to act to limit global warming temperature rises to well below 2 degrees to hold off the worst climate impacts.
If more people know this, if more people connect to this project, then together we’re more likely to find solutions.
WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. That includes conserving biological diversity, such as priority places like the Great Barrier Reef and protecting our precious wildlife.
Scientists predict that a global temperature rise of between 1.5 - 2.5 °C (above pre-industrial levels) could result in between 20-30% of the Earth’s animals and plants disappearing because they can’t adapt fast enough.
Therefore a critical part of our mission is also to take urgent, positive action to combat climate change as the planet heats up at a much faster rate than ever before and our oceans become more acidic.
Based on scientific advice, WWF advocates for global warming to be limited to well below 2°C to avoid the worst social, economic, health and environmental impacts.
So you’ve taken part in the 2 Degrees Project – but you want to do more?
We need your help to ensure our Government supports scientific pollution reduction targets and to make a clean renewable future a reality, which will grow the jobs of the future and reduce the impact on our precious wildlife.
Source: Climate Commission 2013 "Critical Choices in a Critical Decade"
Today, because of excess greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, and from clearing land, the planet’s air and oceans are heating up at a much faster rate than ever before and our oceans are becoming more acidic. Temperature rises can appear small, but small increases translate into big changes for the world’s climate and natural environment.
Global Warming and climate change
Australia is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate.While we’ve previously seen natural climate variations and extreme weather such as fire , floods and droughts in Australia, there are some large-scale changes happening mow that we can directly attribute to a human-induced climate change. These changes include increases in average air1 and ocean temperature2, and sea level rise3, and loss of Artic sea ice4.
Plus certain extreme events (e.g. extreme heat or flooding events) have already become more frequent or intense5. We also know that all weather events are now occurring in a global climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago, and is warming further, changing the conditions for all weather, including extreme weather.6
There is a significant amount of international and Australian research
suggesting a trend towards a more extreme climate in the coming decades (noting regional variations and varying levels of certainty with respect to some types of extreme weather). These changes threaten jobs, agricultural production, water supplies, infrastructure, industries, human lives and, ultimately, the survival of species and entire ecosystems.
There is a significant amount of international and Australian research suggesting a trend towards a more extreme climate in the coming decades (noting regional variations and varying levels of certainty with respect to some types of extreme weather).
These changes threaten jobs, agricultural production, water supplies, infrastructure, industries, human lives and, ultimately, the survival of species and entire ecosystems.
For more information about climate change, particularly in Australia, visit:
In about 100 years, average surface air temperatures on Earth have already warmed by 0.74 degrees Celcius (°C)7, and by around 1°C in Australia8. The years 2001–2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record9.
Globally, governments have agreed to limit warming to 2°C above pre‐industrial levels10, however even a 2°C warming will have significant impact on our economy, health, society and environment. For example large
parts of the Great Barrier Reef will be destroyed11 affecting our tourism industry, jobs and marine life. Our aim should be to limit warming to well below 2°C.
While the global goal is to limit warming to 2°C, a recent report prepared for the World Bank12 shows that the world is on the path to a 4°C rise by the end of this century, and that current greenhouse gas emission
pledges will not reduce this by much.
The report does note that a 4°C rise is not inevitable and that with greater country ambition and action, warming could still be held to 2°C.
Australia can and should do its bit. Australia is an exceptionally large polluter. We are the highest per person carbon polluter among all developed countries13, the 15th highest overall polluter and our emissions
are still rising14. As a developed wealthy nation that has benefited from industrialisation, Australia has a responsibility to contribute to reducing global emissions.
Extreme events occur naturally and weather records are broken from time to time. However, climate change is influencing these events and record-‐breaking weather is becoming far more common around the world. For example,
Australia’s summer over 2012 and 2013 has been defined by extreme weather events across much of the continent, including record-‐breaking heat, severe bushfires, extreme rainfall and damaging flooding.
Source: Climate Commission 2013, 'The Angry Summer'
In just 90 days, 123 weather records were broken. According to the Climate Commission extreme heatwaves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the summer were made worse by climate change.15
Heatwaves ‐ According to the Climate Commission, the duration and frequency of heatwaves in Australia have increased, and the hottest days during a heatwave have become even hotter. A severe heatwave, unusual in length,
coverage and severity, affected 70% of Australia in late December 2012 and early January 2013. Temperature records were set in every state and territory and the national average daily temperature reached unprecedented levels.
According to the Climate Commission it is virtually certain that extreme hot weather will continue to become even more frequent and severe around the globe, including Australia, over the coming decades.16
Extreme rainfall and drought ‐ According to the Bureau of Meteorology, one of the most consistent results from climate modelling has been the predicted ‘intensification’ of the water cycle in association
with global warming,17 meaning more heavy rainfall and more frequent and severe droughts.18, 19
Droughts are likely to become more severe due to rising temperatures and warmer conditions leading to increased drying associated with higher levels of evaporation.20 Similarly heavy rainfall and flooding is also
becoming more severe as higher ocean surface temperatures leads to greater evaporation and because the atmosphere is warmer it can hold more water vapour.21
However scientists note that these changes will vary significantly between different parts of Australia and between seasons.22 According to the Bureau of Meteorology, droughts are expected to become more frequent in southern
Australia.23 For example the Climate Commission has reported that over the last 40 years much of eastern, southern and Southwestern Australia has become drier.24 Whereas, Northwest Australia has experienced asignificant increase
in the rate of heavy rainfall events.25
Bushfires - Recent decades have seen an upward trend in the bushfire risk rating across much of Australia.26 The trend towards drier and warmer conditions on the ground as a result of climate change is projected to increase the risk of bushfires.
According to one study, there could be as much as 65 per cent increase in the number of ‘extreme’ fire days by 2020, compared in 1990.27 The risk is likely to be higher in southeast Australia.28
Cyclones ‐ There is significant uncertainty about whether the intensity and/or frequency of cyclones in Australia have changed in recent decades. Researchers at the CSIRO suggest that climate change projections
indicate that globally there will be less tropical cyclones in overall number, but that a greater number of particularly intense cyclones will occur.29, 30> More intense cyclones could result in higher levels of
damage to ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef, as well as infrastructure, agriculture etc. However more research is required to reduce the levels of uncertainty around these projections.31
The rise in sea levels32 is caused by expansion of the oceans due to heat and by the addition of water to the oceans as a result of the melting and discharge of ice from mountain glaciers and ice caps and from the much larger
Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
Around 85% of Australia’s population is settled along coastlines, often in large cities with extensive infrastructure, making sea‐level rise potentially one of the most severe long-‐term impacts.
According to the CSIRO, the average global sea level rose by 210mm between 1880 and 2009, and is continuing to rise at a fairly steady rate of just over 3mm/year.33 Researchers believe this rate of
rise is contributing to the flooding problems of low-‐lying island states like Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives.34
Erosion of the land on which buildings and infrastructure are built, and of beaches;
Saltwater intrusion into aquifers, deltas and estuaries.
Global warming also has significant impact on our ocean marine life37 through:
increase in water temperature, which causes coral bleaching, interferes with marine animal growth, reproduction, and ability to survive;
changes to ocean currents, which effects marine animal distribution, access to food sources and reproduction; and
acidification, which results from more carbon dioxide being absorbed by the ocean, and decreases the production of calcium carbonate which some corals and animals like shell fish, rely on to grow.
According to the authors of the Marine Climate Change: Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for 201238, there is evidence of extensive southward movements of tropical fish39 and plankton species
in southeast Australia, declines in abundance of temperate species40, and the first signs of ocean acidification impacts on marine species with shells.41
According to the Climate Change Commission, climate change is one of the most serious threats to Australians’ health, especially for those in our community who are already most vulnerable.
The risks to human health from climate change include42:
injuries and fatalities related to heatwaves and other severe weather events;
spread of some infectious diseases from rising temperatures and changes in rainfall;
water and food contamination from rising temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and extreme events;
respiratory allergies like asthma, which are aggravated from increased allergens (pollens and spores) in the air;
exacerbated respiratory and heart diseases in response to increases in some air pollutants;
mental health problems in those experiencing physical and economic impacts; and
the health consequences of population dislocation as some regions become uninhabitable.
For example, a 2011 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers states that heatwaves kill more Australians than any other natural disasters, and predicts that by 2050 an extreme heat event in Melbourne alone could typically
kill over one thousand people in a few days. Very hot days and heatwaves put substantial pressure on our bodies—leading to lethargy, heatstroke, renal (kidney) failure, heart-‐ attacks and even death.
Climate variability is not new for most Australian agriculture and many farmers have managed to adapt to a highly variable climate, coping with droughts, heatwaves, frosts, bushfires, and flooding.
However, climate change is presenting new challenges for farmers including changing rainfall patterns and increasing risk of extreme heat and bushfire weather.
According to The Climate Commission, water demand and availability will be the most critical factor for future agricultural productivity, especially in irrigation areas. But higher temperatures and changes in the frequency and/or
intensity of extremes events such as droughts, floods and bushfires will also be important.
For example, increasing temperatures are likely to have adverse effects on the productivity for beef, dairy, sheep, wool and other livestock industries43 as a result of increasing the frequency of heat
stress which impacts on things like appetite, milk production, growth, reproduction, and mortality.44
Fruit, vegetables, including wine grapes are highly sensitive to temperature, including extreme heat, and rainfall changes.45 As the climate shifts, some crops will not be able to be grown where they are grown now. In
southern Australia, France and Germany for example grape harvesting has advanced 8 days per decade.46
There are many immediate threats on many animals and places, from urbanisation and land clearing, to feral animals and human hunting. But the reality is that unless we act now to significantly cut our
carbon pollution, climate change will result in the death of many animals.
Scientists have estimated that a 2°C to 3°C rise in global mean temperature (above pre-industrial temperatures) may see 20-30% of the Earth’s species disappear.47
We have already lost the golden toad and the several species of harlequin frogs of Costa Rica, with climate change a key factor.48
Animals such as the polar bear, orang‐utans, tigers, pandas, marine turtles, Carnaby black cockatoos, black‐flanked rock wallaby, are already at risk of extinction. The impacts of climate change
will increase this risk.49, 50 This would be a significant loss to the world and Australia.
Some changes are gradual like the effects of warming ocean or air temperature forcing species to move to cooler areas, which in the case of the critically endangered mountain pygmy possum, don’t exist.51
Or changes could occur far more abruptly, driven by an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as bushfires, droughts, cyclones and heatwaves.52 Extreme events have larger
impacts on many species because they test the limits of species’ physiological capacities.
The climate change problem is well understood and so are the solutions. To lessen the risks to our economy, environment and our way of life, we must substantially reduce the amount of carbon pollution
(greenhouse gases) that we produce here in Australia and around the world. This will require a transition away from relying on fossil fuels, like coal and oil, to cleaner and renewable forms of energy, becoming more energy
efficient as well as reducing agriculture and industrial emissions.
Australia has already begun the transition, Tasmania produces around 70% of its electricity from renewable sources, mainly hydro and wind53, and South Australia reached its target of generating 26% of electricity from renewable
energy in 2011, three years ahead of schedule.54 Communities have started investing in renewable energy, like Hepburn Wind55 and in May this year Australia reached 1 million homes with solar panels.56
Global investments in 2011 in renewable energy rose by 17% to a record USD$257 billion. This increase was double the figure for total investments in 2007.57 The top five countries for total investment
in renewable energy in 2011 were China, United States, Germany, Italy and India.58
More can and should be done in Australia.
We need to do things like become more energy efficient, make greater investment in clean technology and energy like renewable energy, and retain a price on carbon pollution to create an incentive for cleaner solutions.
Australia has the resources, skills and knowledge to shift to a clean economy that produces less pollution, new industries, more jobs, healthy children and a safer planet for our wildlife.
Meet the science advisers and story review panel, who have volunteered to review the climate stories submitted to the 2 Degrees Project to ensure the Project is underpinned by science.
Many of the stories are reflecting personal experiences, so the role of the scientists is to review the stories to ensure that they are consistent with the science of climate change,
and where necessary provide comments to clarify the science and/or provide additional information.
These scientists have dedicated their careers to better understand the science of climate change, its impacts and options for adaptation, to inform and provide guidance to governments
and the public. Each of the scientists has different areas of expertise and fields of study from climate change predictions, to impacts on our oceans, our precious wildlife and human health.
Science Advisory Members
Dr Lesley Hughes
I am an ecologist in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and conduct research on the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems.
I am also a Commissioner for the federal Climate Commission, the co-convenor of the Terrestrial Biodiversity Adaptation Research Network, the Land Sector Carbon and
Biodiversity Board, Chair of the Tasmanian Climate Action Council, a member of Climate Scientists Australia and the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists.
I was also a lead author for the UN’s IPCC Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports.
Dr Andy Pitman
I am Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Climate Systems Science. My research focus is on terrestrial processes in global and
regional climate modelling, model evaluation and earth systems approaches to understanding climate change.
I am also a member of the Academy of Science’s National Committee for Earth System science, a member of the Science Steering Committee for the Independent Geosphere
Biosphere Program iLEAPS committee and the World Climate Research programme’s GLASS steering Committee. I am also a member of the New South Wales Ministerial Council
on Climate Change.
I was also a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third, Fourth and Fifth Assessment Reports, and have published more than 120 papers in peer reviewed
journals and authored 20 book chapters.
Science Review Panel
Dr Alex San Gupta
I am a research scientist and lecturer at the Climate Change Research Centre (CCRC) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).
My work revolves around the role of the ocean in the climate system, how the ocean influences regional climate and what global climate models tell us about the future of the
ocean. Recently I have been using climate models to understand changes to the Tropical Pacific and Southern Oceans in a warming world. In particular, can we trust these models
and what robust changes do the models project for the future.
Some recent projects include:
the ability of climate models to correctly simulate climatic conditions in the Tropical Pacific & what they project for the future
how and why ocean circulation changes in the future
the effect of climate change on Tropical Fisheries
how oysters help with climate change (or not)
I am a climate scientist from the National Climate Centre at the Bureau of Meteorology.
My current work involves analysing rainfall and temperature data to improve our understanding of climate extremes in southwest Pacific island countries. In particular I am
interested in very extreme rainfall and temperature events and how they relate to different climate drivers and weather systems.
Previously I have worked on heat stress for the Indian Ocean Climate Change Initiative as well as within the monitoring and prediction sections at the Bureau of Meteorology
providing services such seasonal forecasts, climate summaries and special climate statements during extreme events in Australia. I am also in the process of obtaining my
PhD on extreme rainfall on the eastern seaboard of Australia at the Climate Change Research Centre.
Dr Chris Brown
I am a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute.
My current research looks at the management of marine ecosystems, to conserve biodiversity and promote sustainable fisheries. I am particularly interested in how actions
taken at a local scale can help ecosystems resist and recover from the impacts of climate change.
I have authored several scientific articles documenting the impacts of climate change to marine organisms. These included an analysis of observed responses of marine
organisms to climate change, from all of the world's oceans. I am also a contributing author to the Open Oceans chapter of the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Dr Linda Beaumont
I am a lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University, having received my PhD in 2008.
The potential for climate change to have dramatic impacts on species and ecosystems has been at the core of my research since working as a research assistant during my
undergraduate years. Over the past 13 years I have adopted an integrated approach to understanding the complexity of climate impacts by using a combination of species
distribution models, fieldwork, longitudinal studies and laboratory experiments.
My current research projects include:
Integrating earth system science and climate impacts modelling
Understanding and reducing uncertainty in species distribution modelling
Biological responses to climate change, particularly:
Shifts in distributions
Phenological shifts (i.e. timing of life-cycle events)
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow within the Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at Monash University having received my PhD (2011) in Meteorology
from University of Hamburg.
I am currently investigating the role of clouds in the climate system and their representation in conceptual as well as numerical models using observation and
modelling based approaches.
In the past, my work intensively focused on the impact of aerosols on the climate system. Man-made aerosols can warm or cool the climate system either by directly
interacting with (mainly) solar radiation or indirectly by modifying clouds. I investigated these effects by means of satellite observations and general circulation
model experiments. In particular, I focused on southern Africa biomass burning aerosols and aerosols stemming from global shipping emissions.
Dr Jean-François (Jeff) Exbrayat
In July 2011, I joined the Climate Change Research Centre of the University of New South Wales in Sydney as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, after obtained a Ph.D. in
hydrology from the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen (Germany).
My current research focuses on the vegetation and soil responses to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations and temperature. More precisely, I am interested in the representation
of soil biogeochemical processes in the terrestrial components of global climate models. This is crucial to assess the resilience of current carbon pools to climate change and
reliably evaluate the potential of using soils as long-term carbon sinks to compensate anthropogenic emissions.
I am also involved in studies on the impact of climate change on agriculture, and looking at climate change and human pressure impacts on the water resource in river basins
worldwide, including the Murray-Darling Basin.
My key areas of expertise on climate change are related to the land surface, especially terrestrial carbon, nutrients and water cycling.
Dr Liz Hanna
I am a Fellow at the National Centre Epidemiology & Population Health, ANU. I convene the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Human Health, and am President
of the Climate and Health Alliance.
My PhD revealed Australia’s health protection gaps relating to chemical exposures, and my current research continues to address environmental determinants of health; the factors
(knowledge, attitudes, behaviour, policy and health infrastructure) that elicit protective responses adopted by individuals, communities and governments.
Since 2009 my primary research focus has been climate change, especially exposures to heat and Australia’s capacity to respond and adapt. I direct the NHMRC Research Project
investigating Working in the heat in our increasingly warm summers. My passion about advocacy and community action to stop climate change is driven by my grave concerns that we
have little time remaining to prevent dire consequences for human society and wellbeing, and ultimately, our survival.
I have represented public health and environmental health on a number of State and Federal Government committees. From 2002-2009 I convened the Environmental Health SIG for the
Public Health Association of Australia.
Dr Marie Keatley
I am a Senior Fellow (Adjunct) with the Dept. of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne, Creswick.
My work involves studying the reproductive phenology (life cycle stages) of plants in an effort to understand their individual patterns, their role in ecosystem function and the
likely impacts of climate change on individuals and ecosystems. I also have a strong interest in the development and application of statistical methods in reproductive phenology,
synchronicity and periodicity. I am also interested in the history of, and drivers for, undertaking phenological observations in the Australian context.
I am a founding partner of, and member of the Scientific Advisory Panel, for Climate Watch – Australia’s citizen science phenological observation network (www.climatewatch.org.au)
and a member of the International Society of Biometeorology’s Phenology Commission.
Ms Kirien Whan
I am a research associate at The Climate Change Research Centre at The University of New South Wales. I am currently researching climate extremes in Pacific Island nations as
part of The Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning program. I am interested in understanding observed trends and variability in rainfall and temperature
extremes and the creation of high-quality observational data sets.
I am also researching interactions between large-scale climate drivers that are important for regional Australian hydroclimatic regimes for my PhD project at The Fenner School of
Environment and Society, at The Australian National University.