Popular natural tourist attractions including the Great Barrier Reef and Australia’s famous beaches are at risk because of the damaging effects of climate change, according to a Climate Council report.
The not-for-profit group says Australia’s tourism is in the firing line as rising sea levels threaten more than half of Australia’s coastline, heatwaves keep people out of our cities and coral bleaching kills the Great Barrier Reef.
“Tourists travel across the globe to see Australia’s remarkable natural wonders. But these icons are in the climate firing line as extreme weather events worsen and sea levels continue to rise,” ecologist Professor Lesley Hughes said in a statement on Thursday.
“Some of our country’s most popular natural destinations, including our beaches could become ‘no-go zones’ during peak holiday periods and seasons, with the potential for extreme temperatures to reach up to 50 degrees in Sydney and Melbourne.”
The report, released on Thursday, said Melbourne and Sydney could reach those extreme temperatures even if the government meets its global target set by the Paris Climate Agreement.
If more coral bleaching events occur on the Great Barrier Reef, the tourism areas nearby could see the number of visitors reduced from 2.8 million in 2015 to about 1.7 million per year, the report said.
The council warned climate change may be expanding the distribution of the deadly irukandji jellyfish along Queensland’s coast.
“As ocean waters warm, many tropical marine species have been observed moving into sub-tropical waters, with irukandji being observed as far south as Hervey Bay and Fraser Island as recently as January 2018,” the report said.
The group warns that without effective action by the government to address climate change, the entire northern half of Australia could be deemed “unfavourable” for tourists within the next 20 years.
The council criticised the government’s national tourism plan saying it made no mention of the need to reduce emissions or increase tourism sustainability.
“Without credible climate policy that cuts Australia’s rising carbon pollution levels, the impacts of climate change will only intensify and accelerate across the country over the coming decades,” Climate Council acting chief executive officer Dr Martin Rice said in a statement.
While Australia has never been famous for its ski resorts, the industry has already experienced a decline in domestic tourism, the report said.
Further declines in snowfall are projected for all resorts over the rest of this century meaning only the highest peaks such at Mount Perisher and Falls Creek would experience any snow, the council said.
“Despite the clear risks that climate change poses for Australian tourism operations in the short, medium and long-term, government policy documents continue to describe extremely optimistic forecasts,” the report said.