The future impacts of our changing climate

I recently attended the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) conference at the Australian National University in Canberra, a four day event that included sessions on urban climate, extreme events, and general climatology.

This was my second year attending the conference. Last year I had presented in the lightning round and submitted a poster, but this year I was looking forward to giving a presentation on the work I’ve done for my PhD modelling urban heat stress in Brisbane using CCAM (conformal cubic atmospheric model) recently.

Of course my main interest was in the urban climate sessions, and I attended all of these, but I also had the opportunity to meet with urban climate scientists from all over Australia and discuss their work and my PhD.

As well as urban climate, the conference covered a wide variety of topics from climate change, general climatology, paleoclimatology, extreme weather events, health, mitigation, education and renewable energy. The plenary given by Professor Kris Ebi on climate change and human health was particularly interesting, and covered broad ranging impacts from heat stress, air pollution, nutrition and disease. Professor Ebi suggested that air pollution and pollen may get worse with increasing CO2 and plant activity. The nutritional content of plants may also decrease with increased growing speed, further hampering the world’s efforts to improve nutrition and poverty in the poorest countries in the world. The key point of Professor Ebi’s talk was that humans have limited ability to adapt to high temperatures (as opposed to cold), and currently there is limited research on compounding effects of all these aspects (temperature, disease, nutrition) on health.

The conference ended with a talk by Professor Will Steffen on the Anthropocene. Based on stratigraphic and biospheric evidence, he concluded that humanity left the Holocene in the mid-20th century, and is now in the Anthropocene.

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