Natural variation occurs in the weather over time, but there is little doubt that some of the weather we have been experiencing of late has headed towards the extreme.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, global mean temperature has increased by around 0.74 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years. This may not seem like a lot, but when we are talking about the history of the earth, a rise by nearly a degree in 100 years is quite alarming. While it is normal for weather patterns to fluctuate and endure periods of variability, this rapid rate of warming is very unusual.
Our oceans have also felt the effect, with the global average mean sea level for 2011 at 210mm above the 1880 recorded level. Since 1910, ocean surface temperatures have increased by about 0.8 degrees Celsius (CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology State of the Climate 2012).
There are several theories around this rise in temperatures, including lower levels of volcanic activity and increasing solar radiation. The increasing solar radiation point is questionable, as there is now a huge amount of scientific evidence that the sun is at an all-time low in activity, causing a decrease in solar radiation and, in fact, a cooling effect. The current pattern suggests this is much like the last time there was an ice age, so scientists are concerned this cooling effect may be offsetting the potential impact of warming.
The biggest contributing factor now known is human industrialisation and the consequential excessive production of greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian Government Department of Climate Change is quite clear on this statement, reporting: “Since the 1970s, increases in greenhouse gases have dominated over all other factors, and there has been a period of sustained warming. It is very unlikely that 20th century warming can be explained by natural causes alone.”
Looking into the future, we are bound for more of the same. The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology predict Australian average temperatures will increase by a further 1-5 degrees Celsius by 2070.
So, what does all this mean for all of us, and what measures can we take to help the situation? Many of these ideas you may already be practicing, but it is worth a little recap.
Looking after your garden
With temperatures rising and more extreme weather conditions felt across the country, it is important to set your garden up to cope. This will not only ensure it looks fabulous despite what the sun is doing, but will make your life outdoors just that little more enjoyable.
As we are heading into the cooler season now, it is a good time to take stock of your garden and think about boosting it’s waterwise potential just that little bit more. Are there some older, tired water-guzzlers that you can replace with Aussie natives, for example? There is such an amazing array of hardy, drought-tolerant but beautiful plants to try, such as the bird-attracting, colourful flowers of the bottlebrush (Callistemon sp.), the wild rose (Diplolaena grandiflora) or a form of Melaleuca sp. with yellow, white or pink blooms.
Check your lawn is in top shape. While it may seem that turf uses a lot of water, which we are frequently advised against, from an environmental point of view it is actually very beneficial. Just 15 square meters of turf provides enough oxygen for one person, so a family of four with 60 square meters of turf at home covers their own oxygen needs. Turf also absorbs carbon dioxide and filters pollutants from rainwater and scheme water, has a lovely cooling effect and provides a home for countless insects.
Mulch, yes, there is that word again, but it is mentioned so frequently in gardening circles for good reason. Get another layer onto your garden this season to make the most of autumn and winter rains, keep weeds at bay (that not only look unsightly, but take precious water from more productive or aesthetically pleasing plantings) and protect the soil from erosion over winter.
Reducing your personal carbon footprint
Simply growing your own fruits and vegetables goes a long way to reducing your personal greenhouse gas emissions and making for a more sustainable life. For a start, when food is produced at home, it saves food miles. This means preventing emissions from the need to transport food from the grower to the buyer. Most of us can’t expect to grow everything we need at home, so a close alternative is to shop local. Many small towns have regular farmers markets, or there may be a shop nearby specialising in produce from the area.
Swapping and trading with fellow backyard foodies is another way to get variety, as well as foster a good relationship with neighbours! Homegrown food also means readily available food grown in organic (or near-organic) conditions, with the gardener at the controls. From a family perspective as well as an eco point of view, there is nothing better than fruit and vegetables from home soil.
Following the basic ‘three-r’s’ will also make a big difference; reduce, reuse and recycle. One of the best ways to do this in the garden is by making your own compost – it ticks all three boxes! Composting reduces your waste as well as reduces the need for chemical fertilisers and other synthetic products. It reuses and recycles items that were once used by people or trees, such as food scraps, shredded paper, cardboard and leaf litter, and miraculously turns them into something new and very useful that will help sustain new green life.
You can also reuse, or re-purpose, many other things in the garden. For example, instead of buying a new pot created from plastic, look around the house and yard for suitable alternative. This might be as small as a metal watering can (that can make for a quaint living tabletop feature) or as large as an old bathtub filled with good quality potting mix and used as a raised vegie garden.
Minimising energy usage around the home can be achieved through numerous measures too, such as clever placement of trees to shade living areas, installing solar lighting for night time entertaining, regularly maintaining power tools to ensure they are running at their most efficient and harvesting rain water. There are so many possibilities on the road to more sustainable living.
All-in-all, our little green planet is getting hotter but there are some simple ways we can all play a part in managing humanity’s impact. Your contribution may seem minor, but it is very much a case of ‘a little goes a long way’. Take some time out this autumn to look around your place, maybe make some small changes and look ahead to a long and comfortable future in our own backyard.
About the Author – Fleur Chapman
Fleur began her working career in PR and journalism before moving into public health and community services. She has worked for Guru Productions for the past six years as the editor of The Guru Magazine and now as the digital content editor for www.yourlifestyle.tv
Feature image: courtesy of Tumisu, www.pixabay.com