What climate change means for Bundaberg
THE water off Bundaberg is warmer than ever before and global warming is to blame, scientists say.
While our part of the Great Barrier Reef has so far gotten off lightly as far as coral bleaching goes - see opposite page - James Cook University's Professor Terry Hughes told environmental journal Nature, "The temperature on the barrier reef has slowly been rising as a result of global warming, decade by decade.
"Today, the northern barrier reef is half a degree centigrade (Celsius) warmer than it was 30 years ago.
"The southern part is closer to a full degree centigrade warmer.
"We didn't expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years.”
Jellyfish expert Jamie Seymour, also from James Cook University, has said the irukandji jellyfish population was gradually spreading south, while CSIRO scientist Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin has suggested warmer waters may also provoke more activity in existing populations.
Bundaberg has previously been identified by the Climate Council as one of the six local government areas in Queensland most at risk from rises in sea level together with high tides, storm surges and heavy rainfall.
Bundaberg Landcare president Mike Johnson has lived in the area for 50 years and believes he has seen the natural environment changing first-hand.
"Everyone you talk to who's been here a long time will say the same thing,” he said.
"I've never seen hot weather go on so long.
"I've seen things die that haven't died before; trees are stressing.
"(I've seen) tuckeroo, dry rainforest trees, with burn on the leaves - they're tough trees.”
If a trend towards hotter temperatures continues - with numerous records broken over the summer - "it's going to start shifting what trees survive in what area,” Mr Johnson said.
Agnes Water climate change activist Angel Owen said the rise of irukandji was a worry - and there was evidence that the phenomenon of climate change was not just affecting polar bears.
"If these incidents are influenced by global warming, the responsibility falls back onto the whole population,” she said.
Mike Johnson said the increase in irukandji and other jellyfish would impact the economy in the long run.
"One day it won't be a benefit to live by the beach because you won't be able to go in the ocean,” he said.
"This is the cost we're paying; it will change our way of life.”