Regent Honeyeater with its black head and yellow speckled body with a yellow tail standing on a tree branch amongst the leaves.

Climate change Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Climate change is threatening the ongoing existence of the diverse wildlife that shares our planet. As a zoo-based conservation organisation, we are committed to fighting wildlife extinction. Therefore, it is our duty and purpose to urgently tackle the devastating threats from climate change, through our own actions, those of our community and in our vast and varied work for wildlife. 

 

Climate change FAQs

As a zoo, why are you taking a stance on this?

Zoos Victoria, which operates Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, as well as a corporate office, is a not-for-profit conservation organization, committed to ensuring that no Victorian terrestrial vertebrate species will go extinct on our watch.   

As climate change is a leading threat to all life forms, including our local wildlife, we are duty-bound and passionate about ensuring we mitigate the risk of climate change however possible, to preserve the precious local species and broader life on our planet.  

What actions has Zoos Victoria taken to mitigate climate change?
  • We were the world's first certified carbon neutral zoo. Carbon neutral certification was obtained for Zoos Victoria’s properties, Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary via third party certification under the Australian Government’s National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS) for carbon neutrality in March 2013, covering our operations since 2011. 
  • We have 600kW of solar PV on site at Zoos Victoria 
  • Healesville Sanctuary is powered by 100% renewable energy from a wind farm 
  • We diverted 88% of our waste from landfill in 2020  
  • Melbourne Zoo recycles 1000ML of water per year 
  • We have a globally recognised, formalised ethical and sustainable procurement process 
  • Nearly 80% of the menu items across our three zoos are meat-free, minimising our reliance on resource-intensive, high-emission livestock production  

Read more about our commitment to a sustainable future here: https://www.zoo.org.au/media/2284/2353_zoos_sustainability_prospectus_05.pdf 

Are humans to blame for climate change, and if so, how?

In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 95 per cent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. 

The industrial activities that our modern civilization depends upon have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 414 parts per million in the last 150 years.  

The panel also concluded there's a better than 95 per cent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have caused much of the observed increase in Earth's temperatures over the past 50 years  

The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that climate change is human-inflicted.  

https://climate.nasa.gov/causes/ 

I don’t really understand climate change, can you please simplify it for me?

Climate change is a complex and often misrepresented topic, and it can be confusing. We have attempted to simplify it below, referencing information from experts from NGO, The Climate Council.  

The Climate Council explains that climate is different from weather. When we talk about the Earth’s climate, we are referring to the average weather conditions over a period of 30 years or longer.  Weather, on the other hand, refers to what you see and feel outside from day to day (e.g. sunny, rainy).  So climate change is any change in the climate, lasting for at least several decades, including but not limited to changes in temperature, rainfall or wind patterns. 

Well supported scientific evidence shows that our world is rapidly heating.  Long-term air and ocean temperature records clearly show the Earth is warming. The global average temperature has alreadyrisen by 1.1°C since the time before the Industrial Revolution, in the 1700s. This might not sound like a lot, but 1.1°C represents a massive amount of extra heat and energy – the equivalent of four Hiroshima bomb detonations per second. 

While the earth’s climate has changed throughout history,  scientists agreethat the significant changes we’ve seen over the past hundred years or so have been due to human activities. Recent warming is also happening at a rate that is much faster than previous climatic changes. 

For a helpful summary of the impact more locally, the Victorian Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning issued their Climate Science Report in 2019. Go to https://www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/climate-science-report-2019 to review projections, insights and data, as well as what this means for all Victorians. 

What can I do to help?

People, their livelihoods, habitats and wildlife are already suffering the consequences of a warming planet, and in order to limit the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C, humanity must halve its emissions of carbon dioxide by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. This requires mass-scale behaviour change and all governments, businesses and communities have a role to play. 

We know it can feel daunting, and the problem seems enormous.  

However perhaps the most vital impact you can make is using your voice and resources to support companies and leaders who prioritise this issue. By exercising your right as a citizen of the earth and a consumer, you have very real power to influence leaders to make the system-wide changes that are needed at local, national and global levels. Only support leaders and companies who are taking appropriate action, and write to those who can do better, demanding change. Climate change experts such as those at The Climate Council agree and recommend considering where you spend your money and who you support, in order to make the most difference. This means supporting ethical and sustainable suppliers and producers of everything from clothing to energy and banking companies.   

Closer to home, individual efforts which will assist in less profound but still important ways include limiting unnecessary car travel or investing in an electric vehicle or public transport, investing in solar or renewal energy, composting and recycling correctly, demanding mandatory labelling of palm oil to halt the unsustainable deforestation for palm oil plantations, and reconsidering your diet. It has been stated beef and dairy production are the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the USA. The meat industry contributes to global warming in three major ways. Firstly, cows expelling gas from digesting food releases lots of methane, a damaging greenhouse gas; we feed them with other potential sources of food, like maize and soy, which take up huge resources to produce; finally, they need lots of water, fertilisers that can release greenhouse gases, and plenty of land –which often comes from cleared forests, another source of carbon emissions. Consuming less meat and dairy is a small but important step towards a more sustainable future.  

For some useful reading about the power of climate-friendly choices, see: 

https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/research-data-and-insights/research/climate-change  

https://www.wwf.org.au/what-we-do/climate#gs.lol9a0  

https://www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/climate-science-report-2019  

What is the Victorian Government doing to help?

The Victorian Government has many published resources around its action on climate change, and has stated these actions are fundamental for a thriving, resilient state. We support their legislated commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. 

Please see www.climatechange.vic.gov.au for more information on the Victorian Government’s position regarding tackling climate change. Their 2019 Climate Science Report can be viewed here https://www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/climate-science-report-2019  

The Australian Government’s website https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/ also has information on climate change, including trends, regional projections, climate analogues and climate data.  

Who is the IPCC and how do we know what they are saying is true?

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) was created to provide world leaders with regular scientific assessments on climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation options. Created by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988, the IPCC  has 195 Member countries. In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC.  

Through its assessments, the IPCC identifies where there is agreement in the scientific community on topics related to climate change, and where further research is needed. The reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus guaranteeing objectivity and transparency.  The IPCC does not conduct its own research. IPCC reports are neutral, policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive.  The assessment reports are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change. For avoidance of doubt however, there are many independent sources of climate change information, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who state that more than 80% of ecological processes that form the foundation for life on Earth are impacted by climate change. WWF believes climate change poses a fundamental threat to the places, species and people’s livelihoods they work to protect. WWF states that to adequately address this crisis we must urgently reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the consequences of global warming, which we are already experiencing. Other resources worth exploring for your own peace of mind include the National Environmental Science Project which is a climate change science group, the Bureau of Meteorology as well as more specialised groups such as the Convention on Migratory Species. Please see links to these resources below.    

How has Australia been impacted by climate change historically?

Australia’s climate has warmed consistently since national records began in 1910, with the most rapid warming occurring since 1950. Australia's mean surface air temperature has increased by more than 1.4°C since 1910.  Since 1950, every decade has been warmer than its predecessor.  

Australia’s warmest year on record was 2019, and the seven years from 2013 to 2019 all rank in the nine warmest years. This long‑term warming trend means that most years are now warmer than almost any observed during the 20th century. When relatively cooler years do occur, it is because natural drivers that typically cool Australia’s climate, such as La Niña, act to partially offset the background warming trend. 

Average sea surface temperature in the Australian region has warmed by more than 1°C since 1900, with eight of the ten warmest years on record occurring since 2010. The warmest year on record was 2016, associated with one of the strongest negative Indian Ocean Dipole events on record (Source: https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/climate-campus/australian-climate-change/australian-trends/ 

This sustained increase in temperature is not likely to decrease or stabilise without us acting. 

Useful further reading can be found here https://www.csiro.au/en/research/environmental-impacts/climate-change/climate-change-information 

 

What are we seeing in Australia and Victoria as a result of climate change?

The catastrophic bushfires in NSW and Victoria in 2019 - 2020 summer were an extreme reminder of the impacts of climate change on our world. One research study found that human-caused climate change made south-eastern Australia’s devastating wildfires during 2019 - 2020 at least 30 per cent more likely to occur (see www.sciencenews.org/article/australia-wildfires-climate-change). The Climate Council believes that we will see hotter temperatures and more extreme weather conditions, prolonged bushfire seasons, drier vegetation and bushfire habitats, and increased instances of lightning, a key factor in starting bushfires. WWF reports that sea levels are rising, increasing the risk of erosion, flooding, and extreme storms in coastal regions around the world. Heat waves are occurring with greater frequency, fanning the flames of wildfires, putting stress on wildlife habitats, and driving droughts that threaten crops and water security. Rivers are regularly hitting flood levels that once were considered very rare events. 

A useful tool to assess your local climate change position can be found through the Climate Analogue tools here: https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/climate-projections/climate-analogues/about-analogues/  

Projections, data and insights for Victorians can be found in the Victorian Government’s Climate Science Report here https://www.climatechange.vic.gov.au/climate-science-report-2019  

We are seeing the impact of climate change right now, but we still have time to act to ensure we mitigate these risks.  

Which animals are most at risk because of climate change?

Every species in the world is impacted to some extent by climate change, including humans. Everything from invertebrates such as butterflies, to turtles, birds, polar bears and of course, our precious local native animals impacted by bushfires are all at risk. Humans rely on animals and fauna in many complex and varied ways, e.g., to pollinate crops or disperse seeds with their droppings; we are all linked and interdependent, and we are all impacted by climate change.  

Many scientists working for, or alongside, Zoos Victoria contributed to the Victorian Government's plan for protection of biodiversity, which can be found here: https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan

Why are we taking a stance on climate change now?

Zoos Victoria believes in connecting people with nature to create a future rich in wildlife. For the past decade we have worked passionately and tirelessly to fight wildlife extinction, and as wildlife becomes increasingly impacted by climate change, we have an opportunity to ensure our community is armed with the facts, whilst ensuring we all maintain hope for the future. There is no time like the present, and we have no time to waste.  

What action can I take to support Zoos Victoria’s stance on climate change?

Our Community Conservation campaign actions are also a good place to start, which you can read up on here: https://www.zoo.org.au/fighting-extinction/community-conservation-campaigns/ . Otherwise, your admission fees, membership fee and any donations you make to us are all helping our efforts to fight wildlife extinction, and are immeasurably appreciated.  

You may also wish to support our environmental sustainability projects, listed in this prospectus - https://www.zoo.org.au/media/2284/2353_zoos_sustainability_prospectus_05.pdf 

For a reminder of our mission and work for wildlife, you could read our Wildlife Conservation Science Masterplan, found here: https://www.zoo.org.au/media/2183/48636_zoos-vic-wcs-master-plan-128pp_-final.pdf  

Is climate change a threat to the animals at the Zoo? For example, weather extremes?

Zoos Victoria provided a global example over the 2019-2020 bushfire season of how quickly and effectively we are responding to the threat posed by climate-related extreme weather events for Victoria’s fauna. Our veterinary teams were deployed by the Victorian Government to assess, treat and rehabilitate fire affected animals on the front line. This critical work continues even to this day, as we release rehabilitated koalas back into their habitats in Gippsland and take a whole-of-life care for them by tracking and monitoring their progress.    

More locally, although we are all impacted by the threats of climate change, we will always be committed to ensuring the best possible care for the animals at our three zoos. In the case of extreme weather events, we have robust and regularly reviewed protocols in place to ensure the safety and protection, and even evacuation in the most extreme cases, of all the animals in our care.