PRESS RELEASE No.7 (20.10.14)

Are the Bats of Bairnsdale a Warning of Climate Change?

The increasing numbers of grey headed flying foxes along the Mitchell River may be a sign of climate change claims Independent candidate in Gippsland East Peter Gardner.

Gardner noted that this year may have been the first time that the bats have wintered over and that they are very sensitive to climate, food sources and loss of habitat. He noted with climate change that: “Flying foxes have shifted hundreds of kilometres south in their habitat range” and that studies have indicated: “that climate change is forcing the locations of species towards the cooler poles by an average of 6 km per decade”.

“Whilst visits of flying foxes in parts of Gippsland have been recorded more than 100 years ago man-made climate change has also been happening very gradually as long as accurate records have been kept.”

Professor Lesley Hughes of Macquarie University an expert on the impact climate change has on plants and animals noted: “Despite temperatures having warmed by less than a degree [over the last century], the impact of that on [many] species has been surprising…It’s a window on the future I suppose…The bottom line is that every species will be influenced by climate change, either directly or indirectly.”*

This prediction by Professor Hughes was clearly illustrated by events in Queensland during a heatwave early this year. On the 6 January the Sydney Morning Herald under the headline “Heatwave Decimates Flying Fox Colony” stated: “Dead flying foxes have been falling from the sky in droves because of the heatwave sweeping south-east Queensland. Hundreds of thousands of the large bats may have died as temperatures soared to 43 degrees over the weekend…In Ipswich, south-west of Brisbane, more than 1000 dead flying foxes had to be cleared from a single park on Saturday.”

Gardner notes: “It is a sad fact, little recognized by the media, that heatwaves also have a similar effect on human beings, their pets and other domestic animals. Morbidity statistics indicate that the heatwave of 2009 caused more than 370 extra fatalities – mostly amongst the sick and elderly. Figures for the January 2014 heatwave in Victoria indicate 167 extra fatalities, a 97% increase in calls for cardiac issues and a ‘significant increase in the demand for emergency care’. Heatwaves are now occurring five times more frequently this century than last and that the 2013 heatwave could not possibly have occurred without man made climate change.”

“Are the Bats of Bairnsdale the ‘canary in the coal mine’”? Gardner asks. “Are they a warning sign telling us that to forget the false or trivial messages of mainstream media and look what is happening before our eyes? If so it is time to commence serious action now by adopting a range of policies on climate change including changing over from coal to sustainable energy sources – in particular solar – as quickly as possible.”