As extreme weather, rising sea levels and shifting landscapes reinforce the realities of living with a changing climate, a team of Griffith scientists are working on the frontline to reduce the global impact.

Taking on such a challenge has been no easy task, requiring the coordination of multiple experts, from micro economists to coastal engineers, marine ecologists, planners and social scientists.

There are also other factors to consider, such as operating in remote areas, engaging with culturally diverse communities and governments, and informing international policies.

Professor Brendan Mackey, director of the Griffith Climate Change Response Program (GCCRP), oversees the research projects tackling climate change, many of which are funded through philanthropy.

“We owe much of our success to our supporters, who have been key partners in our research and work. Without them, we would not have been able to take the lead on many critical projects or implement strategies intended to address the risks to people and nature from environmental degradation and global warming,” he said.

While work on the ground is critical to securing the future of generations to come, much of it would not be possible without the vital support of donors.

“They understand urgent action is needed on climate change and see the value of our work, whether it’s preserving our coastlines and wildlife or stopping the degradation of our forests. Their ongoing support is making a huge difference,” Professor Mackey said.

The GCCRP, is a multi-disciplinary program focused on research into climate change adaptation and mitigation. In its 13 years, it has successfully partnered with local communities, contributed to
the growing body of climate research and provided crucial advice to international organisations, including the climate change treaty, Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation.

“Climate change has become everyone’s business and represents a genuinely existential threat, there is no more important problem. Our research is trying to tackle the challenges it presents, while
also having a genuinely integrated, multidisciplinary approach,” Professor Mackey said.

Professor Mackey first joined the program nine years ago, using his expertise in vegetation ecology, forest ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and environmental modelling to help address some of the challenges people are facing in a changing world.

“It has been incredibly rewarding to work with dedicated scientists, professionals, governments and communities and environmental advocates from all over the world. We have positively changed
the lives of others and have shown there is a way forward if we work together and with the environment,” Professor Mackey said.

The GCCRP supports dozens of major research projects, including primary forests (old growth forests) conservation research, working with Pacific Island and coastal urban communities and studying revived humpback whale populations.

“The Earth’s climate has dramatically changed as a result of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels for energy and deforestation. Fortunately, it’s not too late and it’s well within our
ability to stop greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the science is saying is needed. But we are locked into a certain amount of
climate change, with more in the pipeline, and we must also address the real risks these bring,” Professor Mackey said.

“We are so incredibly grateful to the generosity of our donors, who see the potential of our work to instigate real change, right now. We could not do it without them and I want to thank them for supporting us. We all have the power to make a difference.”

Fuelled by philanthropy

Primary forests and climate change

With only 26 percent of the Earth’s primary forest cover remaining, a team of Griffith experts are on an urgent mission to save what’s left.

Working with partners from all over the world, researchers and scientists are recording and collecting valuable data to educate and inform the public on the importance of preserving these precious ecosystems.

Supported by the evidence, they hope to provide information to better inform decision makers who are in positions to help prevent deforestation and promote sustainable alternatives.

Primary forests are irreplaceable sanctuaries for much of the world’s biodiversity, support the livelihoods of indigenous custodians and play a significant role in global climate change by absorbing carbon.

Preparing for a rapidly changing climate in the Pacific

EcoAdapt is researching the impacts of climate change on small island nations in the Pacific. The project team, with support from a range of experts and disciplines, works with local communities to strengthen ecosystems that naturally protect and provide important benefits for coastal communities.

Griffith University senior research fellow Dan Ware said they try to balance the needs of the community and what is needed to sustain the natural environment.

“We know climate change will have an impact on our beaches but for our neighbours in the Pacific, climate change means they might not eat that day,” he said.

Whales in a changing climate

Growing whale populations in the aftermath of long-term exploitation in the whaling industry has given researchers the opportunity to explore the role whales play in sustaining healthy oceans.

Griffith researchers are studying the impacts of climate change on recovering humpback whale populations in the Southern Hemisphere including their migration, feeding and breeding.

The Griffith Climate Change Response Program receives funding from a private charitable trust.

More to come in this space as Griffith launches Climate Change Beacon