Introduction to Climate and Air

The topics in this theme describe air quality in NSW and the effects of carbon emissions on our climate, as well as how climate change already affects many aspects of our environment.

Energy generation, industrial and manufacturing processes and transport give rise to emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Ensuring that air quality remains safe and healthy is essential to provide a clean living environment and maintain the wellbeing of the NSW population. While air quality is generally good in NSW, the levels of the major pollutants and the issues that can arise in some situations are discussed in the Air Quality topic.

The build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age is causing our climate to change with potentially serious consequences. The overall levels and trends in greenhouse gas emissions in NSW are described in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions topic. The changes in current temperature and weather patterns in NSW and future projections of change are discussed in Climate Change, as well as the impacts of these changes on the environment more generally.

In this report:

  • The effects of climate change, especially increases in temperature, are already being felt and will become more intense in the future.
  • NSW greenhouse gas emissions in 2018–19 were 136.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e), which is 17% lower than in 2005.
  • By 2030, emissions are projected to be 47–52% lower than 2005 levels with current policies implemented.
  • NSW air quality is generally good, although particle pollution soared in 2019 due to the continuing drought and unprecedented and extensive bushfires.
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Aboriginal Perspectives

Over tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal people and cultures have been able to live effectively with changing climates. Intergenerational knowledge handed down through vibrant cultures has meant Aboriginal peoples have intimate and detailed knowledges of their respective Country and climates. This knowledge has also resulted in effective understanding and management of place, including seasonal calendars which relate to specific lands and waters that guide Aboriginal people on climate matters.

Aboriginal communities and peoples are, and continue to grow as, major landowners, developers and caretakers across NSW. Decision-makers need to recognise and work with these opportunities to further develop outcomes that Aboriginal peoples are presenting in their land management practices, including those that contribute to a reduced carbon footprint.