The Australian Climate Commission has today published a new report called The Critical Decade. It says that climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather in Australia.
What’s new about this report is the clear and unambiguous link between recent extreme weather in Australia (e.g. Cyclone Yasi in 2011, the Queensland floods of 2010-2011 and the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009) climate change and its underlying cause: our unsustainable use of fossil fuels.
It seems that there is now little scientific doubt that the recent and current gains from the coal boom are going to bite us in the ass in a serious way. Unsurprisingly, this message hasn’t been picked up in the mainstream media. It appears that it is still a step too far to question our coal boom on global climate safety grounds.
The report’s easy to read summary table is worth a look (I can’t image any mum having the time to read the full report).
If you live in a climate sensitive area, the Australian Green Cross has been established to help you adapt. One of their projects, Harden Up: Protecting Queensland, provides really useful extreme weather maps and planning tools. Hopefully other States will follow suit and fund the national extension of this important work.
Here are the report’s key messages:
1. Climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of many extreme weather events, adversely affecting Australians. Extreme events occur naturally and weather records are broken from time to time. However, climate change is influencing these events and record-breaking weather is becoming more common around the world.
2. Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment. This highlights the need to take rapid, effective action on climate change.
3. The climate system has shifted, and is continuing to shift, changing the conditions for all weather, including extreme weather events.
4. There is a high risk that extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy rainfall, bushfires and cyclones will become even more intense in Australia over the coming decades.
5. Only strong preventive action now and in the coming years can stabilise the climate and halt the trend of increasing extreme weather for our children and grandchildren.
This is what the report is saying about extreme weather effects:
Changes to our climate are likely to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. These events affect our health, buildings, infrastructure and communities.
We are already seeing the impacts of higher temperatures on some extreme weather. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heat waves and associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfire weather in southeast and southwest Australia. Recent examples of extreme
weather events include Cyclone Yasi in 2011 and the Queensland floods of 2010-2011, Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 and the associated southeast Australian heatwave.
- High temperature extremes, such as hot days and heat waves, are likely to be higher and last longer
- Rainfall patterns are likely to change
- Extreme fire danger days are likely to rise, particularly in southeast Australia
- Storm surge events could become more frequent
- There may be less cyclones, but they are likely to be stronger and cause more damage, although there is some uncertainty about regional trends in cyclone activity
The Commission has also published a report on the extreme weather of the 2012/13 summer (dubbed The Angry Summer). Here are the main facts:
The Australian summer over 2012 and 2013 has been defined by extreme weather events across much of the continent, including record-breaking heat, severe bushfires, extreme rainfall and damaging flooding. Extreme heatwaves and catastrophic bushfire conditions during the Angry Summer were made worse by climate change.
All weather, including extreme weather events is influenced by climate change. All extreme weather events are now occurring in a climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago. This influences the nature, impact and intensity of extreme weather events.
Australia’s Angry Summer shows that climate change is already adversely affecting Australians. The significant impacts of extreme weather on people, property, communities and the environment highlight the serious consequences of failing to adequately address climate change.
It is highly likely that extreme hot weather will become even more frequent and severe in Australia and around the globe, over the coming decades.
It is critical that we are aware of the influence of climate change on many types of extreme weather so that communities, emergency services and governments prepare for the risk of increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather.ill largely determine the severity of climate change and its influence on extreme events for our grandchildren.