The Critical Decade: Report Links Australia’s Extreme Weather To Climate Change

A new report confirms that the extreme heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires that have wracked Australia over the past decade have been exacerbated by climate change. The report, commissioned by the Australian government’s Climate Commission, makes clear that these weather events will only get worse in the coming years, and warns that health and emergency professionals as well as citizens must prepare for their impacts now.

The study’s chief commissioner Tim Flannery said the study’s results mean Australia needs to take action to slow climate change.

FLANNERY: Records are broken from time to time, but record-breaking weather is becoming more common as the climate shifts. Only strong preventative action, with deep and swift cuts in emissions this decade, can stabilize the climate and halt the trend towards more intense extreme weather.

The study examines five impacts of climate change that have already begun to affect Australia:

  • Heat: Australia broke 123 weather records in 90 days this summer. In January, Sydney hit a record 114 degrees, and the south Australian town of Moomba hit 121.3 degrees. The report notes that in Australia, there has been more than three times the number of record hot days than record cold days in the past 10 years. The heat has majorly impacted the country: in 2009, a heatwave led to 980 heat-related deaths, which is three times the average mortality rate for heatwaves, and heat has contributed to bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Rainfall: Extreme rainfall in Queensland in 2010 and 2011 led to record-breaking and damaging floods, which broke river height records at more than 100 observation stations. As temperature increases, the report found that the likelihood of torrential rainfall events will increase as well in some areas — a finding consistent with climate change predictions.
  • Drought: Australia emerged from a decade-long drought in 2009, which was said to be the worst in the country’s history. The report states the drought was estimated to have caused an 80 percent reduction in grain production and a 40 percent reduction in livestock production, and climate models predict that rainfall in southern and eastern Australia will continue to decrease as the century progresses.
  • Bushfires: Australia has seen an increase in fire weather (hot, dry, windy days) over the last 30 years, and the fire season in southeast Australia has extended into November and March. The Black Saturday fires of 2009 killed 173 people and cost about A$4.4 billion. As the duration of hot, dry days is likely to increase in much of Australia, wildfire risk is also predicted to go up.
  • Sea level rise: Climate change has already contributed to a 21 centimeter rise in global sea levels, the report states, and  major flooding in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010 in Australia’s Torres Strait Islands were likely made more damaging by the increases in sea level.

The study confirms what climate scientists have warned for years — that climate change will likely lead to an increase in extreme weather events. It comes at a time when the effects of climate change are being felt not just in Australia, but around the world: Drastic melting of Arctic sea ice has been linked to a bitterly cold Spring in parts of Europe and North America that has devastated sheep farmers, and the record-breaking drought that affected more than half of the continental U.S. in 2012 is expected to continue into this spring and summer.

22 Responses to The Critical Decade: Report Links Australia’s Extreme Weather To Climate Change

  1. Niall says:

    Joe, please, could you do me a favour as editor? If you’re going to use Imperial measurements, please could you at least put the metric ones in parentheses afterwards? As far as I’m concerned, 121.3 degrees is well above the boiling point of water, which seems improbable, at least at this point. I have no idea of the metric equivalent without looking it up or working it out. At this time of night I can’t even remember the conversion formula.

    I suspect the same is true of most people in most (over)developed countries. The same probably applies to most scientists (except, notoriously, at Lockheed, and I think we both know the consequences of that!).

    The author then switches to metric, and gets the sea-level rise out by a factor of ten (it should be 21 millimetres, not 21 cm as stated). This may be a forgotten decimal point.

    Thank you!

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    “The study’s results means that Australia needs to take action to slow climate change”.

    Right now, Australia is making a big contribution to climate change by exporting huge amounts of coal to Asia. We’ll see if they mean to do something about it when they cancel those coal contracts, and leave it in the ground. Otherwise, it’s just more posturing.

  3. Vic says:

    Regarding sea level rise Niall, it’s you who’s out by an order of magnitude.

  4. Joe Romm says:

    Sea level rise is correct as stated. Will do better on units (I’m traveling today).

  5. Bob Bingham says:

    Australia is like a tobacco farmer who smokes and has lung cancer. Big decisions have to be made.

  6. Niall says:

    I stand corrected on sea level rise. Roughly 210mm since circa 1870:

    My stupid mistake with baselines.

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The Climate Commission is independent of govt. This report was interpreted here as the scientists warning the govt it must do more in a hurry, ME

  8. D. R. Tucker says:

    Hundreds of pipeline opponents are planning to let Barack Obama know of their concerns by demonstrating at a San Francisco fundraiser for the president tonight. CREDO’s campaign organizer, Elijah Zarlin joins us to discuss the Arkansas Exxon oil spill and how it might impact the upcoming Keystone decision. And the latest consumer research shows more Americans are factoring in our environment when they buy products. Liz Gorman, SVP with Cone Communications’ CSR/Sustainability division, says purchasers also want more, not less, information.

    Read more:
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Co-incident with the release of this report, the Opposition Leader Tony ‘Climate Change is Crap’ Abbott, (who, now that he appears very confident of winning the next election, is letting the real ‘Mad Monk’ out for a run, more and more often)declared his determination to end ALL climate change groups and institutions, even those providing scientific advice, as soon as he dons the Imperial Purple. A sort of low-rent Antipodean Harper wanna-be.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Our entire ruling caste, with a rapidly diminishing number of exceptions, is composed entirely of Lilliputians, homunculi with the moral, spiritual, intellectual and ethical understanding of microbes. The thought of them addressing big questions first provokes gales of laughter, then cold dread.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Got off the leash again did he? ME

  12. Quoting from ABC’s The Drum today…

    On the second last day of China’s annual session of parliament came the time to rubber stamp the new ministers and also the make up of various committees. When the vote came to tick off the new Environmental Protection and Resources Conservation Committee, 850 delegates voted “no” and 120 abstained from a total of just under 3000.

    For two days at the end of the National People’s Congress Beijing was shrouded in a thick blanket of smog and, in the midst of it, a third of this country’s senior Communist Party delegates from across the country were prepared to publicly humiliate the government and the Party over the handling of air pollution policy.

    If this doesn’t show the depth of concern here about the disastrous state of China’s environment, I’m not sure what does.

    Dr Wu Qiang, who teaches politics at the prestigious Tsinghua University told AM: “The reason for the vote is that these delegates not only realise the seriousness of environmental pollution but also because they are influenced by public opinion. Now, in China, it’s not a certain group or a certain class but all people who are becoming involved in this environmental disaster”

    What happens to all of that coal if China stops buying? Could that happen?

  13. Robert in New Orleans says:

    If it is this bad now in Australia as stated by these reports, what is is going to be like in a decade or two?

    Is a Mad Max future even plausible?

    Where will Australians migrate to?

  14. Jim Baird says:

    Silver lining? Keven Trenbeth notes sea level rise went into revers in 2011 loosing 5mm, half of which fell as rain on Australia.

    It seems to me we can do something similar in North America, capturing Canada’s excess rainfall and diverting it from the Arctic to the south where it is needed and aquifers are being pumped dry.

  15. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Sure. They have already announced a cap on coal usage by 2015, ME

  16. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I’m not emigrating, just need to finish my underground house and my boat (joke), ME

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And again! He is threatening to end all finance for public transport infrastructure and railways in particular, in the cities, and put all the money into more freeways (sic) and tollways, for private cars. You couldn’t make this stuff up. The real Tony Abbott is running amuk, like the prisoner released from the chains of self-restraint and dissembling. And, looking to the UK, where the Tories, the ‘nasty party’, spent years lying that they had ‘changed’, then, once elected, are ruling as the most brutally socially regressive, class vengeful, unjust, inegalitarian, and fanatically anti-environmental regime in UK history, there you see the very blueprint for what Abbott will unleash. And, I’m sorry to say it, ME, but after experiencing the Great Australian Mediocrity over some years, Tony Abbott is precisely what so very many of them fully deserve.

  18. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Don’t take anything McDonell says about China without a ton of salt. Like all MSM ‘correspondents’ in China from this country, over forty years, his is, in my opinion, an entirely propagandistic assignment. All stories must be and are, negative, critical and contemptuous (often with a sneering tone redolent of cultural contempt)and the Chinese Government is always portrayed as a gang of malevolent buffoons, despite its achievements. MCDonell excels at projecting the effortless superiority of a representative of the Western ‘Free Press’, and his bemusement at how those stupid ChiComms always get things wrong.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Wherever we run away to, given our prodigious sadism directed against refugees fleeing countries that we helped destroy, I doubt that we will get a sympathetic welcome. If, on the other hand, our neighbours to the north are sorely afflicted, when they arrive in their millions, they might be generous enough to leave us Tasmania. Or deport us to New Zealand, if US billionaires haven’t bought it up entirely.

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Some of us are a bit below par but even the most awful don’t deserve the tragedy that would befall the land if he get in, ME

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    There’s always Kergulan, if it’s not under water by then, ME

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Being volcanic, Kerguelen is pretty high in places, up to 1800 metres. It’s pretty big, too. I often wondered what it would be like to runaway to it, after I saw its inviting isolation on maps. Still, after the Fall, I expect the seas will be filled with maritime ‘entrepreneurs’, and nowhere will be safe.