‘Climate Change Is Here’: Australia Experiences Hottest Two Years Ever Recorded

CREDIT: AP Photo/Joshua Baker

A spectator at the Australian Open tennis championship pours water over himself to cool down as play was suspended when organizers implemented the Extreme Heat policy on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014.

The last two years in Australia have been the hottest ever recorded, and there’s no sign that the heat wave is going to stop any time soon, a report released Sunday showed.

According to data compiled by Australia’s biggest crowd-funding campaign, the independent Climate Council, the period from May 2012 to April 2014 was the hottest 24-month period ever recorded in Australia. Next month, when the two-year period spans from June 2012 to May 2014, those above-average temperatures are expected to be even greater, the report said.

“Climate change is here, it’s happening, and Australians are already feeling its impact,” Professor Will Steffen of the Climate Council told the Guardian on Sunday. “We have just had an abnormally warm autumn, off the back of another very hot ‘angry summer.'”

Using data from the Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology, the Climate Council’s seasonal update — dubbed “Abnormal Autumn” — noted that average temperatures across Australia in April were 1.11°C above the long-term average, with average minimum temperatures 1.31°C above normal. Extreme high temperatures haven’t been confined to the summer months, either, the report said, noting September 2013 saw a mean temperature 2.75°C higher than the average, setting a new monthly record by more than a degree. Temperatures in October were also 1.43°C above average, priming conditions for an early and destructive bushfire season.

The exceptional heat has now continued into Australia’s current autumn, the report said, delaying the onset of winter conditions across the southern portion of the country.

“The climate system as a whole is heating up, and emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly from fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, are the primary cause,” the report said. “Temperatures are projected to continue to increase, with more extremely hot days and fewer extremely cool days. A further increase in the number of extreme fire-weather days is expected in southern and eastern Australia, with a longer fire season in these regions.”

The group that released the report used to be called the Climate Commission, and was an independent arm of the Australian government. But it was eliminated in September after Prime Minister Tony Abbott took office — part of a larger effort by Abbott to dismantle what had been an ambitious climate change framework in the country. Despite its elimination, however, the group re-formed and re-branded itself as the Climate Council, a now-privately-funded body with the same leader — professor and conservationist Tim Flannery — and commissioners.

The report did note that the trends could be turned around, so long as Australia gets back on track toward reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

“Australians have an opportunity to rapidly and significantly reduce our CO2 emissions to help stabilize the climate and halt the current trend towards more extreme weather events and hotter average temperatures,” the report said.