Warning for Australia: More extreme weather on its way

Saturday, March 8, 2014
A huge storm rolls over Sydney on March 5. Photo: Rohan Pearce

When the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology released their State Of The Climate 2014 report on March 4 it should have made headlines for days, provoked a big parliamentary discussion and a public debate about the emergency action we need to take to address the climate crisis.

But it didn't.

The report made the news for a day but the main impression put across mainstream media was that Australia was getting wetter.

That's good news, right?

Not at all, as this was just one fact plucked out of context. The report found that Australian average annual rainfall has increased slightly, largely due to increases in spring and summer rainfall, most markedly in north-western Australia. This was because the dryer parts of the continent had become dryer and the wetter parts wetter.

In short, expect more extreme weather, more bushfires, more droughts and more floods.

Did you notice the federal government's ministers scrambling to respond? Or the Labor opposition vigorously demanding action?

The government was too busy working out how to cut Australia's already woefully inadequate Renewable Energy Target (RET), which aims to have 20% of Australia’s energy produced from renewables by 2020. The opposition was too busy searching for that sliver of seeming difference to hide the ugly pile of bipartisan policy.

Australia’s mean surface air temperature has warmed by 0.9°C since 1910. Seven of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. The frequency of very warm months has increased five-fold and the frequency of very cool months has declined by around a third over the past 15 years, compared to 1951–1980. Sea-surface temperatures in the Australian region have warmed by 0.9°C since 1900.

”La-la-la-la we're not listening,” say the politicians.

The duration, frequency and intensity of heatwaves have increased across large parts of Australia since 1950. There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of Australia since the 1970s.

”Not listening. La-la-la-la.”

Australian temperatures are projected to continue to increase, with more hot days and fewer 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.

Average rainfall in southern Australia is projected to decrease, with a likely increase in drought frequency and severity. The frequency and intensity of extreme daily rainfall is projected to increase. Tropical cyclones are projected to decrease in number but increase in intensity. Projected sea-level rise will increase the frequency of extreme sea-level events.

La-la-la-la. Build the world’s biggest coal port in central Queensland and dredge the UN World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park to allow the expansion of coal mining that could double Australia’s coal exports in the next decade. Sounds like a good business idea, why not?

Frighteningly, there is no sense of emergency or responsibility in establishment politics or media.

At Green Left Weekly, we know it is an emergency and we act like it is. We tell the truth and we make the case for an emergency response that requires a decisive break from the present corporate-business-as-usual path that leads to ecocide.

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From GLW issue 1000