Australia is overheating – faster than predicted

Australia continues to overheat and experience more extreme weather events due to manmade climate changeglobal warming – caused by the burning of polluting fossil fuels and deforestation.  Scientists warn it’s heating up even faster than previously predicted and we’re on track for even more dangerous extreme weather events.

February 2015 was +2.35 degrees above average temperatures for the nation as the world continued to warm with 2014 our hottest ever year on record.  Catastrophic fire conditions during WA’s dry summer resulted in the state’s biggest ever bushfire season – one started by lightning destroyed about 95,000 hectares.

imageAustralia has just had its hottest spring on record...its hottest two years on record… Our warmer than average winter saw reduced overall rainfall (-44% in Perth which had its hottest ever August) lead to an earlier and more intense bushfire season.  This follows on from an abnormally warm autumn with multiple records broken.  Read the latest Climate Council reports.

In 2014 Perth suffered its driest summer, +2 degrees hotter than usual.  The Climate Council Angry Summer Report shows that more than 156 records were broken in just 90 days around the nation.

2013 was our hottest year, during our hottest decade so far.  Australia’s second angry summer’s record-breaking heatwaves and bushfires  claimed hundreds of lives and tens of homes. Critical infrastructure was damaged, emergency services stretched to the limit. The Climate Council reports that the frequency of heatwaves has surpassed those anticipated by 2030. The 2014 State of the Climate from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO warns of more extremes, higher temperatures – unless carbon emissions are drastically reduced.

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City temperatures rose 1-3 degrees above usual in January,  following the trend of 2013 which saw the national average rise by 1.2 degrees.  In Victoria alone, 203 heatwave deaths were recorded. Perth reached a stifling 46 degrees during its above average hot and dry summer, and Adelaide recorded nearly 46 degrees as it broke its hottest-ever day and heatwave record to become the hottest place on earth. Night time temperatures in major southern cities have exceeded 30 degrees. During summer’s heatwaves 60 children, including a young baby, had to be rescued from being left locked in cars in 37-42 degrees. Thousands of people suffered heatstroke, and tens of thousands of livestock and wildlife died in the extreme heat.

Scientists predict that within a few years, Australian cities will record 50 degree days in summer due to manmade climate change. Several regional towns have already recorded such high temperatures. The number of Perth days above 35 degrees are expected to more than double.  Rising ocean temperatures are devastating our fragile marine life – new research shows the Great Barrier Reef will be ruined within 16 years unless stronger climate action is taken. This heating trend is set to continue unchecked due to our rising carbon emissions if we don’t act now to reduce them by significantly raising our reductions target and switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  A Bureau of Meteorology expert warns WA to expect decades of rising temperatures and extreme hot and dry summers – but no major Australian public authority, no state or federal government, is adequately addressing the cause of the problem – our ballooning CO2 pollution.

Number of days temperatures have been in the top 1% nationwide - via BOM.
Number of days temperatures have been in the top 1% nationwide – via BOM.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO TURN DOWN THE HEAT?

Manmade climate change is the legacy of burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – which we continue to do worldwide at an alarming rate. Australia’s production of carbon emissions will soon contribute up to 10% of the world’s total pollution levels due to our expanding exports of climate-polluting coal (for example via Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart-owned mines), and ‘natural’ gas, etc. Unless countries like Australia – and people like you and I – slash our emissions by switching to 100% renewable energy such as solar power and hybrid/electric cars/scooters, and stop financing the fossil fuel industry via our super fund investments and banking, global temperatures will simply keep rising to dangerous levels. International talks continue to try to limit global temperature rises to a maximum of +2 degrees by cutting climate pollution to prevent catastrophic weather events wiping out lives and economies. However, Australia is lagging behind global efforts.  The Federal Government has repealed the price on carbon which had been effective in lowering emissions and stifle growth of renewable energy in Australia by lowering our Renewable Energy Target.   Scientists and an increasing number of world leaders warn us that if pollution reductions are not made deep and fast enough, the world will experience a catastrophic rise of +4-4.5 degrees this century which humans will find difficult to adapt to given anticipated sea level rises, extreme weather events, resulting health impacts and disruptions to food and water supplies. With barely a 1 degree global rise so far we are already seeing record summer temperatures, heatwaves, bushfires, storms, flooding, deep freezes and mega-droughts across the world.  Oceans are warming and acidifying at an unprecedented rate, putting all seafood stocks at risk – 75% of Perth’s adult herring will be lost in 2014 according to the WA Department of Fisheries and our coral reefs are bleaching from marine heatwaves. In addition, sea levels are rising with 80 per cent of the Arctic’s ice melted since 1970 and Antarctic’s large glacier now in irreversible melt. (See #jointhedots on #climate.)

Forecast rise in global temperatures via NOAA Global Climate Projections.
Forecast rise in global temperatures via NOAA Global Climate Projections.

Significant threats to Australia revealed – new IPCC climate report Latest coverage of new 2014 climate science report Accelerating rise in temperatures expected if carbon emissions not significantly reduced – new State of the Climate Report 2014, BOM and CSIRO New Climate Council Report: Angry Summer 2013-2014 Warming climate threatens health, Australian doctors warn WA’s ‘mad’ summer is proof of climate change: Bureau of Meterology expert Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, More Often, Climate Council Report, 2014 Off the Charts: 2013 Australia’s Hottest Year, Climate Council Report, 2014   Climate of 2013: the hottest year on record. Annual Climate Statement, Bureau of Meteorology, 2014 Climate change and the Australian bushfire threat, Climate Council Report, 2014  January 2014 heatwaves, official BOM reports Global Climate Change Key Indicators, NASA, 2014 (US) Global Climate Dashboard, NOAA, 2014 (US) Climate science and the impacts of climate change, Climate Change Authority, 2014 Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a Hot World, Christoff, Garnaut, CSIRO scientists et al, Routledge, 2014  Senate Inquiry recommends retaining Australia’s existing climate action, need to boost measures Climate Response: Climate Science and Solutions for Australia, CSIRO, 2014 IPCC 5th Assessment Report Summary  Climate change is here now  Australia’s hottest year was no freak event: humans caused it Is Climate Change Already Dangerous?  The Global Climate Disruption Top five climate challenges for Australia HotOz ___________________________________________________________________________For daily updates follow 50 degrees? on Facebook. Based in Perth, Western Australia, Tanyia Maxted writes on the climate crisis, divestment from the fossil fuels causing climate change, and solutions such as solar-charged electric cars.  The mother-of-two previously worked in water science communication for an Australian Government-funded national research centre, and in science communication for two Perth universities. See archived articles for ScienceNetworkWA and her UK-published books via Amazon.

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