Bloomberg News

Climate Change Fueling Extreme Australian Weather, Group Says

April 02, 2013

Australia is facing increased risks of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, wild fires and drought spurred by climate change, according to a report released today by the nation’s Climate Commission.

Key food-growing regions across Australia’s southeast and southwest are likely to experience more droughts in the future, the commission said in a statement accompanying the report.

The number of record hot days in Australia has doubled since the 1960s and a long-term drought is affecting the southwest corner of Western Australia state, which has recorded a 15 percent drop in rainfall since the mid-1970s, according to the commission. There’s a high risk that heatwaves, heavy rains, droughts and cyclones will become more severe over the coming decades, increasing the chances of adverse consequences to human health, agriculture, infrastructure and the environment, it said.

“Records are broken from time to time, but record-breaking weather is becoming more common as the climate shifts,” Chief Commissioner Tim Flannery said in the statement. “Only strong preventative action, with deep and swift cuts in emissions this decade, can stabilize the climate and halt the trend toward more intense extreme weather.”

Record temperatures triggered wildfires in southern and eastern Australian states in January. In the same month, the Insurance Council of Australia declared a catastrophe for parts of Queensland and New South Wales, which together account for half the nation’s economy. The severe weather left six people dead, disrupted mining operations in Queensland and caused an estimated A$187 million ($196 million) in insurance losses.

Sea levels have risen 20 centimeters globally, increasing the risk of flooding, according to the statement. For instance, Fremantle in Western Australia has experienced a three-fold increase in inundation events since 1950, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Soraya Permatasari in Melbourne at soraya@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net; Andrew Hobbs at ahobbs4@bloomberg.net


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