THE RELENTLESS DELUGE that has flooded towns and cities in Queensland and New South Wales is one of the most extreme disasters in Australian history, and the devastation is wide ranging.
New Climate Council report ‘A Supercharged Climate: Rain bombs, flash flooding and destruction’ comes as the Prime Minister declares a national emergency, and outlines the sheer intensity and magnitude of the devastating rainfall and storms that caused widespread flooding and destruction along Australia’s east coast.
- Within three days, the Brisbane River below Wivenhoe received 1,450 billion litres of water – the equivalent of three Sydney Harbours’ worth.
- 60 percent of Brisbane’s annual rainfall fell in the city over three days, which is almost the same amount of rain that typically falls in London over an entire year.
- Insured losses are currently on track to reach $2 billion. The estimated current cost of insurance claims related to the Feb/March 2022 Queensland and New South Wales flooding disaster is $1.45 billion (as of 8 March 2022).
- The recovery time for communities and emergency services between events is shrinking. In the 10 years preceding this disaster, the NSW coast suffered five severe rainfall events with daily totals exceeding 400 millimeters.
- The NSW State Emergency Service conducted a record 932 rescues within 24 hours (28 Feb – 1 March 2022).
- Climate change is intensifying extreme rainfall. The frequency of these events is likely to almost double with each degree of further global warming.
Professor Will Steffen, Climate Councillor, climate change expert and ANU Emeritus Professor said:
“Climate change is playing out in real time here in Australia. We are dealing with a climate system on steroids.”
“For many communities dealing with flood emergencies, this is the latest in a long line of climate-fuelled extreme weather events they have faced recently. Unless we act now and join the rest of the world to reduce emissions this decade, such disasters will only get worse.”
While Queensland and New South Wales have been hit with historic rainfall and floods, Tasmania endured its driest summer in 40 years and Perth has smashed its previous record number of summer days at or over 40°C.
“To date, the Morrison Government’s response to the climate crisis has been both dangerous and weak. What we need to keep front of mind is that every fraction of a degree of warming saved will be counted in lives saved. Every tonne of CO2 emissions avoided matters.”
Nicki Hutley, Climate Councillor, leading economist and former Partner at Deloitte Access Economics said:
“Just like the Black Summer bushfires, these floods are going to leave lasting scars on those impacted, and will have economy-wide impacts affecting all of us for many years to come.
“Floods are already the costliest extreme weather event in Australia and this disaster has so far racked up insurance losses of almost $1.5 billion. The full economic costs and impacts are immense, and wide-ranging including loss of life, physical injury and mental health issues, business disruption and loss of productivity, agricultural damage impacting food supply and biodiversity losses.
“Properties in high-risk areas may become uninsurable due to the escalating impacts of climate change, we know this more profoundly affects people on low incomes. With governments now talking of extending the cyclone insurance pool to cover flood and fire for these households, the costs to all Australians is rapidly growing.
“Queensland often bears the brunt of such disasters. Between 2010 and 2019, Queenslanders paid more than double the extreme weather disaster losses of any other state or territory, costing the state $18 million. This equates to more than half the national total of $35 billion.
The Climate Council recommends Australia triple its efforts and take strong, bold measures to reduce its national emissions by 75 percent by 2030, and reach net zero by 2035.
Failing to rapidly and deeply reduce global emissions will severely increase risks to Australian lives and livelihoods, communities and ecosystems.
Correction: An error was corrected in this report on Thursday March 10. It now correctly reads: A “rain bomb” hit Brisbane and southeastern Queensland with around 60 percent of the region’s average annual rainfall occurring within three days. Brisbane received almost the same amount of rain in three days than London in the UK typically does over an entire year.
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