A NEW CLIMATE COUNCIL report has found this summer is shaping up as a terrible trifecta of heatwaves, droughts and bushfires, made worse by climate change. “Dangerous Summer: Escalating Bushfire, Heat and Drought Risk” finds the catastrophic events unfolding across Australia are not normal.
“Climate change is supercharging the extreme weather events we are witnessing. We have seen temperature records smashed, bushfires in winter and a prolonged drought. Climate change is influencing all of these things,” said Climate Councillor and report author, Professor Will Steffen.
“It is only the beginning of summer, which means the biggest danger period may yet be to come,” he said.
Report Key Findings
- If greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the unusually hot weather currently experienced will become commonplace, occurring every summer across the country. Sydney and Melbourne could experience unprecedented 50°C summer days by the end of the century.
- The current prolonged drought across eastern Australia is threatening crops for a third year in a row, and national summer crop production is forecast to fall by 20 percent to 2.1 million tonnes.
- The period from January 2017 to October 2019 have been the driest on record for the Murray-Darling Basin as a whole.
- Wildlife has been badly affected by the ongoing bushfires, with reports of at least 1,000 koala deaths in important habitats in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
- Australia must contribute to the global effort to deeply and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we must prepare our emergency and fire services and communities for worsening extreme weather events.
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting above average maximum temperatures for most of Australia this summer with eastern Australia likely to be drier than average.
“Eastern Australia is currently plagued by drought, with no significant rain in sight to dampen its impact on rural and regional communities, farming, water supplies and the natural environment,” said the Climate Council’s CEO, Amanda McKenzie.
The number of heatwave days each year has been increasing in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, and across Australia as a whole since 1950.
“These heatwaves can have severe effects on human health, including both direct heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and indirect illnesses such as cardiovascular failure,” said Ms McKenzie.
“This long-term warming trend driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas is putting Australian lives, our economy and the environment at risk.,” she said.
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