April 30, 2013

Australian Climate Commission Report That "Heavy Rainfall Has Increased Globally"

The Australian Climate Commission have just released two reports on climate change and the measures being taken around the world to address it. The first is entitled "The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather". Our headline covers the sort of extreme weather we're most familiar here in South West England, but the Climate Commission present a long list of other examples of recent extreme weather in Australia:

Heat: Extreme heat is increasing across Australia. There will still be record cold events, but hot records are now happening three times more often than cold records.

Bushfire weather: Extreme fire weather has increased in many parts of Australia, including southern New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and parts of South Australia, over the last 30 years.

Rainfall: Heavy rainfall has increased globally. Over the last three years Australia’s east coast has experienced several very heavy rainfall events, fuelled by record-high surface water temperatures in the adjacent seas.

Drought: A long-term drying trend is affecting the southwest corner of Western Australia, which has experienced a 15% drop in rainfall since the mid-1970s.

Sea-level rise: Sea level has already risen 20 cm. This means that storm surges ride on sea levels that are higher than they were a century ago, increasing the risk of flooding along Australia’s socially, economically and environmentally important coastlines.

The bullet points following that assessment read as follows:

  • Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment. This highlights the need to take rapid, effective action on climate change.
  • The climate system has shifted, and is continuing to shift, changing the conditions for all weather, including extreme weather events.
  • There is a high risk that extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy rainfall, bushfires and cyclones will become even more intense in Australia over the coming decades.
  • Only strong preventive action now and in the coming years can stabilise the climate and halt the trend of increasing extreme weather for our children and grandchildren.

The second report, entitled "The Critical Decade: Global Action Building on Climate Change", discusses what preventive action is being take around the world. The emphasis on China and the United States since, as we pointed out no so long ago, those two countries:

Are the world’s two largest economies and together produce approximately 37% of world emissions.

The bullet points this time around state that:

  • The energy giants China and the United States are accelerating action.
  • China’s efforts demonstrate accelerating global leadership in tackling climate change.
  • The United States has made a new commitment to lead.
  • Global momentum to tackle climate change is growing. Every major economy is tackling climate change, setting in place policies to drive down emissions and increase investment and capacity of renewable energy.
  • Australia is a major player and is important in shaping the global response to climate change.
  • This is the critical decade for action.

Whilst the United States may have made "a new commitment" I'm afraid I find it hard to discern enough in the way of "accelerating action" from over on that side of the Atlantic just yet. As the Climate Commission themselves put it:

While significant progress is being made, it is not enough. Globally emissions are continuing to rise strongly, posing serious risks for our society. This decade must set the foundations to reduce emissions rapidly to nearly zero by 2050. The earlier such action is under way the less disruptive and costly it will be.

All countries, particularly the major emitters like China, the United States and Australia, must move beyond their current commitments to reduce their emissions more deeply and swiftly. This is the critical decade to turn the global emissions trend downwards and to set the global foundations for accelerating reductions in decades to come.

One might easily conclude that in fact the previous decade would have been a much better time "to turn the global emissions trend downwards", but that didn't happen.  As if to make my point for me, the Australian Climate Commission have also produced a short animation to accompany those two hefty tomes. It's entitled "Climate Change Fuelling Wilder Weather", and here it is:

What can we do? Here's the conclusion of the Australian Climate Commission:

We need to prepare to live in a world with more intense, extreme weather. This is the critical decade. We are the critical people.

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