Ultra heatwave: Australia's new normal

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The world burns, while corporations and governments fiddle

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Day after day of temperatures above 40°C. Peak temperatures so high that the weather service had to add two new colors to its maps. Over 300,000 acres consumed by massive bush fires.

That’s the present reality in Australia, and as Simon Butler writes in Green Left Weekly, more of the same is on the way.

As this century progresses, the record high temperatures experienced across Australia in the past few months will no longer be dangerous departures from the norm, but a regular feature of Australian summers.

This is one of the conclusions reached in a draft of the fifth assessment report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was leaked and published online last month.

In a chapter on the regional impacts of climate change, the leaked report said of Australia:

“The frequency of very warm days is virtually certain to increase through this century, across the whole country. For an arid to semi-arid country such as Australia, this will put further stress on already strained water resources.”

Alongside the water issue, an increase in very warm days also suggests a rise in the frequency and intensity of bushfire emergencies.

Combining evidence from past trends with computer modelling, the draft report also projects that Australia will be subject to longer droughts, less winter rainfall and “an expansion of the sub-tropical dry zone.”

It also refers to strong evidence that climate change is already having a big impact on the continent. The draft report notes “sustained long term declines” in rainfall in southern Australia and far higher air temperatures, which “exacerbated the recent drought situation over south-east Australia.”

By the end of the century, the draft IPCC report says, southern Australia will likely have at least 10% less rainfall and “more persistent” dry spells. It projects average temperature rises of 3°C to 4°C in northern and central Australia, with “slightly less warming” in the south of the country.

A mere 1°C average temperature rise is thought to equate to a 15% fall in yearly water inflow into the Murray-Darling basin.

The world burns, while corporations and governments fiddle.


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