Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has just survived a rare motion for a leadership spill — a call by his party to re-elect its leader. The controversy that led to the vote had more to do with the PM’s independence than the looming climate crisis facing the country. While a possible replacement leader for the Liberal Party was current Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has shown more of a commitment to climate change than the PM, opposition parties were naturally skeptical as to whether Turnbull could have offered any significant change.
But real change is needed if we are to believe recent studies on Australia’s rising temperatures and vulnerability to climate change. Findings from the country’s national science agency CSIRO and its Bureau of Meteorology, based on 40 global climate models, predict a continual rising of temperatures for the remainder of the century with as much as a 1.3C increase by 2030 compared to averages between 1986 and 2005. Predicted increases for 2090 range from 2.8C to as much as 5.1C depending on the extent or absence of global emissions cuts.
From the Guardian:
According to the report, this “business-as-usual” approach to burning fossil fuels is set to cook Australia more than the rest of the world, which will average a temperature increase of 2.6C to 4.8C by 2090.
Rising temperatures and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather and El Niño and La Niña events mean more drought, more bush fires and more floods — all with worrying consequences. Besides the direct human dangers from fire and floods, various industries will be hit hard by these developments.
The farming sector can suffer from damaged crops due to heat waves, waterlogged fields and sustained extreme dry conditions in agricultural zones. Heat waves also shut down transport infrastructure, such as urban metro lines, while mines have already been closed for long stretches.
Extreme heat can affect outdoor workers, reducing their productivity and endangering their health. Extreme rainfall can flood mines and close them down for long periods of time.
—Professor Will Steffen, climate change expert and researcher, Australian National University in Canberra (via Vice)
Last year was Australia’s third hottest year on record, while 2013 provide the country’s hottest year, season, month and year. A study by Australia’s Climate Council determined that in the absence of human-generated emissions, those kinds of events would only happen once every 12,300 years.
Another Australian study, this one from the Climate Group, warns that popular national sports such as cricket, tennis, football and skiing may not be viable in the future due to climate change and extreme weather events. If conditions continue to develop as they are, it is the vast amount of small, local clubs that will suffer most, as they lack the funds of large profitable teams and organizations to adapt to challenging climactic changes.
Unfortunately, the Australian government has continued to pursue policies that favor emission-heavy industry while functionally ignoring the perils of climate change, even as state-funded organizations produce research warning it to do the exact opposite.
Climate change “skepticism” is also still high among the Australian public, no doubt fuelled by those in government and the fossil fuel companies that influence policy-making. But there’s no point in arguing the science of climate change with the skeptics, according to yet another Australian study. Researchers suggest that it might be more effective to find common ground and work together towards climate change action based on highlighting its other benefits, such as clean air, improved waste management, reforestation and lowering power consumption.
Meanwhile, Down Under just keeps heating up…