Extreme weather will become worse: experts
April 03, 2013 12:49PM
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A bushfire burns on the NSW North Coast
The Climate Commission says extreme weather causing bushfires will increase as the climate changes.
CLIMATE change is already exacerbating extreme weather events which will become more frequent and severe unless action is immediately taken to curb emissions, experts warn.
A report released on Wednesday by the Climate Commission says climate change has driven an increase in the occurrence and intensity of extreme weather events like floods, bushfires, droughts and hot days.
The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather report says extreme weather impacts agriculture, safety, business and health and emergency services.
Australia’s populous southeast is particularly vulnerable, it says, sparking calls from the report’s authors for governments, emergency services, businesses and individuals to begin planning for the predicted increase in extreme weather.
“These events… are being influenced by climate change so the risk profile has changed,” lead author Professor Will Steffen told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
“The action we take now in terms of getting emissions down… will have a big effect on what these extreme events will look like in the future.
“We’ve got to get the brakes on now, we’ve got to drop emissions fast and deeply to make sure we stabilise the climate.”
The report says the recent summer was the hottest ever, with the average daily maximum temperature for Australia staying above 39C for seven consecutive days, beating the previous record of four consecutive days.
Of the 21 days over the past 102 years where the average maximum temperature has risen above 39C, eight were in January 2013.
While southern Australia, where there are important agricultural regions, is expected to experience more droughts, the northwest of the country is predicted to become wetter as rainfall levels “very much above average” continue to increase due to climate change, the report says.
Emergency services must plan for dealing with the effects of bushfires, floods and droughts, which are expected to happen more often and last longer with greater severity, Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council manager Paul Considine said.
The Climate Commission’s Gerry Hueston, who recently retired as president of BP Australasia, said businesses needed to start considering how extreme weather would impact them.
“The game is changing externally for business, the risks are increasing,” he said.
“It’s a good time for business to reflect on exactly what they’re going to do.”
The independent commission’s report used research and observations from organisations including the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and domestic and international universities.