SYDNEY – Australia will suffer from extreme heat and more frequent fires as a result of climate change, as well as an increase in sea levels, flood risks and ocean acidification, according to a biannual study by government agencies released Thursday.
The report “State of the Climate 2018” prepared by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) indicates that from 1910 to the present time the average land and sea surface temperature in Australia has increased by more than one degree Celsius.
“In line with global trends, our data shows that Australia’s climate will continue to heat up,” the director of the CSIRO Climate Science Centre Helen Cleugh said in the report, adding that eight of the ten hottest years in history of the country have been registered from 2005 to date.
The report shows that in the last forty years the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased steadily.
“Carbon dioxide levels have risen 46 percent since the pre-industrial era, (from around 1750),” the scientist added, considering that one of the biggest contributors is the increase in atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels.
“What’s more, the combined concentration of all greenhouse gases exceeded the equivalent of 500 ppm of CO2 in mid-2018. These milestones haven’t been crossed for at least 800,000 years, and likely 2 million years,” the report says.
Karl Braganza, manager of the Climate Watch unit at the Meteorology Office, said the trend contributes to an increase in weather conditions that cause extreme heat and an extension of the fire season.
The trend “is particularly noticeable in the south and east of Australia,” said the expert referring to the most populated areas, where the cities of Melbourne and Sydney are located.
The report also highlights a decrease in rainfall, as well as a rise in sea levels and the acidification of the oceans that surround Australia, a country that has faced two massive consecutive coral bleaching events in the Great Barrier Reef.
“To protect Australians from the impact of the worsening climate, the federal government must have a credible climate policy underway to quickly reduce our atmospheric pollution while adapting to a more dangerous world,” Greg Mullins, a representative of the Climate Council, an independent body of experts, said in a statement.
Australia pledged to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, but a recent UN report indicates that “there has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017.”
“The latest projection published by the government show that emissions would remain at high levels rather than reducing in line with the 2030 target,” the document said.
Climate change is one of the thorny issues in Australia, which has seen several of its governments fall for policies regarding a price on carbon or the national energy plan.
This responds to a strong conservative political sector that seeks to maintain the exploitation of fossil fuels, especially coal, arguing that alternative energies or measures to mitigate climate change would raise electricity prices and cut jobs.