“It must be a singularly frustrating experience to be a climate scientist in Australia,” wrote Blair Palese on Wednesday. “UC Professor of Health and IPCC report contributor Colin Butler even resorted to chaining himself to a coal processing plant, in an attempt to make his message heard (his protest was largely ignored until Rugby Captain David Pocock joined the fray a week later).”
Palese is the CEO of 350.org in Australia and the communications advisor for the global Antarctic Ocean Alliance. Yesterday, she took to her keyboard to express her frustration with the latest findings of the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, that say Australia will suffer the greatest rise in temperature on the planet if carbon emission rates remain as they are.
According to BOM and CSIRO, their latest report on observed and projected climate change is the “most comprehensive ever released for Australia.” The figures reveal a startling reality and a disturbing future for the island continent.
The report notes that Australia’s climate has in fact already changed. Since 1910, the country has warmed an average 0.9°C. Since the 1970s, rainfall has increased in northern Australia but decreased in the southeast and the southwest. In the former region, rainfalls have been heavier; in the latter, the fires have been more extreme. Sea levels have risen approximately 20 centimeters.
These problems will only be exacerbated as global warming increases. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated with 95 percent certainty that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are influencing the climate of the planet and that countries must regulate their fossil fuels to prevent the global climate from rising above 2°C. Last summer, Australia’s notoriously anti-green government repealed the country’s carbon tax and, ever since, carbon emissions in the country have been rising.
In October (which is the continent’s summer) heat waves smashed temperature records nationwide.
The CSIRO/BOM report states that, even in a low emission scenario, the country’s average temperatures will rise by 0.6 to 1.7°C. In a high emission scenario, it could warm by 2.8 to 5.1°C. Those rainfalls that do occur will be much more intense; severe droughts will increase in frequency over southern Australia; increasing evaporation rates will contribute to a reduction in soil moisture; snowfall will decrease; and ocean acidification caused by increased absorption of carbon dioxide will damage the Great Barrier Reef and hard shelled creatures and is very likely “to impact the entire marine ecosystem from plankton at the base to fish at the top.”
In her article, Blair Palese pointed out that these projections for Australia’s future were already on the horizon nearly a decade ago. “The findings of the latest CSIRO and BOM report, which show Australia will be disproportionately hit by the worst effects of climate change, are almost identical to findings from their 2006 report on the same topic,” she wrote. “What’s new is that we’ve had eight years – eight years! – to take these dire warnings on board, and have taken serious steps backwards instead.”