Rising temperatures are fueling widespread environmental degradation across Australia and supercharging natural disasters, a government report released yesterday said.
The State of the Climate report said that global warming was also slowly melting Australia’s alpine regions, while contributing to ocean acidification and rising sea levels.
Climate researcher Ian Lowe said that the report was a “frightening” wake-up call for Australia, which relies heavily on coal and gas exports for economic growth.
“The scale of changes demonstrates that cleaning up our energy use is an urgent priority,” Lowe said. “We also need to reduce our exports of coal and gas.”
The report, a joint effort between the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said that Australia’s climate had warmed by an average of 1.47°C since records began in 1910.
Australian Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said that the report was “sobering” reading.
“For our environment, for our communities, this report reinforces the urgent need for climate action,” Plibersek said.
Australia has in the past few years faced a series of weather events.
Flash floods swept through parts of inland New South Wales earlier this month, tearing entire homes from their foundations in some country towns.
Tens of thousands of Sydney residents were ordered to evacuate in July when floods swamped the city’s fringe.
An east coast flooding disaster in March — caused by heavy storms in Queensland and New South Wales — claimed more than 20 lives.
Bushfires swept through huge chunks of New South Wales in the “black summer” of 2019-2020, while the Great Barrier Reef has had four separate mass coral bleaching events since 2016.
“These changes are happening at an increased pace,” the report said.
“The past decade has seen record-breaking extremes leading to natural disasters that are exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change,” it added.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese last week unveiled a bid to host the 2026 COP summit.
Albanese’s government introduced a 2050 net zero emissions target following its election earlier this year, but has faced calls domestically to do more.
University of Melbourne climate scientist Andrew King said Australia needed to rapidly cut its carbon emissions.
“The consequences of our continued use of fossil fuels are clear in Australia like elsewhere,” King said.
“We must act quickly to decarbonize our economy to limit further damages from worsening extreme events,” he added.
Ailie Gallant from the Australia Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes said the deterioration in the country’s climate would “continue without deep and aggressive cuts to carbon emissions.”
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