Climate crisis: not so slow-burning now.

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Editorial.


Lake Hume at 4% 2007.
Tim J Keegan. flickr cc.

Future generations will struggle to understand why key Australian politicians and sections of the media refused so long to recognise that global warming was an immediate threat to Australia and the world.

January 2019 was the hottest month on record in Australia, with the nation’s mean temperature above 30C for the first time. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, it was the warmest month on record for maximum and minimum temperatures as well.

Many parts of the country endured their hottest recorded temperatures, including Swan Hill and Kerang with over 47.5C, and Port Augusta reaching 49.5C, the highest ever recorded anywhere in Australia. Cloncurry had 43 days in a row above 40C, and Birdsville 16 days above 45C. As the Bureau said, such temperatures were ‘unprecedented’.

Disastrous floods in Queensland were followed by fires, with Victoria being particularly vulnerable.

Further warming of the oceans will result in continuing drying of much of the continent and more extreme climate events. Despite the strong growth in renewables worldwide, more rapid reduction in fossil fuel emissions will be needed to avert even more disastrous weather. Alas the world is not doing nearly enough to meet agreed climate targets.

Scientists are continually warning of the dire consequences of global warming, from rising sea levels to increasingly severe storms and cyclones, along with extreme heat, all damaging food production and security. Displacement of many millions of people from low-lying river deltas and land will force them to migrate or become climate refugees.

No wonder insurance firms are worried about covering their liabilities after so many cascading disasters in one part of the world after another. And no wonder so many drought-affected farmers who bear the immediate brunt of climate change are angry about the lamentable political effort to reduce carbon emissions. Even major mining and energy industries are planning for the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables as essential to sustain human and other species.

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