Australia’s Climate Commission has released a five-page report discussing Australia’s unprecedented heat wave:
Australia is a land of extremes. As global temperature rises, very hot days are becoming more frequent and heatwaves are becoming more prolonged across many parts of Australia.
The heatwave affecting Australia in late December and early January brought extreme heat to most of the Australian continent over a sustained period. Temperatures above 40°C and 45°C were unprecedented in their extent across the continent, breaking new records for Australian averaged maximum temperatures. The heat was also unprecedented in its duration.
They note the climate change connection:
Although Australia has always had heatwaves, hot days and bushfires, climate change has increased the risk of more intense heatwaves and extreme hot days, as well as exacerbated bushfire conditions. Climate change is making extreme hot days, heatwaves and bushfire weather worse.
The increase in extreme weather in Australia illustrates an important way that greenhouse gases are forcing a shift in climate that is very costly. This highlights the need for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The report also highlights the other risks associated with this kind of heat wave:
Heatwaves in recent years around Australia have resulted in increased hospital admissions for kidney disease, acute renal failure and heart attacks, and in death (Climate Commission, 2011). During the severe heatwaves in southeastern Australia in 2009, Melbourne sweltered through three consecutive days at or above 43°C in late January. There were 980 deaths during his period—374 more than the estimated 606 that would have occurred on average for that time of year, or an estimated increase of 62% (DHS, 2009). Most of the increase was among people aged 75 or older (DHS, 2009).
It is a well produced and very accessible report – I’d go so far as to say its a great document to give to that friend, colleague or acquaintance who isn’t clear on the connection between climate change and extreme weather events.
I have to applaud the Commission for creating this document and helping the general public understand the implications of climate change.