‘Angry Summer’ made worse by climate change

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Feature Story - 3 March, 2013
Everyone’s been talking about the summer of 2012/13 being the wildest one yet. And in a country of flooding rains and burning plains, it takes extremely wild weather for people to sit up and take notice.

Angry Summer
Click on the image to see the full graphic

The Climate Commission has now combed through the data and broken the news that Australians have had a taste of what climate change really means. As the Commission’s scientists have now said:

“All weather, including extreme weather events, is influenced by climate change. All extreme weather events are now occurring in a climate system that is warmer and moister than it was 50 years ago.”

Check out the Climate Commission’s full run down on Australia’s ‘Angry Summer’  

Breaking new records

This summer, we sheltered our kids from the beginnings of a storm that will worsen for decades to come unless we act decisively to prevent it. There have been only 21 days in 102 years of records where the average maximum temperature across Australia has exceeded 39°C. Eight of them happened this summer.

Over a period of 90 days this summer, 123 weather records were broken across the continent, including:

  • Seven days in a row with a temperature above 39 degrees for Australia as a whole
  • Hottest day ever recorded for Australia as a whole
  • 44 weather stations recoding hottest maximum temperature records
  • 26 daily rainfall records at weather stations with over 80 years of data, including 11 all-time daily rainfall records
  • Five river height records during recent floods.

What’s making it worse?

Professor James Hansen, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has said, “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilisation and all life on this planet.”

When the coal in the mines planned in Queensland is exported and burnt, it’ll create more greenhouse gases, helping to drive climate change past the ‘point of no return’, changing weather patterns and  potentially inundating the  homes of millions.

Australia is already the world’s largest coal exporter and the mining industry plans to more than double production from Queensland and NSW in a little over a decade.

Such a move would add an extra 900 million tonnes of CO2 per year to the atmosphere – a figure which dwarfs the less than 600 million tonnes we produce from every car, factory, farm and power station in Australia combined.   

Research commissioned by Greenpeace and released amid the heat and fire of January 2013 revealed that the expansion of Australia’s coal exports would be the second largest ‘carbon bomb’ on the planet, bigger even than proposed Canadian tar sands or US shale gas projects.

What the experts are saying

In January this year, 20 prominent Australians and 42 non-government organisations joined Greenpeace and 350.org President Bill McKibben in a public letter calling for a halt to the expansion of coal exports. Over 10,000 Australians joined that call in the month after we released it in the Australian Financial Review, and it has since been delivered to every member of Australian parliament.

Signatories include Australian scientists Prof Lesley Hughes, Prof Matthew England and Prof David Karoly, as well as Prof Robert Manne, former Premier of Western Australia Dr Carmen Lawrence and ex-Governor of Victoria David de Kretser. Together, they have told Australia’s leaders that our choice is clear: cease expansion of coal exports or wilfully threaten the future of our children.

For many years, debate and discussion about the role of Australian coal exports in driving climate change has been suppressed and dismissed: we can no longer afford to do that. Let’s make 2013 the year we turned a corner on climate change, and stopped expanding our biggest contribution to it.

You can put your name on the statement here: http://bit.ly/LetsTalkAboutCoal

If you’ve  already signed the statement, call Climate Change Minister Greg Combet to tell him you’re worried about our Angry Summer, and want the Government to stop the expansion of the coal export industry.