THE coal industry should be shut down with Australia’s energy requirements to be met from renewables including solar and wind to combat climate change.
That’s the recommendation of pressure group Climate Council, which says climate change is now influencing all extreme weather events with some of the most severe climate impacts the world has experienced occurring in 2016.
The latest Climate Council report ‘Cranking up the intensity: Climate Change and Extreme Weather events’ says that while the links between climate change and some extreme weather events such as bushfires and heatwaves are well-established, the evidence linking climate change to storms and heavy rainfall is also growing.
The report also says extreme weather events are projected to worsen across Australia as the climate warms further, with varying impacts for each state.
The use of fossil fuels and in particular coal is a major contributor to the problem, the report says.
“It’s no longer a question of if climate change is influencing an extreme weather event but to what extent,” climate scientist Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University in Canberra said.
“All extreme weather events are now occurring in an atmosphere that is hotter and wetter than it was 60 years ago. There is more energy in the system to drive more extreme weather.”
The 100 page report finds:
- Records were broken across the world in 2016 with eight one-in-500 year storms in the US.
- In September 2016, South Australia experienced a one-in-50 year supercharged storm event.
- Extreme heat is projected to increase across the whole of Australia, with significant increases in the length, intensity and frequency of heatwaves in many regions.
- The time spent in drought is projected to increase across Australia, especially in southern Australia. Extreme drought is expected to increase in both frequency and duration.
- Southern and eastern Australia are projected to experience harsher fire weather.
- The intensity of extreme rainfall events is projected to increase across most of Australia.
“We have to redefine a one in 100 or one in 50 year fire or flood, these events are now happening more frequently. We need to make sure our infrastructure is up to the task.”
Prof Hilary Bambrick, an epidemiologist and an expert on the health impacts of climate change at the University of Technology in Brisbane, said more extreme weather events would put Australia’s most vulnerable at risk.
“Extreme heat, like other extreme weather events, has clear detrimental impacts on individual and community health,” Prof Bambrick said.
“We have seen that this summer as a number of Australians have been admitted to hospital with heat related illnesses.
“While we can make our health services more resilient to coping with extreme weather events, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure.
“Ultimately to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events and to do our fair share in the global effort to tackle climate change, we have to cut our emissions quickly and deeply.
“Australia’s pollution is continuing to rise while global emissions flatline. The energy, business and environment sectors are in agreement about the need for a strong federal policy mechanism to encourage an orderly closure of Australia’s ageing coal-fired power stations to make way for modern, clean and efficient renewables.
“The only thing standing in the way of Australia getting on the path to tackling climate change is political will.”