Australia is on track for its warmest ever year – ‘Wherever you sit in politics, denying the science isn’t an intelligent way to go forward’Posted by Jim at Tuesday, November 12, 2013
By Oliver Milman
10 November 2013
(theguardian.com) – Australia is "on track" for its warmest ever calendar year, temperatures in October 1.43C above the long-term average and more than 100 heat-related records broken in the past 12 months, according to a new report.
The Climate Council study, called Off the Charts, says that the country has just had its warmest ever 12-month period, from 1 November 2012 to 31 October 2013. This is the third month in a row that this 12-month temperature record has been broken.
The report, drawn from Bureau of Meteorology data, states that the past 12 months have been, on average, 0.22C warmer than any other equivalent period prior to 2013, making it likely that 2013 will be Australia's warmest ever calendar year.
October saw a continuation of this trend, being 1.43C warmer than the average set between 1961 and 1990. The month was notable for widespread bushfires in NSW, which triggered a fierce debate over whether climate change made such blazes more likely, with Tony Abbott finding himself at odds with the United Nation's climate chief.
The Climate Council, which was abolished as a public body by the Coalition government in September before being resurrected through public donations, said the heat in October was felt across the country.
The month was Sydney's second warmest October on record, at 3.6C above the long-term average. Brisbane experienced a maximum average temperature of 28.8C, it's highest ever, while Alice Springs airport hit a record October high of 42.6°C and Western Australia had its second warmest October on record.
The Climate Council said a number of temperature records have been set so far in 2013, including –
- Australia's warmest summer on record (December 2012 to February 2013).
- Australia's warmest January and September on record.
- Australia's warmest 12-month period on record (now broken three times, for the periods ending August, September, and October).
- There have been 15 months in a row of above-average temperatures.
The climate information body, which is headed by Tim Flannery and comprises a selection of economists, ecologists and climate scientists, said it was "essential" to rapidly reduce carbon emissions in response to the escalating temperatures.
"We've got to put the last 12 months into the context of the last half century," Prof. Will Steffen of the Climate Council told Guardian Australia. "The number of hot days has more than doubled since the 1950s and 1960s and the number of cold days have gone down.
"This longterm warming trend is skewing the temperatures we are seeing. September and October this year are consistent with the fact that while we still have variability, the dice is now loaded towards warmer weather.
"Lots of people sense that our climate is fundamentally shifting. You talk to fishermen who see fish they have not seen in the waters before, you look at the migration patterns of birds and bats we've not seen before, and so on. People ask 'what's going on?' and that's when we look at the data and see what's happened in the past half century."
The Climate Council's report has been timed for the start of United Nations climate talks in Warsaw, which won't have an Australian ministerial presence for the first time since the Kyoto accord was struck in 1997.
Steffen said that while the Climate Council does not comment on policy, he has been disheartened by the "infantile" debate in Australia over the veracity of climate science.
"Wherever you sit in politics, denying the science isn't an intelligent way to go forward," he said. "The data is out there, the peer reviewed science is out there, the scientific reality is out there. It's infantile to say you don't believe in it – it's not about belief.
"The statements that have come out of this government haven't been consistent. Certainly the [environment] minister has said several times the science is accepted, but by others it isn't.
"We need clarity, like in Europe and China, that the science is real and it's an issue. We haven't got to that point in Australia and, in fact, I think we've regressed." [more]