By Anika Molesworth
This fifth, biennial State of the Climate report draws on the latest monitoring, science and projection information to describe variability and changes in Australia’s climate. The observations and climate modelling paint a consistent picture with numerous other reports and recent data – of ongoing, long term climate change interacting with underlying natural variability.
This latest document, compiled by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, sits alongside recent scientific warnings presented in the IPCC Special Report, UN 2018 Emissions Gap Report, the National GHG inventory, the Climate Change Performance Index and many others – which say, in a nutshell, things aren’t looking great and we’re a long way off from meeting Australia’s climate commitments “in a canter”.
Perhaps it’s the two-weeks of +40oC temperatures I’ve experienced this summer which have me feeling a little hot under the collar about all this.
I’ve had an attack of heatstroke, stressed over the stress I can see on our livestock, dragged away collapsed animals from dams and troughs, carried buckets of water to our trees growing around our shearing shed in the desperate attempt to keep them going, watched media headlines of a million fish dying of toxic algae blooms in our closest river, swept out our house of red sand after another dust-storm… and what’s the current weather report telling me? Over forties and no rain on the horizon.
Climate change affects all aspects of Australian life – but hits rural Australia and the agricultural sector pretty hard. This is due to changes associated with increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, like heatwaves, bushfire and drought. Across the Murray-Darling Basin, stream flows have declined by 41% since the mid-1990s. That has huge implications for the availability and cost of water for farmers and the proper ecological functioning of these precious life-giving systems.
I get that “the only solution is rain” (Canberra’s broken-record stuck on repeat) but to follow on by saying "and we have no control over that" is factually incorrect. We are unequivocally changing the planets climate system. This is what the science has been telling us for the last 50 years!
I would honestly feel a little more comfortable about this hot and sticky situation, knowing that we were understanding the magnitude of what is being presented in the science, heed the urgency for action required, learn from the current devastation of drought sweeping the country, and put in place ambitious climate and energy policies.
Not tomorrow. Not after the next ecological disaster or mass fish die-off. But right now!
We know that a healthy environment and a healthy climate is essential for everything this is supported by it – our communities, our businesses, and for the protection of those places we love and call home.
Australia needs to plan for and adapt to climate change. We need to reduce the unspeakably harmful pollution we are pumping into our skies like it’s an open sewer, and refuse new coal mines from being built. Many of the solutions already exist and are ready to be implemented – but we need strong political leadership on this issue. Politicians who claim to represent rural Australia must push for policies that actually ensure the resilience and sustainability of our regions in the face of climate change.