All-consuming wildfires have brought devastation to Australian communities and shocked the world. As of January 6, it is estimated that between 12 and 14 million acres have been burned in the country. The fires claimed the lives of at least 20 people. Almost half a million animals are thought to have perished and more than a thousand houses also fell victim to the flames.
Simultaneously, Australia experienced the hottest year on record in 2019, which had a mean temperature of 1.5° Celsius above the mean calculated for 1961 to 1990. On Dec 18, Australia experienced its hottest day on record when the average maximum temperature climbed to 41.9° Celsius in the country.
Climate scientists agree that global warming is causing global average temperatures to rise, which in turn is making catastrophic climatic events, like droughts and wildfires, more severe and more frequent. According to data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the rise of mean surface temperatures has been steeper in Australia than in the world on average. Representing only a part of the world’s total landmass, annual temperature divergence also fluctuates more for Australia than in the world as a whole.
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Climate change in Australia – Statistics & Facts
Published by L. Granwal, Aug 14, 2019
Rising global temperatures and climate change have adversely affected Australia in many areas, with the consequences becoming more obvious in recent years. Heat and drought are significant environmental threats to Australia; the country experienced one of its hottest summers on record in 2018. Australia is already the driest inhabited continent on earth and recent climate modelling has indicated that without action, the southern part of Australia will become susceptible to even more drought. A side-effect of this is increases in the frequency of bushfires, which can cause significant damage to flora, wildlife and the livelihoods of Australians. Australia’s agriculture industry is also at risk; abnormal weather patterns can cause havoc to farmers and poses a challenge for food security in the country. The ocean and Great Barrier Reef are also directly affected by greenhouse gas emissions. Rising temperatures and increasing acidity of the ocean have contributed to losses of the coral reef and marine life.
The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site and significant economic contributor to Australia. Tourism, fishing, recreation and scientific research all rely on the existence of the reef. In a public survey, 95 percent of Australians believed the Great Barrier Reef was an iconic Australian landmark that contributes to Australia’s national identity and international standing. Climate change can lead to the unbalancing of marine ecosystems and coral bleaching, both of which need to be avoided to insure the longevity of the reef.
Most Australians believe the world’s climate is changing. Australia has pledged to the Paris climate agreement, which sets out to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. While this has catalyzed technological innovation and industry change within the country, some experts believe not enough is being done in Australia to reach its target. This has prompted additional government funding to pay for carbon abatement projects, implemented to try and reduce the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions.
The energy sector in Australia is heavily dependent on coal and coal mining; one of the most polluting energy sources. The country is seeing a shift towards more renewable energy sources to combat and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For a country whose economy relies heavily on the mining industry, finding a balance between economic security and environmental impact mitigation poses its own set of challenges.