Politics

Hey Sydney And Melbourne, Are You Keen For 50-Degree Summers?

This new climate report is.. not great.

If you find it hard to visualise how climate change is actually going to affect you in your lifetime, here’s a grim fact to help you out: Sydney and Melbourne are set to face summer temperatures of 50 degrees by as early as 2040 if we don’t get cracking on addressing our emissions.

This grim projection is from a new study led by Australian researchers, which was published today in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Perhaps its most worrying finding is that these extreme temperatures could occur even if the ambitious Paris Climate Agreement commitment to cap global warming at 2 degrees Celsius is met.

That’s because the study found temperatures in Australia won’t necessarily climb in track with global temperatures, meaning limiting warming to 2 degrees globally might still push temperatures up by more than 2 degrees here.

In other words, even though we have no idea if we’ll even be able to meet the 2 degree target, we need to do better. The Paris Agreement strongly encouraged aiming to cap warming at 1.5 degrees instead, and this study also suggests we aim for that.

Otherwise, it’s gonna be a toasty one. By which I mean genuinely too hot to go outside — less “beach weather”, more “burning up in the pits of hell aka climate change”. There are serious problems associated with weather this hot: higher temperatures raise bushfire risk, impact human health through heatstroke and dehydration, put pressure on health and public transport systems and increase demand for electricity as people rely on air conditioning.

Dr Sophie Lewis, the study’s lead researcher, spoke to ABC News this morning about just how unprepared Australia is for these kinds of temperatures.

“At the moment, our current emissions trajectories for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in fact exceeds what can be expected for this 2 degrees,” she said. “We’re currently tracking for more like 3 degrees, in which case extremes in Melbourne, Sydney and across Australia would be far more severe.”

“It’s unlikely that we’re going to be able to reach this 1.5 degree limit to warming, but there’s a lot to be gained from reducing warming globally as much as possible, in terms of avoiding the worst extremes across Australia.”

Mark Wakeham, the chief executive of Environment Victoria, told The Guardian this morning that the study’s findings are an “alarming” warning to us all.

“I don’t think we have any plans in place that would be adequate to withstand days of 50 degrees,” he said. “It is another urgent warning to our leaders and all levels of government that we need a strong plan to cut emissions and deal with climate change.”

Tony Abbott, meanwhile, was actively agitating against a Clean Energy Target less than two weeks ago, while the people with actual power in the government have been pushing for the Liddell coal-fired power station to remain open because no one planned ahead for the shift to renewables. A new Adani coal mine in Queensland is still on the cards. We’re in good hands.