Monday, January 17, 2011

We respond well to an emergency, but global warming is an emergency too

WA Today (Australia): …The Queensland floods are the latest in a list of remarkable weather events over the past year. Victorian towns are also going through less dramatic, but still serious, flooding. There have also been snowstorms in the US and Europe, heatwaves and fires in Russia, and catastrophic floods in Pakistan, China and Brazil.

Calls have begun for the Queensland government to conduct a royal commission into the floods, similar in scope to Victoria's Bushfires Royal Commission. The Victorian inquiry examined the circumstances of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, including the impact of climate change. Climate scientists were disappointed its report did not sufficiently emphasise the unique weather contributing to the disaster. Victoria had never had three consecutive days above 42 degrees until January 2009, when there were three above 43 degrees. The heatwave is believed to be responsible for 500 deaths in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, but was largely forgotten after the tragic fires.

Australian weather is believed to be particularly sensitive to climate change. Like Victoria's fires, floods are part of a natural cycle. La Nina, the periodic oceanic cooling phenomenon, is far more directly to blame for the weather Australia is now experiencing. But it would be shortsighted not to take into account the role of global warming in these catastrophes.

Professor David Karoly, from Melbourne University's School of Earth Sciences, says while individual events cannot be attributed to climate change, the extreme weather patterns are in line with scientific predictions that a warmer world will mean more severe droughts, more fires and flooding rains…

On December 26, 2010, the flooding Boyne River cuts the Mundubbera-Durong Road south of Mundubbera, shot by Sweetbixkid, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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