Australia — The Climate Commission has released a report predicting record heatwaves, bushfires and rising sea levels in New South Wales because of climate change.
The report says the temperature in Sydney tops 35 degrees on just three days a year, but based on climate modelling, it will be 14 days per year by the end of the century.
Federal Climate Commissioner Professor Lesley Hughes says western Sydney is getting disproportionally hotter and drier than the rest of Sydney.
“If we compare western Sydney with the rest of Sydney, the number of hot days in western Sydney used to be three times as many as eastern Sydney, and now it’s four times,” she said.
“So what we are seeing is not only rising temperatures but some parts of the country are getting disproportionally hotter.”
The report, part of the Commission’s series titled “The Critical Decade”, predicts by century’s end that sea-levels will rise by 1.1 metres, putting more than 40,000 New South Wales homes and 250 kilometres of highway at risk.
Particularly vulnerable areas include Lake Macquarie and Wollongong.
Professor Hughes says there will also be more bushfires.
“The number of very high fire danger days could increase by over 20 per cent by 2020, by up to 70 per cent by 2070,” she said.
Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery says some of the negative impacts of warmer weather in Sydney’s west are not immediately obvious.
“What happens when we get these very, very hot days is that elderly people and the very young particularly are vulnerable and people get a little bit confused because they’re heat stressed,” he said.
“People get angry as well, particularly if you’re sitting in a traffic jam and it’s stinking hot outside.”
But Professor Hughes does say New South Wales is well-placed to capitalise on the trend towards clean energy, citing the state’s uptake of solar panels.
A climate scientist with the University of Newcastle, Stewart Franks, has questioned the tone of the report, saying it tends towards scare mongering.
“The whole thrust of the report is what the climate’s going to be, going into the future,” he said.
“Now unfortunately, we know that the climate models that are used to actually do that job actually don’t represent key modes of climate which are very important.
“I’m thinking specifically things like El Nino and La Nina.”
Professor Tim Flannery says the report is not political.
“The job is to provide the best quality information we can from a scientific perspective,” he said.
Greens Senator Christine Milne says the climate science is clear.
“Every report that comes out anywhere in the world has shown that climate change is accelerating,” she says.
“It is time for those people who deny the science of climate change to just get out of the way.”
Federal Opposition climate change spokesman Greg Hunt says he respects the science.
“There’s a significant issue here, although many of the claims attributed to it have not always been entirely accurate,” he said.
“The dams were predicted to be empty rather than full by now, so everybody needs a little bit of humility.”