The environmental think-tank the Climate Council has warned that record breaking hot weather across Australia at the start of autumn could have long-term consequences.
The Climate Council said in a new report released today that the warmer, summer-like conditions were set to continue.
In the first week of March, temperatures in parts of southeastern Australia were 12 degrees Celsius warmer than average, the report titled The Heat Marches On said.
The Climate Council’s Professor Tim Flannery said El Nino weather patterns had caused Australia to heat up, and that hotter conditions were expected in future.
“As long as El Nino persists, we will see these very hot conditions,” he said.
“Once El Nino fades, we will go back to less extreme conditions.
Professor Flannery said the heat was having consequences around the world.
“The fact that we have seen record high temperatures over the Arctic ocean through this winter means that we are looking towards a summer with potentially very low ice volumes,” he said.
“That will have a global impact. These warm conditions throughout the earth now are really having an impact on humanity in so many ways.
The Climate Council report said the West Australian state capital, Perth, had suffered through more 40°C days in 2015-2016 than ever before, and the New South Wales state capital, Sydney, recorded 39 consecutive days over 26°C this year.
The first nine days of March in Victoria were about 10°C above average, the report said, and the rural city of Echuca sweated through eight days in a row above 38°C.
“As it gets hotter, fire risk is exacerbated. We saw that in Tasmania with the extreme fire in the World Heritage Area,” she said.
The report said the unusually high temperatures pointed to human-driven climate change.
Ms McKenzie said extreme conditions would continue unless Australia moved away from fossil fuels and towards more renewable energy.
“We have moved from a period of climate change concern where scientists have been warning us about the consequences of climate change, to now an era of climate change consequences,” Ms McKenzie said.
On the sidelines of last year’s climate talks in Paris where leaders struck a deal to slow the pace of global warming to well below 2.0°C, the Foreign Minister in Australia’s conservative Liberal-National government, Julie Bishop, said fossil fuels still had a future in Australia.
Ms Bishop said long-term change would come through new energy technologies.