Mark Howden, director of the Climate Change Institute at Australian National University and the vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has warned that the intensity of climate change over the years is leaving Australia parched.
Howden said despite repeated warnings, “our foot is not off the climate change accelerator” – noting that some areas in Australia have already lost 20% of rainfall and fire risk has exceeded the worst-case scenarios predicted a few years ago.
“In southwest Australia and southeast Australia, we've already lost around 20 per cent of our rainfall compared with that of 100 years ago,” he said, as reported by The Leader.
Howden warned that without urgent action, conditions that resulted in the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-20 – which razed 24 million hectares of land and caused 33 deaths, and almost 450 more from smoke inhalation – will become the new normal by the end of the decade.
“There is no reason to feel comfortable about how fire is evolving at the moment,” he said. “We all remember the Black Summer and the scars it has left. We simply should not want to go there. We should be taking extraordinary effort to avoid those sorts of futures.”
However, Howden claimed there is still “a glimmer of hope” that the world will choose a future climate that is “relatively benign,” around 1.5°C of warming, the best-case objective of the Paris agreement.
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