How Australian cities could be hit with 50C days

Brianne Tolj
·3-min read

Parts of Australia could be bracing themselves for 50C days as the country crumbles to the impacts of global warming, a study has revealed.

Global temperatures will soar by up to 3C this century, leading to catastrophic consequences, according to information published by the Australian Academy of Science on Thursday.

For Australia, this means soaring temperatures, increased severe storms, frequent widespread bushfires, the mass death of livestock and 100-year floods becoming a yearly event.

Global warming of 2C may lead to days above 50C in Sydney and Melbourne, but they will become more common at 3C global warming.

A general view of Bondi Beach in Sydney. Source: AAP
Parts of Australia could be bracing themselves for 50C days as the country crumbles to the impacts of global warming, a study has revealed. Source: AAP

The number of days above 35C are projected to be three times greater by 2070, compared to today, in 15 towns and cities, the study says.

“As the driest inhabited continent, Australia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming.

“Such events are a natural feature of the climate system, but there is strong evidence that many of them, such as heatwaves, bushfires, storms and coastal flooding, have become more frequent and intense in recent times.

“These extremes and their risks are likely to escalate as global temperatures continue to rise and our capacity to respond becomes compromised as the frequency increases.”

Australia’s ecological systems will be unrecognisable

At 3C of global warming, many of the country’s ecological systems will be unrecognisable and natural resources and animal species would see an accelerated decline.

Agriculture and food security will also be affected by global warming and declining rainfall.

“Heat stress is a significant issue for livestock systems due to impacts on animal welfare, reproduction and production,” the study says.

“Projected temperature and humidity changes suggest an increased number of heat stress days per year.

A map of predicted higher temperatures.
Global temperatures will soar by up to 3C this century, leading to catastrophic consequences. Source: Australian Academy of Science

“At the same time, more frequent storms and heavy rainfall would likely lead to worsening erosion of grazing land or loss of livestock from flooding.”

Increased fire risks, pest impacts and changes in rain patterns will threaten forests in the drier regions of south-western Australia.

Fisheries will also be affected by ocean warming and acidification, which can lessen fish reproduction and overall health, the study said.

With the sea level continuing to rise, it is estimated 160,000 to 250,000 Australian properties “are at risk of coastal flooding with a sea level rise of 1 metre by the end of the century”.

Health and wellbeing for Aussies

The elderly, young, unwell and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds will be at increased risk of weather events like heatwaves, droughts, cyclones, floods and bushfires.

“Heatwaves on land and sea are increasing in length, frequency and intensity,” the study reads.

“These changes affect human health through physiological heat stress and by worsening existing medical conditions.

“Bushfire-related health impacts are increasing, causing direct loss of life and exacerbating pre-existing conditions such as heart and lung disease.”

These extreme conditions will only get worse with a 3C global warming increase.

NSW Rural Fire fighters establish a backburn  in Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales, in December 2019. Source: AAP
Increased fire risks, pest impacts and changes in rain patterns will threaten forests in the drier regions of south-western Australia. Source: AAP

What should Australia do now?

The report says reaching net zero emissions by the mid-century is necessary if the country is to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

To do that, Australia needs to remove greenhouse gas emissions, electrify public transport, increase energy efficient and stop deforestation and land degradation.

The experts have recommended the country’s leaders join global leaders and “solve climate change as a matter of urgency”.

Australia should also prepare to meet the challenges of further environmental extreme events and help improve residents’ knowledge of climate impacts.

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