The past 12 months have been 0.22 degrees Celsius warmer than any other equivalent period prior to 2013, and Australia is steadily on track for the warmest year ever.
Warmer and warmer
A new Climate Council study, titled Off the Charts, says that the country has just had its warmest ever 12-month period, from 1 November 2012 to 31 October 2013 – furthermore, temperatures in October are 1.43C above the long-term average and more than 100 heat-related records broken in the past 12 months, according to the new report.
Things got hotter and hotter in October, and the trend continues in November. October was notable for widespread bushfires in NSW, which triggered a fierce debate over whether climate change made such blazes more likely, with most of the scientific community agreeing that they at least played a significant part in these tragic events.
Here are just some of the temperature records recorded in Australia, according to the Climate Council:
• Australia’s warmest summer on record (December 2012 to February 2013).
• Australia’s warmest January and September on record.
• Australia’s warmest 12-month period on record (now broken three times, for the periods ending August, September, and October).
• There have been 15 months in a row of above-average temperatures.
Climate Council and public funding
The Climate Council has an interesting story in itself – it ran as a public body, funded by the Coalition government, but was abolished in September (can you spell ‘elections’?). However, the Australian society had a major uproar, and the organization was resurrected through public donations – a laudable effort.
The climate information body, which is headed by Tim Flannery and comprises a selection of economists, ecologists and climate scientists, explained that it was essential to rapidly reduce carbon emissions which are playing major role in the temperature surge. Arguably, this kind of statements lost them the funding in the first place.
“We’ve got to put the last 12 months into the context of the last half century,” Prof. Will Steffen of the Climate Council told Guardian Australia. “The number of hot days has more than doubled since the 1950s and 1960s and the number of cold days have gone down. This longterm warming trend is skewing the temperatures we are seeing. September and October this year are consistent with the fact that while we still have variability, the dice is now loaded towards warmer weather. Lots of people sense that our climate is fundamentally shifting. You talk to fishermen who see fish they have not seen in the waters before, you look at the migration patterns of birds and bats we’ve not seen before, and so on. People ask ‘what’s going on?’ and that’s when we look at the data and see what’s happened in the past half century.”
However, the Climate Council tries to avoid discussion of policy, with Staffen only claiming that he was disheartened by the “infantile” debate in Australia over the veracity of climate science.
“Wherever you sit in politics, denying the science isn’t an intelligent way to go forward,” he said. “The data is out there, the peer reviewed science is out there, the scientific reality is out there. It’s infantile to say you don’t believe in it – it’s not about belief. The statements that have come out of this government haven’t been consistent. Certainly the [environment] minister has said several times the science is accepted, but by others it isn’t. We need clarity, like in Europe and China, that the science is real and it’s an issue. We haven’t got to that point in Australia and, in fact, I think we’ve regressed.”