Climate experts say Australia’s recent floods have been unprecedented in scale, but warn that the country will face further disasters as climate change leads to more regular bouts of extreme rainfall.
A report released on Thursday (March 10) by The Climate Council, a non-governmental organisation that advises on climate change, found that the “rain bomb” that hit south-east Queensland including Brisbane caused about 60 per cent of the region’s average annual rainfall within three days.
The report said the disasters were the result of shorter-term meteorological factors such as the La Nina weather pattern, but added that “the likelihood and intensity of extreme and highly destructive events such as these are increasing with climate change”.
It said Australia must quicken its proposed carbon emissions cuts to reach net zero emissions by 2035, rather than 2050.
“Governments, such as the Morrison government, which had failed to substantially reduce emissions earlier have sentenced communities in Australia and around the world to more dangerous extreme weather events,” said the report.
A Climate Council expert, Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University, said Australia was “dealing with a climate system on steroids”.
“Unless we act now and join the rest of the world to reduce emissions this decade, such disasters will only get worse,” he said in a statement.
For residents in Sydney, the relentless rain has been impossible to escape.
Dr Chia Yeow Tong, a 47-year-old Singaporean who has lived in the city for 10 years, said the downpour was abnormal.
Dr Chia, a senior lecturer in history education at the University of Sydney and an executive committee member of the Australian Malaysian Singaporean Association, said his home had not suffered damage and the main impact for him had been transport problems after roads were flooded and trains delayed.
“I don’t think I have seen anything like this,” he told The Straits Times. “There have been floods before but it is the prolonged period that is unusual.”
He added: “I do wonder what is going on with the weather. Is it La Nina, climate change? Are we going to have these floods now and then a few years of drought?”