Opinion Pieces


January 05, 2017

While a decade ago climate change may have been characterised as a future problem, today it is very much in the here and now.

As the sun blares down on us this week, it is an all too common reminder that as South Australians we live in the nation’s driest state.

Extreme heatwave and bushfire conditions have become the new normal.

The news comes thick and fast with almost no day going by without a report on record temperatures, the latest heatwave or tragically another bushfire.

But this is nothing new; we have substantial data on how the climate has already changed.

In Adelaide heatwave days are on average four degrees hotter than they used to be.

Projections estimate that the average number of days above 35C in Adelaide could increase from 17 days currently to 21 to26 days by 2030 and 24 to 47 days by 2070.

In the past six decades, hot weather records have occurred three times more often than cold weather records.

All capital cities are experiencing hotter, longer and more frequent heatwaves.

Heatwaves are predicted to cost approximately $8 billion annually, and as the mercury rises more people are vulnerable to heat-related illnesses and death, particularly the elderly.

Between 1997 and 1999 it was estimated that on average 200 people over 65 died annually in Adelaide from heat-related deaths.

This number could potentially rise to 342 to 371 by 2020 and 482 to 664 by 2050.

In addition, South Australians know more than most how damaging storms can be, with climate change fuelling more intense and damaging storms.

And for a coastal city like ours we also have to be prepared for sea levels which are rising at an alarming rate, and will exacerbate coastal flooding.

It is estimated that between 31,000 and 48,000 residential buildings are at risk of inundation from sea level rises of 1.1m. That puts $22.6 to $28.2 billion worth of commercial and light industrial buildings at risk as well as $5 to $8 billion of residential.

The projected sea level rise will also put up 6763 kilometres of South Australia’s roads, and up to 219km of railways, at risk.

Tackling climate change is crucial to reducing the risk of worsening extreme weather events in the future.

Climate change is not a future problem. It is our problem that will directly affect us as well as future generations.

Yet the Turnbull Government’s own pollution projections show under their Direct Action policy, Australian pollution levels in 2030 are at almost exactly the same levels as in 2005, rather than their target of 26 per cent to 28 per cent below.

If strong policies are not put in place now that deliver on our Paris commitments, not only will we miss out on the jobs, investment and health benefits real action brings, but these devastating predictions for SA and the nation will become a devastating reality.

This opinion piece was first published in The Advertiser on Thursday, 5 January 2017.