'No turning back': New report reveals cost of climate change
MORE severe droughts, increased rainfall intensity and damaging cyclones resulting in a massive financial impact from the need to upgrade infrastructure were all now but locked in without immediate change according to a new report released today.
The Climate Council's Deluge and Drought: Australia's Water Security in a Changing Climate has warned governments face a massive cost to upgrade spillways and dam walls to deal with conditions not envisaged when designed to withstand one-in-100-year rain events.
The report has been co-authored by seven climate change experts including Professor Hilary Bambrook, the head of QUT's School of Public Health who said Queensland could expect more intense rainfall events and cyclones as climate continues to change.
"Those sort of events affect agriculture and are likely to damage important food crops, including bananas," Professor Bambrick said.
"Climate change also affects people's health in many ways - both drought and flood can contaminate our water supplies and be a source of psychological stress in rural communities, while higher rainfall can increase mosquito-borne diseases such as Dengue and Ross River virus."
Climate Councillor and fellow co-author Professor Will Steffen said the leadership required to mitigate the looming impacts of climate change was instead sleepwalking the country into disaster.
Prof Steffen said while a lot of Australians, particularly those in the bush, were now understanding the challenges that lay ahead, the country's leaders were simply greasing the wheels of the present system.
He said those countries that had embraced a bipartisan approach to the problems were getting on with solving them.
"Unfortunately here it has become a highly partisan, highly divisive issue," Prof Steffen said.
"A lot of states and territories are starting to move on it. If the new (federal) government became more active we could get policy in place really quickly to get on track. By moving really fast in two decades we could get carbon out of transport and out of energy."
In doing so temperature rise could be contained between 1.5 and two degrees centigrade.
He said that while holding it at 1.5C was no longer possible there was still a chance to catch it at 2C which would limit sea level rise to one metre by the turn of the century.
South Australia now had more than 50 per cent renewables through solar and wind, the CAT which has some of Australia's lowest electricity prices was 100 per cent reliant on renewables and Victoria was looking to follow suit.
Prof Steffen has described the call by computer software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian for Australia to target a goal of 200 per cent renewable power generation as visionary.
"We need visionaries to see real opportunities," he said. "What he's proposed has a lot of credibility."
Prof Steffen said there were already plans to establish massive renewable plants in North Africa to service Europe, a role Australia could play for Asia and particularly the emerging Indonesian economy through transportable, high voltage direct current.
Fundamentally he said it would be much cheaper to get greenhouse gases out of the equation than to deal with the hugely expensive and escalating impact of climate change.