Human Fingerprints on Australia’s Record Heatwave
Australia — or at least Australia’s current government — downplays the danger of climate change. But, as a famous physicist once said, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”
Last summer in Australia (corresponding to the winter months up here) broke many, many records. it was the hottest summer on record, contained the hottest month, and also the hottest day in Australian history. Now, the NY Times reports, five independent teams of researchers have reported that climate change contributed to the heat wave. The results seem to be unusually convincing:
“The evidence in those papers is very strong,” said Martin P. Hoerling, an American scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who has often been skeptical of claimed links between weather events and global warming. . . .
“In the Australian case, computer analyses of a hypothetical climate without human-caused emissions were simply unable to produce a year as extreme as 2013, and other analytical methods yielded similar answers.
“But computer simulations that factored in those emissions and the warming they are causing showed an increasing likelihood of extraordinary heat waves in Australia.”
It’s also notable that other events have recently been cleared of any association with climate change or the evidence has been found to be inconclusive. Thus, scientists aren’t attributing every unusual weather event in sight to climate change. That adds credibility to the positive findings when they occur.
Basically, the bottom line is that the Australian heat wave was so far out outside the historic norm that it just couldn’t be attributed to natural fluctuations. Here’s a graphic that details some of its extraordinary features:
As climate change intensifies, these records themselves may be doomed to fall. Australians should take notice. As should the rest of us.
Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…READ more