Australia will continue to see a spike in extreme rainfall and heat, as well as more dangerous fire events, its government agencies warned Wednesday.
In a biennial climate report, Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and the Bureau of Meteorology said it had already found “an increase in extreme heat events, intense heavy rainfall, longer fire seasons and sea level rise” recently.
The changes are happening more rapidly and will put further pressure on Australia to transition its economy away from fossil fuels, the agencies warned.
“The threats caused by climate change, including extreme rainfall, droughts, heatwaves and bushfires, are already having widespread impacts on Australia’s agricultural industry, affecting food production and supply chains,” Michael Robertson, director of agriculture and food at CSIRO, said in a statement.
Australia is one of the world’s leading exporters of agricultural goods such as beef, wine, sugar, cotton, and wool. It’s also known for its wealth of natural resources, such as iron ore, coal, and gas.
“We’re facing significant challenges to support and coordinate the shifts across infrastructure, regulation, skills, technology, finance and investment that is needed for the transition to a low-emission economy,” Michael Battaglia, lead of Towards Net Zero Mission, a division of CSIRO, said in the statement.
Australia has seen the devastating effects of the climate crisis up close recently, from marine heat waves that have caused mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef to extreme weather events including flooding.
This year, the country experienced a rare third consecutive La Niña weather pattern, which brought heavier and more frequent downpours, causing rivers to burst their banks, flooding communities near the coast and inland.
After years of dealing with drought, farmers have lost crops due to too much water, with forecasters warning of more to come.
Climate was a key issue at the recent election in May, when the new Labor government took power with a promise to boost renewable energy. Soon after taking office, the government increased Australia’s plans to cut emissions by 43% by 2030 on 2005 levels — a more ambitious target than its predecessor but one climate experts say is still not high enough.
The economic fallout has been well documented. Over the past 50 years, “climate-induced extreme weather events including drought, fires, and floods have cost Australian communities an estimated 120 billion [Australian dollars] ($79.8 billion),” according to the Minderoo Foundation. The nonprofit organization shared the tally in a January report.
— CNN’s Hilary Whiteman contributed to this report.