Hottest Decade For Australia & Looming Global Climate Losses

Hottest Decade For Australia & Looming Global Climate Losses 

Australia experienced its hottest decade on record from 2000 to 2009 due to global warming, the nation’s bureau of meteorology announced, while Munich Re AG, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, said economic and insured losses caused by climate change will continue to grow, calling for a near-term deal for a substantial reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions.

Michael Perry for Reuters World Environment News (6 January 2009):

SYDNEY – Australia experienced its hottest decade on record from 2000 to 2009 due to global warming, the nation’s bureau of meteorology said, as annual summer bushfires again burn drought lands and destroy homes.

The average temperature in Australia over the past 10 years was 0.48 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, said the Bureau of Meteorology said in its annual climate statement.

And 2010 is forecast to be even hotter, with temperatures likely to be between 0.5 and 1 degrees above average.

“We’re getting these increasingly warm temperatures, not just for Australia but globally. Climate change, global warming is clearly continuing,” said bureau climatologist David Jones.

“We’re in the latter stages of an El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean and what that means for Australian and global temperatures is that 2010 is likely to be another very warm year — perhaps even the warmest on record.”

Environment Minister Peter Garrett used the report to attack opposition politicians for blocking the government’s key climate policy, a carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) aimed at reducing greenhouses gases causing global warming.

“Australia is one of the hottest and driest inhabited places on earth and our environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change,” said Garrett.

“Today’s statement finds that the patterns of the last year and the decade are consistent with global warming. It (passing the ETS) is in the national interest and it is in the interest of the world,” he said in a statement.

The government has promised to reintroduce its ETS legislation to parliament in February, a move which may trigger an early election in 2010 if the legislation is again defeated.

An election is due in late 2010.


The year 2009 will be remembered for “extreme bushfires, dust-storms, lingering rainfall deficiencies, areas of flooding and record-breaking heatwaves,” said the bureau.

In fact, 2009 was Australia’s second warmest year on record, with the annual mean temperature 0.90 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, driven by three record-breaking heatwaves that caused Australia’s most deadly bushfires, killing 173 people.

“To get one of them in a year would have been unusual. To get three is just really quite remarkable,” said Jones.

Outback Australia was warming more quickly than other parts of the country, with some inland areas warming at twice the rate of coastal regions, said the bureau.

But as Australia warmed, with large tracts of the country battling a decade-long drought, the northern part of the country was becoming wetter, said the bureau.

Floods now cover large parts of northern New South Wales state and the tropical state of Queensland.

“Australia as a whole has been getting warmer for about 50-60 years and it’s actually been tending to get wetter,” said Jones. “You see this paradox — the country, particularly in the north, it’s getting wetter but is also warming up.”


By Ulrike Dauer in Wall Street Journal:

FRANKFURT — Munich Re AG, one of the world’s largest reinsurers, said economic and insured losses caused by climate change will continue to grow, and called for a near-term deal to ensure a substantial reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We need as soon as possible an agreement that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions because the climate reacts slowly and what we fail to do now will have a bearing for decades to come,” said management board member Torsten Jeworrek.

“In the light of these facts, it is very disappointing that no breakthrough was achieved at the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009,” Mr. Jeworrek said, pointing to the marked increase–more or less tripling–in major global weather-related natural disasters since 1950.

Reinsurers and primary insurers provide insurance protection against losses caused by large natural and man-made disasters.

Munich Re said it will step up its own initiatives in the matter, including investments of up to €2 billion in renewable energy and a strong commitment to the Sahara solar power project Desertec, which aims to come up with a feasible plan for generating solar power in the Sahara within the next three years.

Munich Re said losses caused by natural disasters cost the global insurance industry around $22 billion in 2009, helped by substantially lower U.S. hurricane activity than a year earlier, when the insurance industry had to pay around $50 billion for damage caused by natural disasters such as winter storms, hurricanes, cyclones, floods and earthquakes.

The figures are similar to estimates by Swiss peer Swiss Reinsurance Co., which estimated at the end of November that the bill the insurance industry had to pay for natural disaster losses in 2009 amounted to around $21 billion.

Munich Re said “severe weather events accounted for 45%, or nearly half, of global insured losses” in 2009. It also said this year’s lower bill for natural disasters and the absence of “severe hurricanes and other mega-catastrophes” shouldn’t be taken lightly, as there was a large number of moderately severe natural disasters.

“In particular, the trend toward an increase in weather-related catastrophes continues, while there has fundamentally been no change in the risk of geophysical events such as earthquakes,” said Peter Hoeppe, who heads Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit. 

Earlier this month, leaders of the U.S., China and other major economies agreed on a new climate accord in Copenhagen, though many have said it wasn’t ambitious enough and a future round of negotiations is now required to hash out the details. The accord contained no specific targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. A proposed 50% cut that was in earlier drafts was removed.

The pact calls on developed nations to provide $30 billion to help developing nations deal with the effects of climate change from 2010 to 2012. By 2020, rich nations aim to jointly mobilize $100 billion a year for poor nations.

Under the deal, countries have pledged to try to keep atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide low enough to keep average global temperatures less than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels; many scientists say breaching this threshold could have catastrophic consequences. But the agreement doesn’t specify how countries will achieve that goal.


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