Climate change big risk to humanity: IAG

Stock image.
Stock image.

CLIMATE change will expose Australians to just about every type of extreme weather, from floods and cyclones to devastating bushfires, according to a report by one of Australia’s biggest insurers.

“Climate change is already well underway and is considered by many to be the greatest risk currently facing humanity,” says the report, which was released on Thursday as smoke from massive bushfires burning north of Sydney shrouded the city in haze.

The report, released by IAG and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, says extreme weather is already occurring more frequently in Australia and will change “at a higher amplitude than more common events”.

“This is because small changes in the mean climate lead to dramatic changes in the extremes,” the report says.

“When are we going to see extreme weather? We’ve seen them already,” Cindy Bruyere, director of NCAR’s Center for Climate and Weather Extremes, said in a presentation released with the report.

It found the world has entered a new era of global tropical cyclones and destructive ones are expected to increase in southeast Queensland and northeast NSW.

Intense, short-duration rainfall can be expected to increase across the country, resulting in flooding in urban areas and small river catchments.

Damaging hailstorms with stones larger than 5cm are likely in NSW from the Hunter River south to the southern NSW highlands, as well as central and eastern Victoria, the report says.

Data from the Bureau of Meteorology and old media reports highlighted the unprecedented nature of record-setting hail in March 2010 in Perth and Melbourne and in November 2016 in Adelaide.

“There are no historical analogues prior to these major events and these areas have been well populated for the past century or more without any recorded analogues,” the report says.

Sydney has also experienced four major hailstorms since 2015, which the report said was “without precedent in its long historical record”, although the worst hailstorm in Sydney remains one from April 1999.

Bushfires are the result of a complex interaction between weather, climate, vegetation and people, and so is challenging to simulate, the report notes.

Still there is “high confidence” that climate change will increase the number of days where the Forest Fire Danger Index is severe in southern and eastern Australia.

“There is compelling information that bushfire is one of the fastest growing climate risks facing Australia,” the report says.

Under 4C of warming, the frequency of severe fire danger days could triple in eastern Australia, it says.

Rising sea levels could also pose increase the risks such as storm surge, riverine flooding and coastal erosion for a large number of sites along the Australian coastline, with rapid changes especially predicted for the Australian east and southeast coasts as well as New Zealand’s North Island.

IAG managing director and CEO Peter Harmer said Australia urgently needed to prepare for climate change.

“This report shows that our climate is changing more rapidly than some have predicted so it is critical there is a co-ordinated national approach from governments, industries and businesses,” he said.

– AAP