A report compiled by the Australian government’s Department of the Environment and Heritage – Australian Greenhouse Office, concludes: “Evidence that the Earth is warming has become much stronger since the IPCC Third Assessment Report was published in 2001. The surge in mean global temperatures recorded through the 1990s has continued through the early part of this century.”
The authors put their conclusions in the 28-page report as follows: “In summary, climate research since the publication of the IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] Third Assessment Report provides significantly stronger evidence for three of the main conclusions of that assessment. First, the surface of the Earth is warming globally. Second, the observed warming is beyond that expected for natural variability over the past 1000-2000 years and at a larger rate. Third, human-driven emissions of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, are the major cause of the observed surface warming since 1950.”
The study backs up that last assertion with a well documented presentation of the complex interelationship between carbon emissions and the environment. They are implicated in changes involving not only the atmosphere, but also the world’s oceans and biological processes on land.
Among other factors, the Australian study examined glacial melting, ocean temperatures and increasing acidity (due to absorption of CO2), changes in wildlife habitat and the increase in frequency and violence of weather events. It concluded that temperatures are in fact rising faster than previous studies, notably those conducted by the IPCC, had predicted. In other words, if they’re right, the climate is changing more rapidly than expected. The consequences will therefore arrive sooner and will probably be more severe.
Discussing catastrophic weather events, the report said: “A synthesis of the global economic damage due to great weather-related catastrophes by the reinsurance industry (Berz 2005) shows sharp increases from U.S. $43.9 billion in the decade of the 1950s to $US 344.4 billion in the 1995-2004 decade (all figures in 2004 $US values). The number of such extreme weather events increased from 13 in the 1950s to 49 in the most recent 10-year period.”
The authors recognize, however, that it’s not only climate change that may have caused the losses from storms to rise. There have also been notable “increases in the amount and value of infrastructure that has been built in vulnerable areas.” The insurance industry can take little comfort from that conclusion, however, as it is being asked to not only accept the risks from the storms, but also to take on the additional exposures from properties constructed in high risk areas.
The report also notes that there is no strong scientific consensus yet on the question as to “whether the number and severity of high-impact extreme events – floods, storms, tropical cyclones – are increasing and whether such an increase, if indeed it is happening, is linked to climate change.” But it also cites “a 50-year analysis of disaster data from the reinsurance industry, which factors out the damage due to increased exposure and vulnerability,” and then “shows an increase in the number of large, climate-related disasters, particularly since the early 1980’s.”
Other weather related phenomena are discussed as well. “The last five years have seen a rise in observable impacts of climate change, especially those, such as heat waves, that are directly related to temperature,” it continued. “The impacts of rising temperature on the Earth’s biodiversity are also now well documented, and there is some circumstantial evidence for an increase in storms, floods and other extreme events as well as in the intensity of tropical cyclones.
“Adaptation to climate change is no longer a question of ‘if’ but now of ‘how’,'”where’ and ‘how fast.’ With the in-built momentum of the climate system, more impacts will be discernible over the next several decades and adaptation will become even more necessary. Enhancing resilience and adaptive capacity are key concepts in the new generation of adaptation approaches. A critical issue is the nature and severity of climate change through the rest of this century.”
The full report may be obtained on the Greenhouse Website at:
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