Extreme weather events are worsening under accelerating climate change, with the recent flooding in southeast Queensland and New South Wales just the latest example.
That’s according to a new report published by the Climate Council of Australia which found extreme rainfall occurring in Australia is intensifying because of climate change.
Board director and climate councillor, Professor Lesley Hughes, said the unprecedented level of rain occurring in the current La Niña period could be attributed to the climate change emergency that has been occurring for years.
“Climate change is absolutely embedded in the increasing extreme events that we’re seeing,” she said.
As the atmosphere becomes warmer and wetter as a result of the burning fossil fuels, Prof Hughes said extreme weather events would continue to occur more and more frequently if nothing was done.
Residents of flood-affected areas have less time to rebuild and recover, with extreme weather events that were previously considered a one-in-100-year likelihood, now happening every five years.
Murwillumbah resident, Josh Northeast, said the water rose 1.7 metres in his bottom floor bedroom on February 28.
“At the start we didn’t think it would come up too high because there was no warning of a flood,” he said.
After moving their belongings to the top floor, Northeast and his father got into their small boat and went to help others in the community.
It took another day and a half for the water to subside before the clean-up could begin.
“Everyone else on our street had the same issue, piles of stuff out the front of [their] house of all [their] stuff that couldn’t be saved,” Mr Northeast said.
This is not the first time the small town of Murwillumbah has experienced a flood of this scale.
It’s only five years since the town was last flooded, in the same storms that followed Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
“We’ve all been told it’s a once-in-a-100-year event,” he said.
Residents are now calling for action from state and federal politicians on climate change to lessen the devastating effects that these events are having on these communities.
“The government hasn’t helped,” Mr Northeast said. “It was two weeks before anyone came here to help”.
Mr Northeast wants all levels of government to take climate change seriously.
“It’s starting to affect people in big ways,” he said.
The 2022-2023 Federal budget, delivered on March 29, announced a 35 per cent cut to climate spending over the next four years and, while Prof Hughes said inaction from the Morrison government was “truly appalling”, “nobody should be surprised”.
“The federal government needs to stop being a blocker for progress … and join with the rest of the world in reducing emissions by at least 50 per cent globally by 2030,” she said.
“[They] also have an important role to play to put in place the right policy settings to encourage investment in renewables.”
The Climate Council’s latest report “The Lost Years: Counting the Costs of Climate Inaction in Australia” found the federal Liberal-National government had failed on climate action over its three terms in government.
“The government has a responsibility to keep its people safe from harm and what this government is doing is acting in the opposite way,” Prof Hughes said.