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A country baked to the core, its citizens roasted, an electricity grid battered to its limits.  Capital cities trapping scorching heat, toasting its citizens and assaulting the young, the elderly, the infirm with temperature fluctuations.  This is the vision of Australia by the end of this century according to an Australian National University study released earlier this month.

The study, published in Geophysical Letters, insists that, “Understanding the magnitude, as well as the frequency, of such future extremes [in temperature] is critical for limiting detrimental impacts.”[1] Glumly, the authors note how, “The severity of possible future temperature extremes simulated by climate models in this study poses serious challenges for preparedness for future climate change in Australia.”

A few of the implications are pointed out by the chief investigator of the project, Dr. Sophie Lewis of the Fenner School of Environment and Society and the Centre of Excellent for Climate System Science at ANU.

“We have to be thinking about how we can be prepared for large population groups commuting to and from the CBD on these extremely hot days, and how we send young children to school on 50C days, how our hospitals are prepared for a larger number of admissions of young or old people, and how our infrastructure can cope with it.”

As with so much in the climate change literature, the tone is one of mild hope tempered by catastrophic prospect, a breathless urgency tinged with a slight degree of panic.  Assumptions are made and duly factored in.

The ANU study, for instance, presumes a credible effort to contain global warming to 1.5C, the target set by the Paris Agreement.  Even so, claims Lewis, “A lot of warming is locked into the climate system and we really have to be prepared for extremes in the future to get much worse than they are now.”

According to Lewis, the climate modelling “projected daily temperatures of up to 3.8 degrees Celsius above existing records in Victoria and New South Wales, despite the ambitious Paris efforts to curb warming.”[2]

The study’s primary focus is on major cities, and, as is the Australian tendency, the two largest tend to figure prominently as sites of study. Prepare, city dwellers of Sydney and Melbourne, for those 50C days.  Prepare, suggests Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Miller, for melting public transport.  Anticipate “heat continents” with “grey infrastructure and roads and buildings absorbing all that heat”.

Do such reports and findings matter?  In Australia, the battles rage, the sceptics froth.  The ABC news site invited readers to advance suggestions as to how best to cope with such temperature rises.  There is flippancy, disbelief and the usual scepticism that anyone should even bother.

Forget the model mad scientist, runs this line of opinion: temperature rises may or may not be rising and suggestions that the human race is set for catastrophe are exaggerated, if not hysterical.  There is denial, even a good smattering of abuse. Climate change models are, simply, models.

A certain commentator by the name of “Rational” found Lewis and her findings tiresome, and duly employed the oldest tactic in the manual of debate by simply ignoring her findings: “Blah Blah Blah again from Dr. Sophie Lewis, my guess is she is around 30 years of age, most records broken this year are only 10/15 years of data please show me otherwise. But keep paying the good Dr in the interim.”[3]

RobbertBobbert simply chose outright, abusive dismissal. “More delusion and those addicted to their Computer Model Toys.”  This was all a “Sham Scam” and Lewis and those “ABC acolyte journalists” were hardly going to be around in 83 years to falsify it. “Maybe the baby that this hysterical scientist wrote about will be around to check.”

The human instinct to embrace the driving force of Thanatos, to write collective suicide notes and be cast into oblivion is well known. Entire civilizations have collapsed for failing to adapt and adjust.  Evidence, even if disconcertingly staring in the face, can be refuted with pig-headed stubbornness.

In Australia, a persistent, coal-coloured scepticism remains about climate and its effects.  Where mining remains the holder of orb and sceptre, a rational discussion about environment, let alone climate, is always going be stunted.  The good life, even if warmer, is set to continue.

The Tony Abbots will continue to praise rising heat on the global stage, and, if confounded by their impacts, suggest that it could hardly be happening.  Such are the views of those in denial.  Chin-up and understatement are seemingly in order, and that was duly supplied Miller herself.  “It’s not great news, obviously.”

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

[1] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL074612/abstract

[2] http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/melbourne-and-sydney-should-prepare-for-50-degree-days-%E2%80%93-study

[3] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-04/sydney-melbourne-urged-to-prepare-for-50c-days-by-end-of-century/9012640#comments

5 Comments

  1. Sally Dugman says:

    We have, of course, our troubles in the USA, too, related to climate change matters:

    Heat Wave Causes U.S. Airways Plane To Get Stuck In Tarmac At …
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/heat-wave-us-airways-flight-stuck-photo-reagan-a…
    Jul 8, 2012 – A U.S. Airways flight at Reagan National Airport bound for … unable to push it from the gate because the jet’s wheels had sunk into the tarmac.

    Pictures From Arizona’s Heatwave: “Everything Is Literally Melting …
    http://www.zerohedge.com/…/epic-pictures-arizonas-heatwave-everything-literally-melting
    Jun 26, 2017 – Pictures From Arizona’s Heatwave: “Everything Is Literally Melting” ….. if I had opted for the lower rated tires if we would have made it through.

    Desertification Threat – Desertification Threat | HowStuffWorks
    https://science.howstuffworks.com › … › Climate & Weather › Atmospheric Science
    Desertification Threat – Desertification is caused by climate and human mistakes, … Seventeen states in the Western U.S. can be categorized as arid, semi-arid or dry … For more information about climate, climate change and efforts to combat …

    Sea Level Rise Will Flood Hundreds of Cities in the Near Future
    https://news.nationalgeographic.com/…/sea-level-rise-flood-global-warming-science/
    Jul 12, 2017 – Sea level rise caused by global warming is usually cast as a … Just ask anyone in South Florida, where new construction proceeds apace. Yet already, more than 90 coastal communities in the United States … That number is expected to roughly double to more than 170 communities in less than 20 years.

    Climate change map: Much of coastal U.S. under water by 2100 …
    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/sfl-climate-change-map-20170531-htmlstory.html
    May 31, 2017 – … the United States are as vulnerable to rising sea levels as South Florida…. … Climate change map: Much of coastal U.S. under water by 2100, …

    Florida Map – Global Warming Sea Level Rise Map – Geology.com
    geology.com › Global Sea Level Rise Map
    Map of Florida showing areas to be flooded if sea level rises. … Coastal Florida and Everglades – Sea Level Rise Map. Use the window in the top left of the map …

    I have one tiny air conditioner. It is REALLY tiny. So I jump in lukewarm water during the summer — in a tub — since as a matter of principle, I refuse to buy another air conditioner and even load more carbon into the air by running it. Yet I don’t want to be carted off to a hospital due to heatstroke. So I compromise by using the tub. … my choice, my values.

    • Sally, you could do as we have done, use a residential heat pump or Reverse Cycle Air Con with solar panels. In most places when its that hot the sun is out indwell drive the air con. I have for years been arguing for a combined unit without success because people don’t yet believe that 50+C is their problem.

  2. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The effects of climate change are showing their impact on Australian land with scorching heat. Will the government take action on the coal project of adani which further affects environment ???

  3. I cannot agree more with John James. I have been airing similar views:
    See:
    https://absorptionac.blogspot.in/2011/04/ammonia-absorption-air-conditioning.html

  4. IPCC theories are at loggerheads with vastly disproportionate magnitudes of climate catastrophies every year. The IPCC must despecialise its vision to see the truth: The havoc created by the dams. See
    http://predictingquakes.blogspot.in/2015/04/the-science-of-dams-causing-earthquakes.html