Melbourne and Sydney could experience summer temperatures of up to 50C. Even if the 2-degree target set out in the Paris climate accords is adhered to, Australians will still have to prepare for sweltering summers in the future. Barbara Barkhausen reports from Sydney.
Droughts, floods, hurricanes, cyclones – Australia is known for its weather extremes. As early as 2015, a study by the Australian research agency CSIRO and the national weather authorities drew up a horror scenario for the content, warning that climate change will hit Australia much harder than the rest of the world.
Extreme heat in the Outback, dead corals in the Great Barrier Reef, and flooded megacities along the shores are some of the horror scenarios predicted by the scientists.
Temperatures like those in the Outback
A new study from the Australian National University in Canberra is now predicting that even cities like Melbourne and Sydney will experience temperatures previously only found in the Outback.
This means that these cities and their more than one million inhabitants will have to reckon with summer temperatures of up to 50C by 2040 – even under the Paris Agreement global warming limit of 2C.
“The increase in Australian summer temperatures indicates that other major cities should also be prepared for unprecedented future extreme heat,” said Sophie Lewis, a climate scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra.
“Our climate modelling has 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.”
2013 was Australia’s hottest year to date
According to Lewis, the record hot summers in 2012 and 2013 were made more likely due to human-caused climate change. 2013 was the hottest year in Australia since recordkeeping began just over 100 years ago.
Even Tasmania’s somewhat cooler capital Hobart was driven by extreme temperatures to a record high of 41.8C, while Sydney set a new record of 45.8C. 2014, with its inland temperatures of up to 50C, and 2015 ended up being two of Australia’s hottest years, and a hot year like 2015 “could be an average year by 2025”.
“We have to be thinking now about how we can be prepared for large population groups commuting to and from the central business district on these extremely hot days, 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,” Lewis told Australia’s ABC News.
While rural regions have often been able to cope better with hot temperatures, cities have a lot more concrete and a lot less air flow, making it more difficult to escape the heat.
Melbourne is running out of water
This could have an impact on urban planning in the future as city authorities would have to plan and build differently due to extreme temperatures and climate change. For example, Australian cities like Melbourne are already aware that their water supplies will dry out more and more in the next ten years or so.
A report in July showed how Australia’s second largest city will be overwhelmed by climate change and population growth in the coming years, and by 2028, the demand for water will clearly exceed the supply, the city’s waterworks wrote at that time. Water reserves could then drop to dangerously low levels, driving the city into a prolonged drought and resulting in strict water restrictions.