Australian Climate: The Unlucky Country

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2 responses to “Australian Climate: The Unlucky Country

  1. Adjunct Professor Peter Best, Brisbane, Australia

    This post is interesting to me as an environmental physicist with applied climate skills who works in heatwave adaptation in Australia and emigrated from the UK in 1971 to be away from Margaret Thatcher ideas and to live in a more optimistic environment. I made the correct move, my brother in North England stayed and regrets it, I think!

    I hope this is a tongue-in-cheek proposal. If you are serious in looking at climate-related reasons for migration choice, perhaps water supply would be more critical to your children than temperature-related issues (as heatwaves are temporary week-long issues, not having enough water is a more seasonal matter, not having a strong economy is a decadal issue) …Perth is not a good long-term prospect for water supply, as there have been several downward step changes over the past 30 years as the southern ocean circulations respond to ozone depletion and greenhouse influences.

    Climate adaptation is the key to successful and sustainable communities. For heatwave adaptation in Australia you could start at and follow up on more recent work, especially the heath and coping studies.

    How have English communities responded to the repeated flooding of the past few years? Why has it taken so long for the USA to approve disaster relief for the Frankenstorm damage?

    For what is is worth, I would advocate leaving Europe and the United States as soon as possible, especially as, unlike Australia with its long history of successful climate risk management and disaster relief, neither continent is well-placed to deal with an increasing importance of weather extremes. As these northern countries have climates very much influenced by the Arctic sea-ice cover which is unlikely to recover in the long-term, there will be great variability and surprises over the next two decades that few of your ecosystems are used to. Can British industry function well at temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius? Can the American governmental system handle disaster relief quickly? I doubt it now or in the foreseeable future.

    My advice to concerned children and parents would be to heed evolutionary history and seek a community that is vibrant and well-used to adaptation. Where do you suggest?

    PS. Love your website!

    • Peter. You make a series of valid points. If the evidence comes in that we are continuing along a high emissions trajectory and climate sensitivity comes in on the high side, seeking out “a community that is vibrant and well-used to adaption” should be an imperative for every responsible thinking parent.

      I frequently ponder where would be the best “lifeboat” in the worst-case scenarios. The U.K. certainly gets a mixed report card. Yes, its northern latitude and maritime situation provide a degree of dampening, but we will experience some horrific fluvial and pluvial flooding; this is already having a material impact, and globally we have yet to reach one degree of warming.

      The second big black mark against the U.K. is its population density, small size and non-variegated climate zone. Australia, the U.S., Canada and Russia have a much bigger canvas to paint on when it comes to climate adaption.

      For warming up to 4 degrees, I would think that Australia would be able to adapt. But having life orientated around air-conditioned offices and strip malls as in Kuwait or Qatar is a very different proposition than Australia’s current quality-of-life offering in its major cities.

      And should we get to 5 degrees and beyond, then we enter into the realm of Steven Sherwood’s wet bulb work (I am working on a post on this at the moment). BTW, if you have any references refuting Sherwood’s work, I would be really interested in reading them.

      Actually, when it comes to adaption, I don’t think there is a perfect place (just some which are less bad), partly because adaption will have to take place against the background of a moving temperature target. But that is the hand we are being dealt, so we just have to play it the best we can.

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