Climate change | Subscribe News

Extreme weather official advice rewritten to remove climate change link

 
Bushfires in Australia

Firefighters tackle a bushfire in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, in January. Photograph: Brad Newman/Newspix/Rex

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Extreme weather official advice rewritten to remove climate change link” was written by Oliver Milman, for theguardian.com on Monday 30th June 2014 05.28 UTC

The government has been accused of significantly watering down its official advice on extreme weather after removing mention of links between climate change and events such as bushfires and heatwaves.

A document on the Department of Environment’s website, aimed at informing the public on how climate change is influencing dangerous weather, has removed an explicit reference linking the two.

A previous version of the document opened with the statement: “There is a growing and robust body of evidence that climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

“Australia has experienced an increasing number and intensity of heatwaves, bushfires, flooding and droughts in recent decades.”

An amendment to the page removes these lines in favour of a general explanation of what extreme weather is.

The page goes on to acknowledge that the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events is “changing” and that “some studies” show a link to climate change, but stresses that it is “difficult to isolate the role of climate change in any given event”.

As Guardian Australia reported in October, the previous version of the departmental advice contradicted Tony Abbott’s view that any link between bushfires and climate change was “complete hogwash”.

The prime minister, speaking in the wake of the widespread New South Wales bushfires last year, also said Christiana Figueres, the UN’s climate chief, was “talking out of her hat” for linking rising temperatures to increased bushfires.

Amanda McKenzie, a former government official and now chief executive of the Climate Council, told Guardian Australia the amendment had led to “softer language” on the link between climate change and extreme weather.

“Lives and communities are at risk from bushfires so it’s very important that communities and firefighting services are prepared for changes that we are already seeing,” she said.

“There is a common misconception that Australia has always had extreme weather so we should not be concerned now, but we are already seeing more forceful, extreme weather. Bushfires have increased in south-east Australia in the past 30 years, and we’ve just had our hottest 12 months on record.

“The evidence is absolutely unequivocal on the link. We know bushfire conditions are getting worse. We have to take the government on its word that it takes climate change seriously but there have been inaccurate statements made around extreme weather and it’s critical the public is provided the right information on these matters.”

Asked why the advice was changed, an environment department spokeswoman said: “During the past few months, we have been finalising the transition of content from the former climate change website to environment.gov.au.

“The Department of the Environment’s website is constantly updated. The change you identified was made by the department to ensure the website information remained consistent with the approach taken by the IPCC in its fifth assessment report.”

The IPCC assessment, released in March, stated there was a “medium to high confidence” that extreme weather events are “projected to increase in many locations” in Australia.

Australia is at risk from “increased damage to ecosystems and settlements, economic losses and risks to human life from wildfires in most of southern Australia”, according to the IPCC report.

In addition, “projected increases in heatwaves will increase heat-related deaths and hospitalisations, especially among the elderly”, while coastal areas will be at risk from erosion, landslides and flooding, owing to weather pattern changes and sea level rises.

Kellie Caught, climate change campaigner at WWF, said: “The link between global warming and extreme weather events is clear. In fact, the IPCC fifth assessment report strengthened its assessment on the link between some extreme weather events and global warming.

 

Pages: 1 2

Comments are closed.

A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.