CANBERRA (DPA) - An increase in the severity and frequency of extreme weather conditions in Australia last year is "a new norm driven by climate change," according to a report released on Wednesday (Feb 6).
Temperatures nudged 50 degrees Celsius, bushfires ravaged rainforests and people were at increased risk of cardiac arrests because of heatwaves, the Sydney-based environmental group Climate Council said in its report.
It comes as hundreds of people wait in evacuation centres after 10 days of torrential rain and flooding in north-east Australia, while month-long bushfires have ravaged almost 200,000 hectares of land in Tasmania.
The report, titled "Weather Gone Wild," said extreme weather events were being influenced by climate change, "as they are occurring in an atmosphere that contains more energy than 50 years ago."
Heatwaves are starting earlier, becoming longer, hotter and occurring more frequently, the report said, adding that there were twelve times more hot temperature than cold temperature records set in Australia between 2000-14.
The report also said extreme weather events were "very costly" as insurance companies paid out more than A$1.2 billion in 2018 in claims linked to them.
Climate Council chief executive Amanda McKenzie said Australia's conservative government, which has been in power for five years, has obstructed action on climate change while extreme weather worsens. "It's unconscionable," she said.
"We are experiencing climate change right now across Australia, from flooding in Townsville to bushfires in Victoria and Tasmania."
Climate change is set to be a key political issue in national elections scheduled to be held before May.