“Stormageddon” shows glimpse of new normal in warming world

Intro

If the brutal bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef was not enough to bring home the need for drastic and urgent action on climate change, this weekend’s wild weather all along the East coast and Tasmania should be. Upping the ante on France’s “worst floods in 100 years”, “stormageddon” swept through NSW over the weekend, with floodwaters reportedly taking three lives, and waves up to eight metres high erasing beaches and doing severe damage to property and infrastructure. Images of the battered coast are dominating coverage, but flooding and high winds throughout NSW have compounded storm damage, which manifested immediately in insurance company stocks drops of more than 2.5 per cent. The storm comes as heat records were again broken for Autumn, hinting at a severe future that lies ahead if we continue to burn fossil fuels and worsening global warming.

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Key Points

  • Coastal communities and infrastructure are increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges. While “unprecedented” and “once-in-a-lifetime” weather events are making the news with nauseating regularity, the risks remain both poorly understood and poorly communicated. Without action to eliminate fossil fuels, temperatures relentlessly and mercilessly rise, leading to one record hot month after another being ticked off, and increasingly dire impacts on our natural systems, natural treasures, and both human and economic health.

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Key Quotes

  • “I wouldn’t be calling it Collaroy Beach anymore, I’d be calling it Collaroy Point.” – Collaroy local David
  • “It’s the worst I’ve seen it here.I’ve never seen it come up this high with this amount of storm surge, and I’ve been living here about 40 years.” – Collaroy local Craig Graham
  • “I grew up in a town called Parkes in the Central West and that’s our annual rainfall in a weekend. Its quite unbelievable.” – The Bureau of Meterology’s Rob Taggart
  • “Climate change did not overdetermine these floods in Australia and Europe. But, it has super-charged their intensity and speed in a way that would make them rare in the past. [It] is not about some kind of linear increase in temperature. It is about an increase in energy in the climate system that produces extremes – in drought, storms, wind, heatwaves and floods. Floods are just one of the expressions of the violence of the excess energy.” – Senior Lecturer, Communications and Media Studies, Monash University, David Holmes
  • “I spoke in Parliament House in Abbott’s time and there was just wall-to-wall denial about climate change. Except from Malcolm Turnbull. I spoke with him and he knew his stuff. He’d done his homework. Which makes his leadership all the doubly disappointing now.” – Former Chief marine scientist under the Howard government, Charlie Veron
  • “In terms of climate risk, our analysis shows that, for 2015, a conservative estimate of the amount of housing stock exposed to the effects of coastal erosion alone totaled at least $88 billion, excluding the value of the land itself, while more than 2 per cent of all houses are already exposed to moderate to extreme risks of flooding. Growing climate impacts mean the costs of these and other hazards that are exacerbated by climate change, such as bushfire and cyclones, will have worsening repercussions for households, the financial sector and ultimately the economy itself.” – CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor

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