Dispatches from down under: climate change here and now

Dispatches from down under: climate change here and now

By Amy Huva

November 28, 2011

My homeland of Australia is one of the countries that can feel and see the immediate impacts of climate change more readily than others. Events that had previously only been 1 in 100 year disasters are now happening more frequently due to a combination of El Niño weather patterns and climate warming positive feedback cycles. Last summer in Australia, much of the country was declared a natural disaster zone. Most of Queensland was flooded, and my friend in Brisbane was being evacuated from her office and home. My home state of Victoria was also suffering severe flooding, as well as a mildly apocalyptic sounding locust plague. In contrast to the rainy east of the country, large parts of Western Australia were battling severe bushfires.

In summers, it’s no longer unusual for Adelaide, the capital of South Australia to have a week of temperatures over 40 C.The final exam of my degree at the University of Melbourne was held in January 2009, in the middle of one of the worst heat waves Melbourne has ever seen. I’m not sure how many of you have attempted to do a 3hr Biochemistry exam in 46 C heat, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. Melbourne had three consecutive days over 40 C which culminated that weekend with the Black Saturday bushfires that burned over 4,500km2 of land removing two towns from the map of Victoria and killing 173 people.

This is the new normal. For me at the time, in the process of moving to Canberra to join the graduate program with the Federal Department of Environment (Canberra was a relief from the heat, it was only 40 C instead of 46 C!), it was really strange to start my first day at work with announcements for staff from Victoria who were affected by the fires to come forward for assistance, banding together with my housemates to send donations of supplies back home to those affected, and trying to settle into my first ‘real’ job after University while calling home to make sure relatives in rural towns were safe.

Climate Change. It’s the here and now. But are we doing enough about it yet?

(Icon photo courtesy of Alex Coppel, HWT Image Library)

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