Sunday, November 9, 2014

Opinion Poll: more extreme weather expected, linked to climate change by Australian public

An opinion poll across Australia by Essential media has found that most people expect extreme weather events to get worse, and that this trend is linked to climate change.

Essential media conducted the survey from the 24th to 28th October 2013 based on 1,075 respondents as part of their regular opinion poll surveying releasing the opinion poll data on 4th November. This was part of their regular surveying but two questions in particular in this survey focussed on the frequency of extreme weather events and whether they are linked to climate change. (See Essential Report 4 November 2014 PDF)

Observational data and scientific modelling by both the BOM and CSIRO is pretty clear that the frequency, intensity and seasonal extent of bushfires will all increase due to climate change with this trend already being observed. (See Climate Council report: Climate Change & The Australian Bushfire Threat, December 2013)

Similarly for extreme heat events, we are seeing more frequent hot days with longer heatwaves, and the liklihood of starting earlier in Spring and ending later in Autumn. 2013 was Australia's hottest year on record with Fractional attribution of risk research showing conclusively that the hand of human caused climate change was involved. (See Climate Council report: Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, More Often, February 2014)


South Western Australia and South eastern Australia already show reductions in rainfall with this trend likely to continue as climate change increases the speed and pushes the westerlies further south and also increases the liklihood of more frequent and intense El Ninos in the Pacific. Some parts of Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales are already experiencing severe drought conditions with poor rain since 2012 and the last major La Nina event in 2010-2011.

While it is still not clear whether the number of cyclones will increase in frequency due to climate change, it is thought that the tropical cyclones that do occurr will be more intense and destructive due to picking up more energy and moisture from a much warmer ocean due to climate change.

Rainfall events are likely to increase in intensity due to the fact that a warmer atmosphere can carry more water vapour. For every degree Celsius of atmospheric warming, moisture carrying capacity will increase by about 8 per cent. It may not seem much, but if we achieve 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century, that will mean thunderstorms could deliver a 25-30 per cent increase in torrential downpours leading to landslides and flash flooding.

The 2007 IPCC AR4 synthesis report noted, among others in 3.2.2:
  • very likely increase in frequency of hot extremes, heat waves and heavy precipitation
  • likely increase in tropical cyclone intensity; less confidence in global decrease of tropical cyclone numbers
  • poleward shift of extra-tropical storm tracks with consequent changes in wind, precipitation and temperature patterns
  • very likely precipitation increases in high latitudes and likely decreases in most subtropical land regions, continuing observed recent trends.

  • These trends were further confirmed by the IPCC Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) (website) published in 2011 which I reviewed in the article: Extreme weather, risk management and adaptation in a warming climate - latest IPCC report

    Watch Professor Lesley Hughes giving a talk in April 2014 on the IPCC AR5 Climate Impacts working Group II report as it relates to Australia:



    Abbott Government in climate science denial


    So what does this survey show exactly? It demonstrates that more people in Australia are paying attention to scientific observations and trends, are listening to the scientists rather than those who would deny the climate science, including our Prime Minister Tony Abbott who denied the climate change link to bushfires in October 2013.

    Meanwhile, Abbott's Environment minister Greg Hunt used Wikipedia research to dismiss links between climate change and bushfires in 2013. In October 2014 it was revealed that the Bureau of Meteorology warned Greg Hunt about climate change before he cited Wikipedia, which demonstrates his statement was not from ignorance but was a political stance to deny the climate science involved.

    We have also been subjected to numerous opinion articles by Tony Abbott's chief business advisor Maurice Newman advocating climate denial. See my open letter to Maurice Newman to respect climate science.

    One of this government's first actions was dismissing and abolishing the Climate Commission setup to educate people on climate science while being politically non-partisan. Since then the government has gone on to abolish Australia's effective carbon pricing scheme, the first and only nation to role back carbon pricing. The Government has also abolished the large scale energy efficiency program and created an unstable investment environment for renewables through threatening the abolition of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), and establishing the Warburton review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which recommended either abolition or scaling back the target. We are already seeing a rise in emissions from the energy sector, and projected to be a substantial increase in emissions this year.

    We saw Climate science and clean energy suffer under first Abbott budget, which will have a large impact on world class research Australia does in many areas in climate science and associated areas.

    While many countries stepped up pledges at the recent UN climate summit, Australia's Foreign Minister was shunned for Australia's low target and ambition and lack of new pledges.

    The Votecompass survey for the September 2013 election makes clear that Abbott did not have a mandate for his attack on climate change policy in Australia and more recent surveys show that Climate leadership is demanded of the Australian Government.

    Survey details


    Here are the detailed survey results and commentary from Essential Media on the extreme weather and climate questions:

    Q. Do you think that, over the next few years, Australia will be more or less likely to experience severe bushfires and extreme weather events like floods and cyclones?


    Total



    Vote Labor


    Vote Lib/Nat


    Vote Greens


    Vote other

    Total more likely

    63%


    72%


    49%


    86%


    65%

    Total less likely

    1%


    1%


    *


    2%


    3%

    A lot more likely

    33%


    41%


    19%


    61%


    31%

    A little more likely

    30%


    31%


    30%


    25%


    34%

    About the same

    33%


    26%


    47%


    11%


    29%

    A little less likely

    1%


    1%


    -


    2%


    2%

    A lot less likely

    *


    -


    *


    -


    1%

    Don’t know

    4%


    1%


    4%


    1%


    4%

     

    63% think that severe bushfires and extreme weather events will be more likely over the next few years.

    86% of Greens voters and 63% of Labor voters think they will be more likely. However, 47% of Liberal/National voters think they will be neither more likely nor less likely.

    68% of women think they will be more likely compared to 56% of men.




    Q. And do you think that these extreme events – bushfires, floods, cyclones, etc – are likely or unlikely to be linked to climate change?


    Total



    Vote Labor


    Vote Lib/Nat


    Vote Greens


    Vote other

    Likely to be linked to climate change

    76%


    83%


    63%


    96%


    63%

    Unlikely to be linked to climate change

    16%


    10%


    26%


    2%


    24%

    Don’t know

    9%


    6%


    11%


    3%


    14%

    (Based on the 63% – 625 respondents – who think extreme event are more likely.)

    Of those who think extreme events are more likely, 76% think they are likely to be linked to climate change and 16% think they are unlikely to be linked to climate change.

    83% of Labor voters and 96% of Greens voters think they are likely to be linked to climate change.