More severe droughts, increased intensity of rainfall and destructive cyclones have had a huge financial impact from the need to improve infrastructure, all now but locked without change immediately according to a new report released today.
Climate Council Floods and Droughts: Australian Water Security in Climate Change has warned the government faces huge costs to upgrade spillways and dam walls to deal with unimaginable conditions when designed to withstand one-in-100-year rain events.
The report has been co-authored by seven climate change experts including Professor Hilary Bambrook, head of the QUT Public Health School, who said Queensland could expect more rainfall and cyclone events as the climate continues to change.
"Such events affect agriculture and the possibility of damaging important food crops, including bananas," said Professor Bambrick.
"Climate change also affects public health in many ways – both droughts and floods can pollute our water supply and be a source of psychological stress in rural communities, while higher rainfall can increase mosquito-borne diseases such as the Dengue and Ross River viruses."
Climate Council members and co-authors, Professor Will Steffen said that the leadership needed to reduce the threat of climate change is threatening to sleep well in this country is a disaster.
Professor Steffen said, while many Australians, especially those who live in the bush, now understand the challenges ahead, the country's leaders are only tearing the wheels of the current system.
He said that countries that had adopted a bipartisan approach to the problems had begun to solve it.
"Unfortunately here it has become a very partisan issue, very divisive," said Prof. Steffen.
"Many states and territories are starting to move on it. If the new federal government becomes more active, we can make policies really fast to reach the path. By moving very fast in two decades we can get carbon from transportation and get out of energy. "
Thus the increase in temperature can be contained between 1.5 and two degrees Celsius.
He said that while holding it at 1.5C there is no longer a chance to catch it at 2C which would limit sea level rise to one meter at the turn of the century.
South Australia now has more than 50 percent of renewable energy through the sun and wind, CAT which has some of the lowest electricity prices in Australia is 100 percent dependent on renewable energy and Victoria wants to follow it.
Prof. Steffen has described the call by computer software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian for Australia to target the goal of 200 percent of renewable power plants as visionaries.
"We need visionaries to see real opportunities," he said. "What he proposes has a lot of credibility."
Professor Steffen said there were plans to build large renewable plants in North Africa to serve Europe, a role Australia could play for Asia and especially Indonesia's growing economy through high-voltage electric currents that could be transported.
Fundamentally he said it would be far cheaper to emit greenhouse gases from the equation than to deal with the very expensive and increasing effects of climate change.