Was that climate change?

We often hear scientists and experts being asked on the nightly news if a particular storm, bush-fire or heatwave was ‘caused’ by climate change. You wouldn’t be alone if you found their answers a little vague and confusing, at times. This is because it is difficult to link individual events with climate change. Extreme weather has always been a feature of life. However, since human activities started to change the climate, extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more intense. So, while we can’t necessarily link an isolated, single event with climate change; we can say with absolute certainty that natural hazards are getting more frequent and intense overall. You might find this summary of how attribution science works helpful.

is climate change actually happening yet?

Well, yes it is... 

We’ve been hearing about the prospect of climate change for so long now that it can be easy to think it will happen to people far off in the future, living in distant lands. In fact, climate change is already happening. It is affecting all of us, right here in southern Adelaide, right now. Put very simply, southern Adelaide is getting hotter and drier and and our storms are getting more intense. This means existing natural hazards such as heatwaves, bush-fire, drought, storms and floods are becoming more frequent and/or intense. Our growing season is changing too.

i know the climate is changing but what can i do?

The most important thing we can all do is prevent greenhouse gas emissions to stop further changes to our climate. This is what we call Mitigation. Even if we stop all emissions, though, a certain level of climate change has already been locked in. This means that we will need to adapt to the impacts from theses changes. Check out the Our Projects and Projects We Love pages on this website for links to initiatives you can get involved with so that you, your family, your business and your community are climate ready. You might also like to see what other people in your community are doing to take action around climate change at our Wall of Fame.

don't we need more research before we do anything?

We know more than enough to act on climate change. There will always be some level of uncertainty regarding the future climate, but uncertainty should not prevent steps in the right direction. A lot of work has been done by scientists, research institutes and all levels of government to understand the risks and to propose actions to manage those risks. Lots of community groups and individuals have also taken action and are showing what is possible.

In southern Adelaide, the Resilient South partners have worked with leading scientists and experts to develop a Regional Climate Change Adaptation Plan as well as a series of Local Climate Change Adaptation Plans for each Local Government area. When developing these plans, we worked closely with our local communities and businesses to ensure that the plans were informed by community needs.

it doesn't seem that bad yet, why don't we wait until it gets worse?

Unfortunately, if we wait till it get's worse, it will already be too late.  There's a term in climate science called ‘climate inertia’ and it's not referring to the inertia of people! Climate inertia actually refers to the lag between greenhouse gases being emitted and the resulting warming-related climatic impacts being felt or observed, and is caused by the oceans taking much longer to warm than the atmosphere. Scientists tell us that even after CO2 emissions are reduced and atmospheric concentrations stabilize, surface air temperature continues to rise slowly for a century or more. This means that oceans will continue to warm and expand long after CO2 emissions have been reduced, and melting of ice sheets will continue to contribute to sea-level rise for many centuries to come. 

The earlier we act, the more we can minimise the damage we experience from rising sea levels and extreme weather, and take advantage of opportunities.

shouldn't we just leave it to the experts?

'Experts' have been great at laying out the nature of the challenge, but the solution requires action by people from every sphere of life - from government to multi national corporations, to schools, community groups and individual residents. It turns out that this is one of those problems that requires action by everyone. 

if it's meant to be getting hotter and drier, why did it rain so much this year?

The trend of hotter and drier is simply that - a trend. Overall, southern Adelaide is getting hotter and drier but that doesn't mean we won't still have periods where it is cool and rainy. In fact, we're finding that when it does rain, climate change is causing rainfall events to be more intense, resulting in flooding.