AUSTRALIA'S summer of extreme weather and natural disasters, in which more than 100 heat-related records were broken, was driven by climate change.

A new report from Australia's Climate Commission - The Critical Decade: Extreme weather - contained dire warnings for the future unless urgent and significant steps were taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As well as being characterised by bushfires and floods, the 2012/13 summer was the hottest on record.

In fact, the number of record hot days in Australia had doubled since the 1960s, the researchers found.

And the report said the frequency and severity of heatwaves and hot days would only increase.

The report said there was overwhelming evidence to suggest climate change was already increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

"Extreme events occur naturally and weather records are broken from time to time.

"However, climate change is influencing these events and record-breaking weather is becoming more common around the world," the report read.

South-east Australia stood out as being at risk of increased risk from heatwaves, bushfires, heavy rainfall and sea-level rise, the report found.

Parts of the east coast, already devastated by floods in recent years, will face increased risks in the future as global temperatures increase.

"Over the last three years Australia's east coast has experienced several very heavy rainfall events, fuelled by record-high surface water temperatures in the adjacent seas," the report read.

"As global temperature rises there is a higher risk of heavy rainfall events. Across Australia, it is more likely than not that heavy rainfall events will become more frequent as temperature increases."

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said the report should serve as a "wake-up call" for people opposed to policies like the carbon tax.

He said the time for delaying action was over, warning the stakes were too high.

"This report shows that climate change is no longer a problem for the future - it's already here," Mr Combet said.

"It's time for Tony Abbott to pull his head out of the sand and start listening to the scientists."

Australia’s Climate Commission – The Critical Decade: Extreme weather.
Australia’s Climate Commission – The Critical Decade: Extreme weather. http://climatecommission.gov.au

KEY FINDINGS

Climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of many extreme weather events, adversely affecting Australians.

Climate change is making many extreme events worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment.

The climate system has shifted, and is continuing to shift, changing the conditions for all weather, including extreme weather events.

There is a high risk that extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy rainfall, bushfires and cyclones will become even more intense in Australia over the coming decades.



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