Australia wants us to cool it

Australia: the land of deadly spiders and snakes, heat waves, sunburns, coral bleaching, knife-know-it-alls, and perpetual elections. But also home of the delightful Hugh Wolverine Jackman, who has the singing voice of an angel, so it all balances out. 

Also, remember Australia’s 2012-2013 "Angry Summer"? That summer was so hot that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology had to add colours to their temperature maps to represent the record breaking temperatures. There were extreme heatwaves, multiple blackouts, and severe bushfires. But can we blame this all on climate change?

For the past couple of decades or so, climate scientists thought that it would be a good idea if we all got together and tried and keep the world from heating up by 2°C (that’s 2°C above what it was before the industrial revolution). Then, at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015, in a pleasantly-shocking turn of events, most countries in the world agreed to try to keep the additional global warming warm-up to under 1.5°C (again, that’s 1.5°C above what it was before the industrial revolution). The difference between 1.5 and 2°C may seem insignificant, I mean, what can half a degree really do? But, think about it—would 98 Degrees still be your favourite boy band if they'd been called 97.5 Degrees? (And before you get all up in arms, no, 98 Degrees was NOT performing in Fahrenheit! That would make zero sense! 98°C, much like the funky foursome, is, quite literally, too hot to handle. If they were 98°F, they might as well have been called "Slightly Below Typical Body Temperature: Boy Band Edition.")

So, what does this have to do with Australia? A new study in Nature Climate Change takes a look at how much worse off Australia will be with global temperatures being either 1.5 or 2°C warmer. And SURPRISE: 2° is significantly worse for Australia than 1.5°.

Using an ensemble of climate model simulations, the authors found that currently each Australian summer has a 36−52% chance of having similar conditions as Angry Summer. With global temperatures at the 1.5° limit, Australian summers will have a 50−65% chance of being another Angry Summer. And with global temperatures at the 2° limit, each Australian summer will have a 70−84% chance of being an Angry Summer copycat.

So… good luck Australia!

Note: the IPCC is currently trying to figure out when the world will reach the 1.5° threshold, but some estimates are for as early as 2026. My guess is 2035, but that's only because that's how many jelly beans are always in a jar.