‘Climate change’ refers to the way long-term weather patterns have been changing over many decades. One of the ways the Earth’s climate is changing is through increases in global temperatures, or ‘global warming’.
Climate change is a problem not only because of increasing average global temperature, which is leading to more record hot days and heatwaves, but it also leads to other changes in weather and climate, such as where and when rain falls, higher sea levels and the intensity of extreme weather events such as storms, fires and heavy rain. These changes are creating challenges for our water and food security, coastal communities, economy and way of life. They also put many of our native plants and animals at greater risk of extinction.
Climate change could lead to changes in where and when rain falls and the intensity of extreme weather events such as storms. Scientists have already observed increases in air and ocean temperatures across the globe, as well as rising sea levels and melting of snow and ice sheets. We have also seen an increase in some extreme weather events like heatwaves.
Australia is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. Australia’s climate has always been one of extremes, and scientists are concerned that these extremes may be strengthening. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days has more than doubled across Australia, increasing the risk of heatwaves and bushfires. Australians mostly live in coastal communities, many of which are vulnerable to rising sea levels.
- 5 December 2012 - Adelaide community forum