Climate change: Australia floods, with staggering 1.5 metres of rain in 24 hours, are a warning sign we cannot ignore – Scotsman comment

Four months after New South Wales was hit by a “once-in-a-thousand-year” flood that killed 20 people and forced thousands of people to flee their homes, torrential rain has brought “life-threatening” flooding to Australia once again.

Some places near Sydney reportedly received a staggering 1.5 metres (nearly 5ft) of rain over just 24 hours in what was shaping up to be the worst of four major flood events in the past 18 months.

Despite the weight of evidence, there are still some people who view this as simply bad luck with the weather, rather than another warning sign about climate change, and others who believe this is a problem for future generations.

However, according to a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report published last year, flood-related disasters worldwide have increased by 134 per cent since 2000, while droughts have risen by 29 per cent.

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The physics is fairly simple. Warm air carries more water than cold air. This means that vegetation and the land tends to dry out more quickly, increasing the risk of wildfires, and, when it rains, the amount of water that falls can be greater.

A UN Environment Programme report has warned extreme wildfires are set to become more frequent and intense, rising by 14 per cent by 2030 and 30 per cent by 2050. And when land has been burned, this increases the rate of water run-off, making both floods and droughts more likely. So the 3.6 billion people who already face inadequate access to water at least one month a year are going to be joined by many more.

The climate emergency is upon us. We cannot ignore it.

Foodwaters near the Hawkesbury River in the Sydney suburb of Windsor yesterday (Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images)
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