This sixth biennial State of the Climate report draws on the latest climate research, encompassing observations, analyses and projections to describe year-to-year variability and longer-term changes in Australia’s climate. The report is a synthesis of the science informing our understanding of climate in Australia and includes new information about Australia’s climate of the past, present and future. The science informs a range of economic, environmental and social decision-making by governments, industries and communities.
Observations, reconstructions and climate modelling paint a consistent picture of ongoing, long-term climate change interacting with underlying natural variability. Associated changes in weather and climate extremes—such as extreme heat, heavy rainfall and coastal inundation, fire weather and drought—have a large impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities and ecosystems. They affect the lives and livelihoods of all Australians.
Australia needs to plan for and adapt to the changing nature of climate risk now and in the decades ahead. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions will lead to less warming and fewer impacts in the future.
Key points - Australia:
- Australia’s climate has warmed on average by 1.44 ± 0.24 °C since national records began in 1910, leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.
- There has been a decline of around 16 per cent in April to October rainfall in the southwest of Australia since 1970. Across the same region May–July rainfall has seen the largest decrease, by around 20 per cent since 1970.
- There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and in the length of the fire season, across large parts of the country since the 1950s, especially in southern Australia.
- Sea levels are rising around Australia, including more frequent extremes, that are increasing the risk of inundation and damage to coastal infrastructure and communities.
Key points - global:
- Despite a decline in global fossil fuel emissions of CO2 in 2020 associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, this will have negligible impact in terms of climate change. Atmospheric CO2 continues to rise, and fossil fuel emissions will remain the principal driver of this growth.
- The world’s oceans, especially in the southern hemisphere, are taking up around 90 per cent of the extra energy resulting from enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations.
- More than half of all CO2 emissions from human activities are being absorbed by land and ocean sinks, thus slowing the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2.