The scary reality behind Australia's heatwaves

YOU think the weather is bad now? It could get a whole lot worse.

Last year was globally the hottest year yet and if the trend continues, there could be disastrous consequences for Australia.

Climate Council climate scientist Professor Will Steffen said the heatwaves could get worse, bushfires would become more extreme, and weather events we see once a century could start happening once a month, if the temperature continues to rise.

The Climate Council released a report on Thursday claiming that 2016 was the hottest year on earth, a record that has now been smashed for three years in a row.

Australians rush to the beaches over the holiday break as the heatwave hits hard.
Australians rush to the beaches over the holiday break as the heatwave hits hard. john mccutcheon

Climate scientists say the global temperature is now 1.2C higher than the pre-industrial temperature.

It doesn't sound like much, but the global temperature isn't like the daily temperature you look at on your weather app.

"Go back to the last ice age, 20,000 years ago. Australia was much colder, drier and windier," Prof Steffen said.

"People would say it felt 20 degrees colder in Australia, but the global temperature has only risen 4C since then.

"It's like your body temperature, it's highly complex and if you get a bad fever you won't live long unless you get it under control."

At a climate change summit in Paris last year, politicians from around the world gathered to discuss how they would tackle the issue.

Prof Steffen said they agreed the global temperature wouldn't get to 1.5C warmer than pre-industrial times, but he believes we are scarily close to hitting that number.

That means, in the next century, the world could reach tipping point.

Prof Steffen said if the global temperature rose another 4C, like it has since the ice age, then we would lose all the ice in the northern hemisphere in just 100 years' time.

He said Greenland would be gone as would the North Pole.

Antarctica would also lose a lot of ice and only a big lonely block would be left in the middle.

Antarctica would lose much of its ice, if the earth continues to heat up.
Antarctica would lose much of its ice, if the earth continues to heat up. Robyn Hills

Prof Steffen predicted the sea level could rise anywhere from 20 to 40 metres higher than today, which would wipe out most coastal cities around the world.

Prof Steffen said the new Climate Council report showed there was a sense of urgency to start lowering emissions.

"If we keep going on the same trend the world is heading in, heatwaves are going to get a lot worse, we'll see 40C a lot more often in capital cities and hot days will start earlier in the season and last longer. We're going to have to cope with that somehow," Prof Steffen said.

"The sea level could rise, meaning there'd be flooding events in Sydney and Melbourne and places that are flood prone could be unliveable."

Prof Steffen hopes the report revealing the global temperature rise would put pressure on citizens of countries around the world to change their ways.

"Particularly in Australia where the government is lagging behind what other countries are doing," he said.

"This issue, though long-term, is extremely important. The decisions we make now will affect the world and our children and grandchildren will live in this. It isn't something you put aside for the next generation, we have to do it now."

News Corp Australia

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