MONDAY’S milder conditions may have been a welcome reprieve from the weekend’s blistering heat, but a Charles Sturt University expert has warned heatwaves could become more frequent and severe unless government policy responds.
Professor Kevin Parton is a climate change policy researcher with the Institute for Land, Water and Society and recently worked as part of a team surveying public attitudes to climate change.
Two thousand people were surveyed in 2011 and again in 2016, which revealed more people now believed in climate change.
The survey also revealed more people believed there was scientific consensus on climate change and the problem was caused by humans.
“Everyone except the [federal] government seems to realise there is a need for action, it’s a strange world we’re living in,” Professor Parton said.
“The government has a good approach to adaptation and it’s quietly getting on with it, but it’s done a terrible job on mitigation, that is reducing carbon emissions.
"Climate science predicts that the extreme conditions we’ve had at the weekend could continue – it predicts more heatwaves, more intense heatwaves, bushfires and floods.”
Professor Parton said the lacklustre willingness to act on climate change also filtered down to households, with the surveys revealing fewer people were willing to turn their thermostat down in winter in 2016 than 2011 and fewer people believed corporations who damaged the environment should be penalised.
He said it seemed many people felt they had already made adjustments for climate change.
“The number of solar panels is going up, in fact there are 11 times more solar panels now than there were in 2011 and people have made an effort in home insulation, when really the problem is just as urgent,” he said.
“I’ve lived in Orange for 16 years now and the summer we’ve had has been extreme and different – it’s not the extreme temperatures, but the consistency of the extreme level, Orange isn’t usually like that.”
Professor Parton believed despite the current political climate, carbon trading would eventually happen as the federal government’s Direct Action policy became more costly to the taxpayer.
“Non-government organisations have factored in carbon pricing – they expect it and they’re trying to cut back already,” he said.