Australia is getting hot. Really, really hot. Hot enough that the Australian Open tennis tournament has been suspended; it was hot enough that water bottles were melting on the tennis court.
The risks of bush fires and infrastructural breakdowns are increasing.
All this hot air begs a question: is global warming at fault?
“There are a bunch of factors that cause heatwaves,” Professor Mick Raupach, director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute, tells TIME. “ “But what climate change does is build up extra energy in the atmosphere that load the dice and puts the weather on steroids, so heatwaves become longer, hotter and more widespread. They are going up in all three important metrics.”
Things could heat up much more in Australia’s southeast unless significant reductions in the emissions of heat-trapping gases take place in the immediate future.
“If the trend in global warming continues, we’re going to see average global temperatures increasing by 4°C to 5°C by the turn of the century,” says Dr Sarah Perkins, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales currently working with the Climate Council on a heatwave report. “The changes we are seeing now coincide with an increase in average global temperatures of 1°C. So it’s quite scary to think what would happen with a 5°C increase.
“If we don’t change our ways, heatwaves in Australia won’t be considered events,” she says. “They’ll be normal.”
Naturally, the new Australian government doesn’t believe in climate change, and has dropped plans for a carbon tax. The new PM’s chief business advisor is a dude named Maurice Newman, and hoo boy is he ever a piece of work:
Perhaps the unnatural heat from Australia’s warmest year on record was playing tricks on the brain of Tony Abbott’s top business adviser?
Maybe the documented CWM effect – the high prevalence of climate change denialism among conservative white males – is especially strong in the 75-year-old former stockbroker, banker and chair of the ABC and the ASX?
Whatever the cause, Newman has turned his conspiracy theory dial well passed 11 with his latest outburst.
In a column published in The Australian newspaper he wrote that the “climate change establishment” (whatever that is) is intent only on “exploiting the masses and extracting more money”.
Newman wrote that the United Nations “has applied mass psychology through a compliant media” (he really did write that) to fool the world into thinking the activities of industrialised countries have changed the climate.
Even as the forces of denialism and anti-environmental policy are in the ascendant in Australia’s government, the evidence is in the numbers, and the numbers give an unambiguous message:
Australian annual average daily mean temperatures have increased by 0.9 °C since 1910.
Global average mean sea level for 2011 was 210 mm above the level in 1880.
Sea surface temperatures have increased by about 0.8 °C since 1910.
The main cause of the observed increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is the combustion of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.
Australian average temperatures are projected to rise by 1.0 to 5.0 °C by 2070 when compared with the climate of recent decades.
Here’s a long documentary on Australian Aboriginal music, which is haunting and beautiful — not just the didgeridoo, but the magnificent singing:
Many aboriginal musicians have expanded their repertoire to include electronic effects, amplification, and recorded accompaniment:
Country music is very popular in Australia — here’s Slim Dusty, ironically enough, singing a song about diesel truckers:
And Terry Misra, an Anglo-Indian Australian country musician.
Here’s the Australian jazz group Visions of a Nomad:
There is plenty of great music Down Under, and plenty of opportunities for musicians to speak out about climate change and related environmental issues.