One constant of climate change forecasts is that natural disasters will occur with more frequency and severity. Nowhere is this easier to study, and perhaps more pressing, than in Australia, a continent known for its extreme environment. A recent study, the collaborative work of 47 scientists and 11 institutions, has focused on climate change and natural disasters in Australia, and has found plenty of cause for concern.

The researchers have found that bushfires are getting more common and larger, and that heat waves are as well. Both are expected to continue increasing throughout the 21st century.

On the other hand, they’ve found that flooding has either stayed much the same or is actually going to decrease in the future. The primary cause of this phenomenon is that rainfall in decreasing, which is not a good thing in already arid Australia.

“One thing that became very clear is how much all these hazards are interconnected,” says Associate Professor Seth Westra of the University of Adelaide. “For example, drought leads to drying out of the land surface, which in turn can lead to increased risk of heat waves and bushfires, while also potentially leading to a decreased risk of flooding.”

The biggest takeaway from this climate change research is that Australia, and by extension the rest of the world, can’t afford to carry on as if nothing is changing. Not only are there going to be more extreme weather events in the coming century, but they’re going to come at a higher cost, to both life and property. We need to figure out how to be prepared for such events.

Further research will help in this, but that research needs to be funded, and findings and recommendations need to be acknowledged and adhered to by governments and citizens alike. The world’s climate is changing, has been changing, and will continue to do so, and we need to work much harder to try and forestall those changes.

Hopefully the Australian research, which points to the costs of ignoring climate change, can lend more credence to the need to mitigate that change.

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