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3/17/2008

Faster climate change fears

Endless summer ... the sun sets at Henley Beach on Friday. PICTURE: JO-ANNA ROBINSON

South Australia

South Australians are being warned to brace for harsher and more regular heatwaves amid fears climate change may be occurring faster than forecast. Meteorologists and researchers say timeframes calculated by organisations such as the CSIRO for climate change impacts of higher temperatures, falling rainfall and rising sea levels are now conservative at best. And they warn the normal four seasons will blur as temperatures increase and summer stretches well into the autumn months. The South Australian Bureau of Meteorology regional director said he was confident the current record heatwave – which Saturday stretched into its 13th day – was a result of global warming, and it was evidence the rate of climate change could be gaining pace. "If we had the same weather pattern 20 years ago, we are confident the temperatures would not have been as high. Because of the greenhouse effect, the atmosphere can now contain more heat than ever before. The rate of global warming could be higher than even the most recent predictions. It's possible it's happening faster than we thought." "Climate change is just not something our children are going to have to worry about, it's something we are already seeing....Based on what we are seeing in the real world – with very rapid increases in temperature, with very large changes in the great ice sheets – this is a much more serious problem than we would have considered a year ago. It's becoming hotter, drier and more extreme. The kind of weather that we have been used to is a thing of the past. The reality is that there is no such thing as natural weather any more. We're heading into very dangerous uncharted territory." "You look at the global scale, things are running at the upper end of what we have been expecting."
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