ACT News

Canberra headed for hotter summers with more days of severe fire weather

The ACT is headed for hotter summers and drier springs combined with an increase in severe fire weather days in both seasons, the territory's first detailed climate change projections show. 

Canberra is in store for an increase in fire weather in spring, summer and winter, according to new research funded by the ACT and NSW governments and produced by UNSW's Climate Change Research Centre.

Change is in the wind: A sailing boat takes to Lake Burley Griffin under ominous skies on Friday. Climate predictions ...
Change is in the wind: A sailing boat takes to Lake Burley Griffin under ominous skies on Friday. Climate predictions say Canberra can expect an increase in bushfire risks in Summer and Spring. Photo: Jay Cronan

The projections indicate that if the world continues warming at its current rate, the ACT will warm by about 0.7 degrees in the near future (2020 to 2029), increasing to about 2 degrees in the far future (2060-2079). 

The territory is also expected to experience a rise in the number of  hot days, with up to five more days above 35 degrees in the ACT by 2030 and up to 20 extra days above that mark by 2070. 

The ACT is also expected to dip below 2 degrees an average of 13 fewer times each year by 2030 and 43 fewer times each year by 2070. 

Environment Minister Simon Corbell said the detailed climate change modelling for the ACT painted a dramatic and stark picture for Canberra's future.

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"In the past, climate change projections have focused on a national or even global scale and it's been very difficult to relate those changes down to what it means to our local environment and our local neighbourhood," he said. 

"These projections provide a very clear and stark warning about what our future will be.

"This is a marked change in our city's climate, in our region's climate and the implications are far reaching." 

Mr Corbell said the projections highlighted the need for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions locally as part of a global effort. 

"What these projections tell us is if we just continue on as business as usual, the changes to our local climate will be stark and dramatic but we do have the opportunity to prevent that from happening and to ameliorate the worst impacts of these changes if we make the shift to a low-carbon future and that's the compelling message from this data," he said. 

Mr Corbell said the ACT government was committed to its target of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2020 as part of a 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. 

"These projections are critical in terms of our understanding what we will need to do if we don't reduce our greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently, particularly over the next 20 or 30 years," he said. 

"We will need to plan to manage more and more heatwave events and the human health impacts of those events and we will have to change the way we think about how we manage bushfire risks because we won't be able to undertake hazard-reduction burning in spring, which is usually when we undertake that work."

The ACT's per-capita level of emissions has been declining since levels peaked about three years ago. 

But Mr Corbell said there was still room for improvement.

"We are reducing our per-capita emissions on an individual basis, households are using energy more smartly, they're using energy in their homes more efficiently and in commercial office buildings more efficiently so that's all driving down our greenhouse gas emissions but there is much more to be done." 

"What these projections remind us of, and urge us on to do, is to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets and make sure we are playing our part in avoiding this dramatic and disruptive change in our future climate."