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The Science

Climate change has widespread social, environmental and economic impacts. Here we explore the key facts surrounding climate change and its impacts on our ecosystems and communities.

"Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal."
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The evidence for rapid, human-lead climate change is compelling. Earth has always had natural cycles of warming and cooling, but since the mid-20th century, the rate of warming is proceeding at an alarming rate. Greenhouse gasses released through the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) create a layer around the earth, trapping heat within the atmosphere. This heat creates more extreme and unpredictable weather. Greenhouse gas levels throughout history provide evidence that atmospheric CO2 levels have been increasing dramatically since the industrial revolution due to the widespread burning of fossil fuels.

Consequences of Climate Change

Temperatures are climbing
The Earth's atmosphere is heating up ten times faster than anytime in the last 65 million years. The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit (1.18 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century. Most of this warming has occurred in the past 40 years, with the top five hottest years on record being 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020.
Sea levels are rising
Global sea levels rose about 20cm (8 inches) over the last century. The rate in the last two decades, however, is nearly double that of the last century and accelerating every year. The difference between 1.5˚C and 2˚C of global temperature rise could mean well over 10 million people could be displaced from their homes due to sea-level rise.
Extreme weather is more frequent
Small increases in global temperature change the frequency, intensity and duration of extreme weather events. Since 1950, the number of record high temperature days around the world has been increasing. Many countries have also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events, leading to flooding.
Fire weather is more common
One of the clearest findings of climate science is that global warming amplifies the intensity, duration and frequency of heat waves, drought and wildfires. An extremely dry winter coupled with unseasonably hot weather fuelled devastating wildfires across North America in 2016 and Australia in 2020.
Oceans are becoming more acidic
Since the 1950s, more than 90 percent of the energy trapped by the atmosphere has been absorbed into the oceans. Since then, coral reefs all over the world have seen extensive coral bleaching. The destruction of these habitats is having a huge impact on the survival of many of our ocean species.

Climate Change & Extreme Weather Hazards

Our analysis covers the physical risks from a range of climate change and extreme weather hazards
Riverine Flooding
Precipitation in a catchment that causes a river to exceed its capacity, inundating nearby areas.
Coastal Inundation
A high sea event that floods land, infrastructure and buildings. Does not include storm surge or coastal erosion.
Forest Fire
A destructive fire that spreads via trees and forest. This definition does not include grass fires.
Soil Subsidence
Soil movement causing contraction of clay soils, that can lead to the foundations of a property shifting.
Extreme Wind
High-wind conditions that may exceed a building's design specifications. Does not include cyclones.
What are RCPs?

RCP stands for 'Representative Concentration Pathway'. The RCPs make predictions of how concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will change in the future as a result of human activities.

The numerical values of the RCPs (2.6, 4.5, 6.0 and 8.5) refer to the greenhouse gas concentrations in 2100. RCP 8.5 is often considered the "Business As Usual" pathway consistent with the current trajectory of global emissions. RCP 8.5 leads to greater global temperature increases, which results in greater physical impacts.

Some of our data sources

Other academic resources:

  • Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy
  • Adapt NSW, NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage, Australia
  • Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre, Hobart, Australia
  • Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
Find out the risks to your address