Australia 0.7 degrees warmer over past 50 years

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The Independent Online

Australia's top science body said on Monday temperatures had risen about 0.7 degrees Celsius (0.44 Fahrenheit) in the last 50 years, describing the finding as "significant evidence" of climate change.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) head Megan Clark said warming had occurred across the country and during all seasons, with the last decade the hottest on record.

"We are seeing significant evidence of a changing climate," she told ABC public radio.

"If we just take our temperature, all of Australia has experienced warming over the last 50 years. We are warming in every part of the country during every season and as each decade goes by, the records are being broken.

"We are also seeing fewer cold days so we are seeing some very significant long-term trends in Australia's climate."

The joint CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology report follows renewed debate over climate change after flaws were found in evidence from a key UN panel before and after December's world environmental summit in Copenhagen.

"There is a thirst for good quality climate science and our two organisations are proud to publish this," said Greg Ayers, the Bureau of Meteorology's director.

The bureau has been observing Australia's weather for 100 years, and CSIRO has been conducting atmospheric and marine research for more than 60 years.

Their "State of The Climate" report shows sea levels rising seven-10 millimetres (0.3 to 0.4 inches) a year around Australia's north and west, while rainfall is sharply higher in some regions and lower in others.

"We know two things. We know that our CO2 has never risen so quickly. We are now starting to see CO2 and methane in the atmosphere at levels that we just haven't seen for the past 800,000 years, possibly even 20 million years," Clark said.

"We also know that that rapid increase that we've been measuring was at the same time that we saw the industrial revolution so it is very likely that these two are connected."

Climate change is likely to be a major issue in elections due this year in Australia, the world's top per capita carbon polluter, after the government's flagship emissions trading laws were defeated twice by the Senate last year.