Australia temperatures rising faster than rest of the world: official report

(This version of the Jan 26th. story corrects that Australia pledged money to Climate Fund in December)

A woman shades herself from the sun under an umbrella on a hot day in Sydney November 20, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia faces a rise in temperature of potentially more than 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, outpacing global warming worldwide, the country’s national science agency said on Tuesday.

In its most comprehensive analysis yet of the impacts of climate change, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) painted a worst-case scenario of a rise of up to 5.1 degrees Celsius by 2090 if there are no actions taken to cut greenhouse emissions.

“There is a very high confidence that hot days will become more frequent and hotter,” CSIRO principal research scientist Kevin Hennessy said. “We also have very high confidence that sea levels will rise, oceans will become more acidic, and snow depths will decline.”

The dire warning from the government-funded agency is at odds with the official line from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who in 2009 declared the science of climate change was “crap”.

Abbott last year scrapped a tax on carbon pricing and abolished the independent Climate Commission, saying recent severe droughts that have crippled cattle farmers were “not a new thing in Australia.”

As the host of the Group of 20 last year, he attempted to keep climate change off the agenda, resulting in an embarrassing backdown at the Leaders Summit in Brisbane after U.S. President Barack Obama used a high-profile speech to warn Australia that its own Great Barrier Reef was in danger.

One of the world’s biggest carbon emitters per capita, Australia initially declined to join the United States, Japan, France and others in contributing to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund.

At the Lima climate change conference in December, Australia announced it would provide A$200 million from its existing aid budget - a method of contributing that went against agreements when the fund was set up at the Copenhagen conference in 2009.

Abbott has committed A$2.55 billion ($2.21 billion) to a domestic initiative to reduce Australian’s emissions by 5 percent below 2000 levels by 2020.

The new research by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, using some 40 global climate models, has Australia warming at a greater rate than the rest of the world.

The 5.1 degree Celsius projection for 2090 is at the top end of a range starting at 2.8 degrees Celsius and is dependent on how deeply, if at all, greenhouse gas emissions are cut. The world average is for an increase of between 2.6 degrees and 4.8 degrees Celsius.

The report said the annual average temperature in Australia would likely be up to 1.3 degrees Celsius warmer in 2030 than the average experienced between 1986 and 2005.

Editing by Diane Craft