For Australia this year climate change has been visible , tangible and terrifying.
Temperatures in Sydney were at 41C yesterday,for the third day in a row and the people of Victoria and the rest of New South Wales continued their clean up after last month’s massive flooding when a “great inland lake” of flood waters weaved its path of destruction across areas that had previously been more usually heard of in relation to bush fire alerts.
But Queensland ,which suffered massive loss in last month’s floods where the flood waters came abruptly without warning through Toowoomba and the Lochyer Valley area and wove their way down through the state via the state capital Brisbane , has more to come .While they are still in major repair mode after the events of January, February comes with more devastating possibilities.
Cyclone Yasi is moving rapidly across the Pacific from Vanuatu ,and is due to hit Cairns and the far north coast of Queensland tonight , their time. Queenslanders are fleeing or taking what action they can to shore up their homes as the Category 5 Cyclone heads towards them .The Australian Board of Meteorology (BoM) has issued a warning of what it calls an "extremely dangerous" rise in sea levels on the Queensland coast between Townsville and Port Douglas tonight.
"The sea is likely to steadily rise up to a level which will be very dangerously above the normal tide, with extremely damaging waves, strong currents and flooding of low-lying areas extending some way inland", the BoM advisory says.
When Cyclone Yasi hits tonight it is expected to be the most powerful storm cross Australia's heavily populated east coast in many years.Its front is 650km wide and thousands of residents are crammed into shelters or have fled the area .The airport in Cairns was closed at 1pm today.
Premier Anna Bligh has put it very simply . She says "This storm is huge and it is life threatening ". Anna Bligh became the recognized voice of Queensland during the recent floods that swept through Queensland and into the state capital Brisbane.She fronted press briefing after press briefing as the nation watched constant live coverage on Australian TV and she sought , sometimes with emotion barely contained, to reassure Queenslanders that they would recover from this .
"I think many people will be very frightened by what they're hearing," Ms Bligh said. "I don't want to frighten people, or panic them, but all the information I'm getting is that we are facing a potentially very deadly event. It will be a display of the awesome power of nature but it's not something you want to go outside and watch."
About 250,000 people live in the area most affected , and police have urged them to leave voluntarily to avoid mandatory evacuations and to ensure other peoples' lives are not put at risk in that process.
Queenslanders' show of community after the event in the clean up was fantastic to see. Prime Minister Gillard has raised a national tax to help national pay for the billions of dollars in repair bills. Those who suffered loss in the floods will not need to pay that tax. In doing so Australia became the first continent in the world to raise a tax on climate change , even though the Emissions Trading Scheme which has been a pivotal debate in Australian politics since Kevin Rudd campaigned on introducing one , and won ( and then didn’t get it done ) is still not in place .It's currently scheduled for mid 2011 , but even the form of that scheme has not yet been determined .
Queenslanders will watch with fear and concern as Yasi makes her way towards them .
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