Australia says cost of climate, disasters surging

SYDNEY (AFP): Australia’s government said on Tuesday that a warming planet threatened future crop yields, while federal spending on storm, flood and fire disasters was already soaring.

The latest government modelling showed that global warming and disasters had “big, economy-wide effects”, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said in a prepared speech.

Crop yields could be four percent lower by 2063 if further action was not taken, costing Aus$1.8 billion (US$1.2 billion) annually in today’s dollars, he told a national drought forum in Rockhampton, Queensland.

The deadly “Black Summer” bushfires of 2019-2020 and the October 2022 east coast floods had each cost the economy about Aus$1.5 billion, Chalmers said, and the federal government had sharply increased spending to help states and territories recover from natural disasters.

Federal spending on disaster recovery in the 2022-2023 financial year amounted to about Aus$2.5 billion, he added, more than seven times the Aus$335 million spent in 2017-2018.

Funding for such federal government assistance had multiplied five-fold in three years, the minister said.

“The pressure of a changing climate and more frequent natural disasters is constant, cascading and cumulative,” Chalmers said.

Australia’s weather bureau last week confirmed an El Nino weather pattern was under way, bringing hot and dry conditions that risked a severe wildfire season and drought.