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Climate change getting heated

A heat wave scorching southern Australia, causing transport chaos by buckling rail lines and leaving more than 140,000 homes without power, is a sign of climate change, the government said yesterday.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a total of six days of 40-plus Celsius temperatures for southern Australia, which would equal the worst heat wave in 100 years.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said the heat wave, which started on Wednesday, was the sort of weather scientists had been warning about.

"Eleven of the hottest years in history have been in the last 12, and we also note, particularly in the southern part of Australia, we're seeing less rainfall," Wong told reporters. "All of this is consistent with climate change, and all of this is consistent with what scientists told us would happen."

The maximum temperature in southern Australia yesterday was 46 degrees Celsius in four towns.

While uncomfortable for residents in towns and some of Australia's biggest cities, the heat wave was seen as having little effect on Australia's commodities-driven economy, with the worst of the weather away from the grain belt.

Health officials in South Australia and Victoria states have advised people to stay indoors, use air conditioners and keep up fluid intake. More than 140,000 homes were without power in southern Australia.

National power regulator NEMCO told electricity firms to start load-shedding, temporarily taking customers off power to lighten the load.


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