CYCLONE YASI is probably early real-world evidence of scientific predictions that global warming will lead to more extreme weather events, according to the government's expert climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut.
He says that if it is, given the evidence that global warming is tracking at the highest end of international predictions, then future cyclones could prove that we ''ain't seen nothing yet''.
Professor Garnaut said scientists and climate change modelling had predicted global warming would lead to more frequent extreme weather events, including cyclones and bushfires.
The prediction of more extreme storms already appeared to be verified by data from the north Atlantic. While there was not yet sufficient statistical data to prove more frequent extreme cyclones in Australia, ''there is no reason to think the physics will work differently in Australian air than north Atlantic air'', Professor Garnaut said.
''I would say the odds seem to favour the proposition that cyclonic events will be more intense in a hotter world and bear in mind … if this is the case we are just at the beginning of the warming process, the warming since pre-industrial times is 1 degree, the science says without mitigation … that first degree is just the beginning, and so if we are seeing an intensification of extreme weather events now, you ain't seen nothing yet.''
Professor Garnaut is revising and updating his 2008 climate change review for the Gillard government and the multi-party climate change committee. He said that since his 2008 review the scientific evidence for global warming had become stronger.
''All the measurable impacts are tracking right at the top of the range of possibilities … or in some cases above them … there is no major area, unfortunately, where sceptical views of the science can draw any strength from the peer-reviewed science, the real science, that has been done in the past five years - all of the evidence appears to be in the other direction,'' he told journalists yesterday.
This week the Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce attacked the Greens for linking increased extreme weather events with climate change because cyclones have occurred for hundreds of years. The government hopes to legislate a carbon price by the end of the year.