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The Bureau of Meteorology has put some numbers behind what we already knew to be devastating flooding that hit parts of coastal New South Wales and Sydney last month.

In a special climate statement, the bureau says the week ending 24 March was the wettest for the NSW coast since national daily records began in 1900.

The most exceptional aspect of the event was the spatial extent of the heavy rainfall, both in coastal and inland areas. Almost the entire New South Wales coast experienced heavy rain.

The bureau has looked at records going back to 1900 for the coastal region – the area that drains into the Tasman Sea – and found the week ending 24 March was the wettest.

An average across the region of 252.9 mm of rain fell, beating the previous record of 240.4 mm set from 7 to 13 February 2020.

Since 1900, there have been only 53 times when the coast had an average rainfall above 50mm in one day. But the week ending on 24 March had five of those days.
The bureau’s statement said several weather and climate systems had combinedto deliver the drenching.

But the statement also said that natural drivers of the downpour “were set against the background of the long-term trend.”

As the climate gets hotter, “Australia’s heavy rainfall events are expected to become more intense as moisture in the atmosphere increases by about 7% per degree of warming.”

AMOS (@AMOSupdates)

ICYMI – The @BOM_au Special Climate Statement on the extreme rainfall and flooding in eastern and central Australia in March 2021 has just been released. ☔️🌧️ https://t.co/54jsKHwRiq

April 19, 2021

There was already evidence, the bureau said, that a higher proportion of Australia’s total annual rainfall was coming from heavy rainfall days.

I wrote an explainer about the role that climate change could have played in those floods or if you’d rather sit back and hear a whole Full Story podcast episode on that, then you can do that too.

There’s a bit of a stoush brewing over what to do about James Packer’s 37% stake in troubled casino operator Crown Resorts, with a new proposal lobbed yesterday that would get the billionaire off the register.

Packer’s influence over Crown was singled out by an inquiry in NSW as one of the key problems confronting the company.

Oaktree, which is often described as a “vulture fund”, has offered to lend Crown Resorts up to $3bn to buy Packer’s shares off him.

It comes after US private equity group Blackstone offered to buy the entire company, in a deal worth up to $8bn, and opens the possibility of a bidding war over Crown.

Crown’s board is now considering the Oaktree proposal, the company said in a statement.

International pressure on the Morrison government over the climate crisis is expected to increase as the US and other major countries prepare to make new pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years, experts say, and Australia will not be able to “fly under the radar”.

The US president, Joe Biden, has promised to unveil his plan to cut emissions by 2030 before he hosts a virtual summit of 40 national leaders, including Scott Morrison, on Thursday. New targets are also expected from Japan and Canada, while South Korean media has reported it is likely to announce a moratorium on overseas coal financing.

The US administration has promised an “ambitious” target to back up Biden’s pledge that he will work to galvanise global action ahead of a major UN climate conference in Glasgow in November. Analysts have suggested he is considering a target of at least a 40% cut compared with 2005 levels, and possibly up to 50%.

Biden has released a US$2tn infrastructure plan that he said would allow “transformational progress in our ability to tackle climate change” while his climate envoy, John Kerry, has in the past week visited China, Korea and India in a bid to lock in commitments before the summit. But Biden’s policy faces strong opposition from Republicans in Congress.

You can read the full report below:

The Biden administration is ready to challenge countries whose inaction on the climate crisis is setting the world back, including those that fail to cut their reliance on coal, the top American diplomat has warned.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, gave a speech in Maryland this morning to try to build momentum for countries to commit to stronger climate action. The move comes in the lead up to a virtual summit hosted by Joe Biden later this week. Scott Morrison is among a range of leaders set to join him.

Without naming any particular countries, Blinken said the US state department would “weave” the climate crisis into the fabric of everything it did:

Our diplomats will challenge the practices of countries whose action – or inaction – is setting the world back. When countries continue to rely on coal for a significant amount of their energy, or invest in new coal factories, or allow for massive deforestation, they will hear from the United States and our partners about how harmful these actions are.

Blinken added that the US would “seize every chance we get to raise these issues with our allies and partners and through multilateral institutions”.

There was no direct reference to Australia in the speech, but the Australian government has continued to promote the future of coal and members of the Nationals have been pushing for new coal-fired power plants.

With the US expected to unveil a new 2030 emission cut before the summit, Blinken said: “We need the whole world focused on taking action now and through this decade to promote the achievement of net zero global emissions by 2050.”

To date, the Australian government has resisted pressure to strengthen its target of a 26-28% cut in emissions by 2030 (compared with 2005 levels) – but argues the target “is a floor on Australia’s ambition”, meaning it hopes to do better. Morrison says the government’s policy is to reach net zero “as quickly as possible and preferably by 2050”.

Analysts say international pressure on the Morrison government over the climate crisis is expected to increase and Australia will not be able to “fly under the radar”.

You can read Adam Morton’s story here: