Climate change report like a disaster novel, says Australian minister
Scientists predict 10-fold increase in heatwaves· Greenhouse gases blamed for half of rainfall decrease
By Barbara McMahon
The Guardian UK
July 7, 2008
A new report by Australia's top scientists [The Garnaut Climate Change Review, at: http://www.garnautreview.org.au/domino/Web_Notes/Garnaut/garnautweb.nsf ] predicts that the country will be hit by a 10-fold increase in heatwaves and that droughts will almost double in frequency and become more widespread because of climate change.
The scientific projections envisage rainfall continuing to decline in a country that is already one of the hottest and driest in the world. It says that about 50% of the decrease in rainfall in south-western Australia since the 1950s has probably been due to greenhouse gases.
Yesterday, Australia's agriculture minister, Tony Burke, described the report as alarming and said: "Parts of these high-level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report." [PRECISELY THE OBJECTIVE!! FRIGHTEN THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC INTO SUBMISSION!!]
The analysis, commissioned by the government as part of a review of public funding to drought-stricken farmers, was published days after another report, by Professor Ross Garnaut, warned that Australia had to adopt a scheme for trading greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 or face the eventual destruction of sites including the Great Barrier Reef, the wetlands of Kakadu and the nation's food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin. [LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS, OH MY!!]
The prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who swept to victory on a green agenda last November, said the analysis by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation was "very disturbing".
The reports will put pressure on him to act swiftly on his pledge for Australia to lead the world in tackling polluters. However, the rising cost of living has dented his government's popularity and his plans for a carbon trading scheme have begun to unnerve voters and industry. Rudd has acknowledged that tough debate lies ahead and has said the government will map out its policy options this month.
Yesterday's report revealed that not only would droughts occur more often but that the area affected would be twice as large as now. The proportion of the country having exceptionally hot years could increase from 5% each year to as much as 95%, according to the projections.
The report says rainfall in Australia has been declining since the 1950s and about half of that decrease is due to climate change. It says the current thresholds for farmers to claim financial assistance are out of date because hotter and drier weather will become the norm.
Burke said it was clear that the cycle of drought was going to be "more regular and deeper than ever before". He added: "If we failed to review drought policy, if we were to continue the neglect and pretend that the climate wasn't changing, we would be leaving our farms out to dry."
Parts of Australia are now in a sixth year of drought, and the report coincided with an announcement that there has been a worsening of the drought in New South Wales. Some 65% of the state is affected, an increase of more than 2.3% on last month, although opinion is divided on whether it can be attributed to climate change.
A plague of locusts is also threatening crops in the state, with farmers on 900 farms reporting finding locust eggs. The government plans to fight the infestation with aerial spraying before the eggs hatch.
[THE POLITICS SWIRLING AROUND THE ABOVE ARTICLE SHOULD BE COMPARED TO THE STATE OF FEAR THAT HAD TAKEN HOLD DURING THE LATTER PART OF FORMER AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER JOHN HOWARD'S GOVERNMENT. THE CAMPAIGN OF FEAR WAS THEN SO SUCCESSFUL THAT HOWARD WAS SUBSEQUENTLY VOTED OUT OF OFFICE IN FAVOR OF NEW PRIME MINISTER KEVIN RUDD. BUT, BESIDES A CHANGE IN 'IDEOLOGY' AND 'BELIEF SYSTEMS', RUDD HAS YET TO ARRIVE AT ANY WORTHWHILE POLICY SOLUTIONS...]
Australia's epic drought: The situation is grim
20 April 2007
Lovers of the Australian landscape often cite the poet Dorothea Mackellar who in 1904 penned the classic lines: "I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains." But the land that was Mackellar's muse is now cracked and parched, and its mighty rivers have shrivelled to sluggish brown streams. With paddocks reduced to dust bowls, graziers have been forced to sell off sheep and cows at rock-bottom prices or buy in feed at great expense. Some have already given up, abandoning pastoral properties that have been in their families for generations. The rural suicide rate has soared.
But prayer may not suffice, and many people are asking why crippling water shortages in the world's driest inhabited continent are only now being addressed with any sense of urgency.
The causes of the current drought, which began in 2002 but has been felt most acutely over the past six months, are complex. But few scientists dispute the part played by climate change, which is making Australia hotter and drier.
Environmentalists point to the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El Niño weather patterns, blamed on global warming. They also note Australia's role in poisoning the Earth's atmosphere. Australians are among the world's biggest per-capita energy consumers, and among the top producers of carbon dioxide emissions. Despite that, the country is one of only two industrialised nations - the United States being the other - that have refused to ratify the 1997 Kyoto protocol.
The governments argue that to do so would harm their economies.
Mr Howard has softened his rhetoric of late, and says that he now broadly accepts the science behind climate change. He has tried to regain the political initiative, announcing measures including a plan to take over regulatory control of the Murray-Darling river system from state governments.
He has declared nuclear power the way forward, and is even considering the merits of joining an international scheme to "trade" carbon dioxide emissions - an idea he opposed in the past.
Mr Howard's conservative coalition will face an opposition Labour Party revitalised by a popular new leader, Kevin Rudd, and offering a climate change policy that appears to be more credible than his. Ben Fargher, the head of the National Farmers' Federation, said that if fruit and olive trees died, that could mean "five to six years of lost production". Food producers also warned of major food price rises.
How UN warned Australia and New Zealand
"As a result of reduced precipitation and increased evaporation, water security problems are projected to intensify by 2030 in south and east Australia and, in New Zealand, in Northland and eastern regions."
* "Significant loss of biodiversity is projected to occur by 2020 in some ecologically rich sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland's tropics. Other sites at risk include the Kakadu wetlands ... and the alpine areas of both countries."