Climate Change in Australia: latest on droughts

07 Jul

Drought relief bill to soar, say scientists is the Sydney Morning Herald headline for this story:

AUSTRALIA will experience severe heat waves almost every year and droughts more often and over wider stretches of the country during the next three decades – with serious implications for how taxpayers help affected farmers, a group of scientists says.

Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO scientists have found that exceptionally hot years, instead of occurring once in 22 years, as was the case last century, will occur almost every year for 30 years beginning in 2010.

The Federal Government released the report yesterday, two days after its top climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, warned that if climate change was not tackled it would destroy the Great Barrier Reef, end agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin and wipe out the country’s snowfields.

In yesterday’s report the scientists also predict that climate change will result in sharp increases in the number of regions facing years of exceptionally low rainfall in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and southern Western Australia by 2040.

I don’t know about you, but I find the Herald headline very annoying. It’s not that it is untrue, it is just that it frames the issue in a way that rather misses the point. If the information in that latest report is to be taken seriously, the implications are far more serious, far more disturbing, than the mere dollars and cents. There is, for example, the issue of where in future our food may come from. There is the issue of the lives of those in the affected regions.

Yes, immediately there are a handful of sceptics and cavillers, but I suspect they really are pissing into the wind, to put a meteorological gloss on their spoiling activity.

I am with Chris Samuel on this: CSIRO & BOM report – “Drought: Exceptional Circumstances” (not).

Again, as I keep saying, we all need to rise above party politics on this one. We also need to define it in somewhat less pedantic economic terms than the Rudd government has tended to do. We need to take the narrative on board and really grasp how serious the issues are. We could also do without, on the other hand, some of the Green triumphalism on this issue. What we need is a deadly serious war cabinet approach to matters of as much national significance as any war ever was.

And we need education, education, education… We also need to bring those most affected into the discussion rather more than we have, a point made passionately and persuasively by a Victorian dairy farmer and irrigator during last night’s Sunday Night talkback on ABC Local Radio.

The issue is of much greater weight than what is on the front cover of the July Art Monthly; it is even, dare I say, of considerably greater substance than the more circus-like aspects of the upcoming World Youth Day, though to be fair to the Catholic Church its position on the environment in recent times has often been admirable.

Here are some of the key documents. These people are not panic merchants, they do not have axes to grind, they are not astrologers, they have not been reading tea-leaves.

See also: Climate Change in Australia, developed by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology in partnership with the Australian Greenhouse Office.

I am further persuaded that we are now wrong in not factoring nuclear energy into our future: see Far more sensible than many people think and my related poll.

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Posted by on July 7, 2008 in Australia, challenge, climate change, environment


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