Monday, July 07, 2008
Not Like They Didn't Have It Coming
Australia - the untamed Outback, the Great Barrier Reef and some of the busiest coal pits on the planet.
Long on coal, short on oil, Aussie leaders like the munchkin Howard have fought tooth and nail against calls for climate change action. Now, it seems, the hens are coming home to roost.
As you may be aware, Australia has been staggered by a recent, multi-year drought. The Guardian reports on a new Australian study that shows this is only the beginning:
"A new report by Australia's top scientists 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.
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.
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 It says the current thresholds for farmers to claim financial assistance are out of date because hotter and drier weather will become the norm."
The report is expected to add pressure for new prime minister Kevin Rudd to act on greenhouse gas emissions. Many Australians who initially supported Rudd's environmental message have recently lost their appetite for strong climate change measures.
Australia may be one of those countries that will write the textbook for how to respond to the challenges of global warming and what lies in store if we don't.