CLIMATE CHANGE HITS AUSTRALIA’s OUTBACK

  • 05 02 2016 429716a-cig-clearchoice-banner-902x177
  • cartridgewebsite-com-big-banner-02-09-07-2016
  • ncc-banner-902-x-177-june-2017
  • Print
  • clover-depot-intl-us-ca-email-signature-05-10-2017-902x1772
  • banner-01-26-17b
  • ces_web_banner_toner_news_902x1776
  • 2toner1-2
  • 4toner4
  • mse-big-banner-new-03-17-2016-416716a-tonernews-web-banner-mse-212
Share

CLIMATE CHANGE HITS AUSTRALIA’s OUTBACK

 user 2006-11-22 at 2:28:00 pm Views: 118
  • #17177

    Climate change hits hard in the Australian outback
    BOURKE,
    AUSTRALIA – The once mighty Darling River, Australia’s longest
    waterway, is dwindling by the day beneath a blazing blue sky, its
    sluggish waters an unhealthy shade of pea-green.The Darling is the
    lifeblood of Bourke, one of Australia’s most celebrated outback towns.
    Located in the parched west of New South Wales state, the expression
    “back o’ Bourke” is understood by all Australians to mean in the middle
    of nowhere. But the town’s legendary resilience has been pushed to a
    breaking point by six years of drought, the worst “big dry” since the
    British settlement of Australia in 1788.Desperate graziers have taken
    to rounding up the flocks of feral goats which inhabit the scrub. Until
    recently dismissed as pests, they are now the only thing left to sell.
    The mental stress is enormous – a national mental health organization,
    Beyond Blue, has claimed an Australian farmer commits suicide once
    every four days.The drought has prompted an intense debate in Australia
    about the effects of global warming and whether some areas are becoming
    too dry for farming. But the government, which like the US has refused
    to sign the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, insists there is no
    proven connection between climate change and drought.Unless the drought
    breaks soon, Bourke will become “an economic and social disaster,”
    according to a recent report published by Charles Sturt University in
    New South Wales.Australia was ranked 47th out of 56 nations for its
    lack of willingness to deal with climate change in a study published
    last week by a German environmental group, Germanwatch. The US,
    meanwhile, ranked 53rd.The drought is taking a heavy toll on towns
    across the outback, but its effect on Bourke, 485 miles north-west of
    Sydney, is particularly acute.”Bourke is on the brink,” concluded the
    report. Unlike other towns in the bush, Bourke has no mining to fall
    back on. Its reliance on irrigation for vast cotton fields and citrus
    fruit plantations also makes it vulnerable to lack of rain.There has
    been no cotton crop for three years due to lack of water, and orange
    and tangerine orchards are withering.The town’s Aborigines have been
    particularly hard hit because they rely heavily on the seasonal jobs
    provided by agriculture.”It’s had a major impact,” said Alister
    Ferguson, Bourke’s most senior Aboriginal representative. “Families
    have a lot less money to spend on food and their kids.”Even the local
    wildlife seems exhausted. Kangaroos lie panting on a lawn in front of
    an office building on the outskirts of town, and a pair of emus barely
    manage to break into a run when startled by the side of the
    road.Farmers are selling their properties, and those that remain on the
    land are struggling to survive financially.Without sufficient grazing,
    they have had to either sell all their sheep and cattle or buy in feed
    at great expense. Sixty sheep and cattle ranches in the Shire of Bourke
    - an area about the size of Denmark – now have no animals left at
    all.Graham Brown, 58, who owns a 430,000 acre farm 190 miles west of
    Bourke, says it is the harshest drought he has experienced.”Our dams
    [reservoirs] are depleted and we’re running out of water. We’re holding
    on by the skin of our teeth, but if we don’t get any rain this summer,
    we’ll be hitting the panic button,” he said.Bourke’s population has
    dropped in the past three years from 3,500 to less than 3,000. Shops on
    the main street are boarded up and houses are for sale.”This is the
    worst drought white men have seen,” said mayor Wayne O’Mally. “It’s
    really testing people’s resources.”Scientists disagree with those
    government officials who see no connection between the drought and
    global climate change.”It’s still not certain whether the low rainfall
    is a result of global warming, but certainly the increased temperatures
    are directly linked,” said David Jones, head of climate analysis at the
    Australian Bureau of Meteorology. “Global warming is making Australia
    hotter, which makes droughts more likely.”Water ecologist Peter Cullen,
    a board member of the National Water Commission, agreed that evidence
    points to the fact that Australia is getting drier as a result of
    global warming.”I think there is a climate shift occurring with a
    drought on top of that,” Professor Cullen said.According to a poll this
    month, 62 per cent of the Australian public believes the government is
    not doing enough to address global warming.In an apparent U-turn last
    week, Conservative Prime Minister John Howard said he would set up a
    panel to investigate the merits of a global carbon-trading scheme to
    reduce greenhouse gases. He had previously been profoundly skeptical of
    the idea.Australia has called for a “new Kyoto,” a revised framework
    that would include China and India in the campaign to cut greenhouse
    gas emissions – a call it repeated at last week’s United Nations
    climate change conference in Nairobi and at the Asia-Pacific Economic
    Cooperation meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, over the weekend.As an
    alternative to Kyoto, Australia is promoting an Asia-Pacific initiative
    known as AP6, which draws together the US, China, India, Japan, and
    South Korea in an effort to develop technology to cut greenhouse gas
    emissions.But AP6 has been criticized as a paper tiger because it
    includes no targets or incentives for reducing emissions, no timetable
    to phase in cleaner energy technology, and no penalties for businesses
    that fail to do so.The government has also been condemned for its
    strong support of the Australian coal industry, a prime source of
    greenhouse gases.While the debate over Canberra’s commitment to the
    fight against global warming intensifies, the people of the outback can
    only look to the skies and pray for a change in the hot, dry
    weather.”If we don’t get rain by December or January, God help us. I
    shudder to think what it will be like,” said Sue Smith, a town
    councillor.With cloudless blue skies and no significant rain forecast,
    some communities are turning to prayer.About 200 Bourke locals gathered
    recently on an old timber wharf overlooking the Darling River in a mass
    prayer for rain.The small crowd listened to sermons and sang hymns such
    as ‘Great South Land’ – “This is our nation, this is our land, this
    lucky country of dreams gone dry.”A prayer called for “life giving
    rain” to “come and soften our parched land.”