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 user 2006-12-26 at 3:54:00 pm Views: 59
  • #17029

    Australia ponders climate future
    Parts of Australia are in the grip of the worst drought in memory.
    in many eastern and southern regions has been at near record lows. On
    top of that, the weather has been exceptionally warm.The parched
    conditions have sparked an emotional debate about global
    warming.Conservationists insist the “big dry” is almost certainly the
    result of climate change and warn that Australia is on the brink of
    environmental disaster.
    Other experts believe such hysteria is wildly misplaced and that the country shouldn’t panic.

    ‘A war-like scenario’
    drought in Australia has lasted for more than five years.The worry for
    some is that this could be the start of a protracted period of low
    rainfall that could go on for decades.”The really scary thing is last
    time we had a drought of this intensity that lasted about five years -
    it lasted for about 50 years,” cautioned Professor Andy Pitman from
    Macquarie University in Sydney.”The politicians truly believe this is a
    five-year or six-year drought that will break sometime in 2007 or 2008.
    But it might not break until 2050 and we aren’t thinking in those terms
    at this stage,” Professor Pitman told the BBC.Global warming, the
    drought and the future of dwindling water supplies will undoubtedly
    dominate talk at barbeques and dinner parties this festive season in
    Australia.”We’re in a state of emergency,” said Cate Faehrmann from the
    Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales. “We need to treat this
    as a war-like scenario. The people are really worried that we are going
    to run out of water.”She added: “I can imagine Australia being a desert
    in a few decades’ time in some of these agricultural areas. The soil is
    blowing away, the rivers are drying up.”I think there will be plots of
    land abandoned and perhaps whole agricultural practices abandoned.”

    Massive losses
    drought has affected farmers worse than anyone else.Jock Lawrie,
    president of the New South Wales Farmers’ Association, paints a dismal
    picture.”There are people out in some parts of our state that have gone
    to work for four or five years and haven’t even earned an income.”With
    the winter crop failing to the extent it did, there have been some
    massive losses. It is really hard on the emotions of people, there’s no
    doubt about that.”

    Australia has some of the world’s most erratic rainfall-patterns.
    vast continent has experienced very dry periods before: the “Federation
    Drought” of the late 1800s was a disaster for many communities.However,
    some climate experts believe this drought will also pass and
    Australians shouldn’t be too alarmed.Veteran meteorologist Bill
    Kinimonth insists the gradual warming of the earth is part of a natural
    cycle: “The climate follows patterns which we can read back from our
    instrument records for about 150 years, and from a lot of the proxy
    records they go back thousands of years.”The ice cores show the
    fluctuations of the climate over 100,000-year cycles.”He told the BBC
    News website: “We’re presently in what we might call the optimum
    period, where the Earth is warmer than it has been for the last 20,000
    years, and I think we should be making the most of it.”The alternative
    is not very good – a cold, dry Australia.”The Australian Prime Minister
    John Howard, who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol insisting it would
    damage the economy, now believes, however, that serious environmental
    trouble is brewing.Professor Andy Pitman says the drought has forced
    politicians to look at the bigger picture.”The Australian government
    has absolutely jumped on greenhouse bandwagon in the last three or four
    months,” he said.”Although it won’t sign Kyoto, it’s now saying it
    wants to lead the drive for greenhouse gas emissions globally in a very
    aggressive leadership way.”That’s largely due to the drought and the
    Stern report.”