20 June, 2007

A New Climate For Australia

Tim Flannery, Professor of Earth Sciences at Macquarie University and Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, wrote the editorial in this week's New Scientist (16th June 2007) and I'd like to summarise what he said, just because if it is repeated often enough, our cloth-eared politicians might just hear it.

  • Southern and eastern Australia has lost about 20% of its rainfall in the last 50 years.

  • The decline in flow of Australian rivers in the same period is about 70% (no, that's not a typo)

  • Flannery says we should stop talking about 'the drought' – the worst in a thousand years, some say – because it is a transient phenomenon. Instead, we should start talking about 'the new climate'.

  • Although rainfall has increased in the sparsely-populated north-west, the likely cause is Asian haze shifting the monsoon. Politicians wanting to pipe this water south and east, or move people up to where the water is, are therefore gambling on Asia not cleaning up its air pollution.

  • The only way for Australia to survive is for it to make far more efficient use of the little water it has left.

  • The price of water needs to reflect its value in the new climate – so that industry and individuals do not squander it.

  • Australia needs to shift to a new energy economy – and fast. That means shutting down the old water-guzzling, pollution spewing, coal-fired generators and finding clean alternatives.

  • Australia needs a new and efficient irrigation system. Fixing up the existing one just isn't good enough.

  • The cities need to catch their own water instead of relying on dams which can no longer do the job. Installing water tanks for every house is not only more economical than building new dams but with the river flows falling at three times the rate that rainfall is decreasing, catching and using rainwater in the cities is the only long-term solution.

  • Recycling of water and building desalination plants are measures that should be put in place at once (Brisbane, for example, may have only 18 months before it runs dry).

  • Finally, Australia should throw its voice and influence behind global efforts to cut carbon emissions. It should ratify the Kyoto treaty (and sod the USA). As one of the early casualties of global warming, instead of dragging its feet, Australia should be out in front, urging on global efforts to save us all from the even worse times that lie ahead.

I don't think Flannery could have put it any more clearly but, just in case you missed the message Australia: We're in trouble. We need to act fast. There's an election coming next year. Vote to save the country. Meanwhile, save water.

1 comment:

Rodrigo said...

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