02 Apr 2009: Report

Warming Takes Center Stage
as Australian Drought Worsens

With record-setting heat waves, bush fires and drought, Australians are increasingly convinced they are facing the early impacts of global warming. Their growing concern about climate change has led to a consensus that the nation must now act boldly to stave off the crisis.

by keith schneider

On March 28, for the first time in anybody’s memory, the floodlights surrounding the soaring white shells of the Sydney Opera House were temporarily extinguished, part of Earth Hour, an international event spanning 88 countries and 24 time zones to prompt world leaders to take action on global warming.

Although iconic buildings in Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo were similarly darkened, arguably none of these symbols was as apt as the unnerving black space that suddenly opened on the shores of Sydney’s harbor. Perhaps more than any industrialized nation, Australia is contending with the increasingly dangerous effects of hotter, dryer, and more unpredictable weather patterns — changes that many of the country’s leading scientists and politicians now attribute to shifting weather patterns, at least in part due to climate change.

In February, on the same day that the temperature in Melbourne reached 116° F — the hottest day ever recorded in Australia’s second-largest city — driving winds pushed a catastrophic bushfire across 1,500 square miles of eucalyptus forests in the state of Victoria, destroying 1,800 homes and farms and killing 173 people. That, too, set a record — for the most deaths from a bushfire in Australia’s history.

©2009 J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue
Used with permission
The skeletons of red gum trees line the shrinking shores of Lake Pamamaroo in New South Wales.
Adelaide and Melbourne are running out of water. The Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s prime food-growing region, is in the 12th year of a devastating drought that is putting the country’s ability to feed itself in question. The 400,000-square-mile basin, larger than France and Germany combined, has been so dry that the 1-million ton-rice crop was decimated last year, and production of wheat, lambs, and cotton are in significant decline.

The slowly unfolding drought in the country’s south, coupled with this summer’s heat wave and fires in Victoria, have left many Australians wondering whether these natural disasters are a taste of what life will be like in a warming world. In the aftermath of the Victoria fires, the state’s premier, John Brumby, joined John Connor, the chief executive of the Climate Institute — a respected Australian research group — in describing the disaster as “fires of climate change.”

Concerned that steadily rising temperatures in south Australia and the recent drought signal a permanent climate shift, a majority of the country’s states have taken the unprecedented step of agreeing to let the central government play the dominant role in managing local water resources. Growing fears of a lasting change in climate patterns has helped generate support for major public works projects to deal with water scarcity. Australia’s 2007 national election, which saw the Progressive Party come to power, was the first national election in the country’s history in which a scientific issue — climate change — played a decisive role.

“It’s testing our people,” said John Williams, the former chief of Land and Water for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the country’s premier scientific agency. “These new conditions are forcing people to move out of industries. There are many people making decisions to change radically the nature of their business. There are some industries — rice growing, cotton production — that are just failing and falling away.”

To be sure, some of Australia’s climatologists assert that such extreme events are a normal part of the country’s diabolical weather. Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and is accustomed to long periods of dry weather and dangerous fires.

“It is fashionable to promote climate change as being a contributor to changing fire frequency and intensity,” William Kininmonth, the former head of Australia's National Climate Centre, said in a recent article in The Age. “The pattern of rainfall over the past century does not point to a trend of reduction in rainfall. Nor has any link been offered between global temperature trends and the meteorology of Victorian heat waves.”

But CSIRO disputes Kininmonth’s conclusions. A study last year by the organization found that as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have risen, southern Australia has warmed 1.6° F since 1950. On average, 15 percent less rain falls now in the region. If present trends continue, rainfall will continue to diminish, said the study, and the temperature will be 4.4° F warmer by 2050.

Australian scientists believe that warmer Indian Ocean waters are causing shifts in oceanic and air circulation that create a so-called positive Indian Ocean “dipole.” That phenomenon, which has intensified in recent years, means warmer waters to the west of Australia, and cool waters to the north, funnel drier air over southern Australia, said Caroline C. Ummenhofer, a research fellow at the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Center.

Many of Australia’s citizens, meanwhile, are increasingly convinced that the country’s run of unusually hot and dry weather signals changes that go beyond normal fluctuations in weather and presage a new climate regime.
Australians wonder whether the unfolding drought, the heat wave, and fires are a taste of life in a warming world.
Just ask Greg Ogle, a 49-year-old conservationist from New South Wales who once farmed the northern banks of the Murray River north of Melbourne. Ogle came of age in the 1970s when regular floods filled the wetlands near his home and the centuries-old red gum trees — a species as iconic to Australians as maples and oaks are to Americans — provided nests for snakes and the small mammals they hunted. It was common then, he said, to see big Goanna monitor lizards — stout as logs and nearly as long as a man is tall — resting on the thick branches of the towering trees.

Today red gums are dying all across southern Australia. Frogs and snakes and small mammals are gone, and Goannas are rarely seen. Ninety percent of the wetlands in the Murray-Darling basin have disappeared or have been seriously damaged, according to reports by the CSIRO. Poisonous bacterial blooms, like one that covered nearly 700 miles of the Darling River in 1990 and 1991, are an ever-present danger. The lengthy drought is behind these changes, disrupting the natural cycle of regular flooding that once sustained thousands of square miles of wetland and floodplain.

“I see vast changes just in my lifetime,” said Ogle, who switched careers and is now a conservationist with Trust for Nature, Australia’s oldest and largest land conservancy. “It’s very alarming. We aren’t a long-lived species, and to see these changes in a lifetime is quite distressing. We can actually see several species that disappeared. We’ve watched wetlands die. The alarming thing about it all is the snowballing effect of those changes. A lot of it is yet to come.”

Such concerns have led to a pronounced change in the way the Australian public views climate change. Perhaps the most visible evidence came in the 2007 national election when Australians voted decisively to replace the 11-year-old conservative government, which resisted the findings of new climate science, with a socially progressive government that promised action to reduce global warming. The election was widely seen as hinging on the progressive party’s ability to successfully communicate their concerns about climate change issues.

The winner of the election, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, last year set a target of cutting CO2 emissions 5 percent by 2020, with possible reductions of 15 percent if a new international global climate change agreement is reached. Green groups called the goal too weak, but it nevertheless represents a turnabout from the years of inaction by former Prime Minister John Howard, an ally of President George W. Bush.

The conviction among many national and state officials that climate change is behind record dry conditions across much of the country has prompted a number of breakthrough policy changes. Last year, for example, four of the country’s six states agreed to let the Commonwealth take the lead in deciding how to manage an ever-scarcer supply of water. It was the first time since Australia’s water management laws and practices went into effect in the late 19th century that states gave the national government the authority to determine how much water is distributed and to whom.

In exchange, the Rudd government last year committed U.S. $9 billion to secure the country’s supply of fresh water for cities, agriculture, and the environment, much of the money to rework a vast and leaky irrigation
©2009 J. Carl Ganter/Circle of Blue
Used with permission
Farmer Gilbert Bain looks over the former rice paddy in New South Whales where he now harvests withered wheat.
network in the Murray-Darling Basin that wastes roughly as much water as it delivers to farmers. Those funds, coupled with U.S. $3 billion more from the states of Melbourne and Victoria, will also be used to build new desalination plants and to change planting patterns in order to secure the nation’s fresh water supply. With the web of irrigation canals and channels steadily shrinking, large tracts of land that once received ample water will either lie fallow or be planted in dryland wheat or other crops. Hundreds of rice paddies that were once flooded eight inches deep are being converted to dryland wheat. Dairy farmers are installing finger-thick plastic pipes to drip-irrigate their alfalfa crop.

The need for a more rigorous response to climate change in Australia is urgent. In 2005, and again in 2007, CSIRO participated in studies that warned that Australia’s warmer and drier weather would significantly increase the incidence and severity of wildfire. Southeast Australia, where the landscape is dominated by fast-burning eucalyptus species — and where hundreds of thousands of people live in semi-rural communities — is particularly vulnerable. The 2007 CSIRO study said there could be up to 65 percent more "extreme" fire-danger days compared with 1990, and that by 2050 — under the most severe warming scenarios — there could be a 300 percent increase in fire danger.

Then, virtually on cue, came the Feb. 7 bush fire. As awful as it was, the curtain of flame that roared across Victoria on Black Saturday was one more facet of the growing environmental emergency in southeast Australia, where natural systems already were under extreme stress.

The Murray River and its tributaries water a vital agricultural region in which 60,000 growers produce U.S. $30 billion in crops annually. Yet today, reservoirs and storage basins are less than half full. On 4 out of 10 days, the river doesn’t have enough flow to reach its mouth in the Southern Ocean near Adelaide.

Another particularly grim aspect of the region’s “Big Dry” is that the bottoms of the lakes and wetlands at the end of the Murray, including Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert, are now exposed to air. Sulfides exist in the sediment, and when oxygen from the atmosphere mixes with the mud, sulfuric acid forms. “Acid mud,” as its known in Australia, is contaminating water farther upstream along the Murray and Darling rivers, driving out native fish and aquatic birds and potentially contaminating a major source of drinking water for Adelaide.

A few miles from where Greg Ogle lives with his wife and two boys in a New South Wales ranch house surrounded by miles of uninhabited Australian bush, the evidence of a markedly changed natural system is readily apparent. A wetland that two decades ago was inundated by its last great flood is now dry. A nearby lake, which 20 years ago was deep enough to swim in and large enough for water-skiing, is empty. Saltbushes and other arid species are replacing the red gums.

This is a far different world from the one in which Ogle was raised, and from his vantage point, it is not a better place.

POSTED ON 02 Apr 2009 IN Climate Climate Water Australia North America 


Keith Schneider has highlighted the fragility of the Australian landscape and the impacts being experienced from the ongoing drought and resultant low water availability for the environment, industry and communities.

As the article highlighted, there is much conjecture surrounding whether cyclical drought patterns or long-term climate change are the root cause. There is, however, no disagreement over the dramatic impact that water shortages are having on industry, communities and government policy settings and the urgency to address these issues.

Mr. Schneider has attributed the major policy and program settings to address management of water resources to actions initiated by the current Rudd Government. This is not an accurate reflection of reality and has overlooked the major policies introduced by the former Prime Minister, John Howard. In 2003, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and, in conjunction with the Australian States and Territories under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments, the National Water Initiative (NWI) was established. The NWI was supported with a A$10 billion Commonwealth investment to facilitate the wide range of national programs encompassed by the NWI, each aimed at contributing to better managing the nation’s water resources.

Then, as now, the primary focus of the program and associated funding was aimed at solving the issues evident in the southern Murray-Darling Basin. These issues are complex and do focus on agricultural, industry and urban use and re-use of water resources and the refurbishment of irrigation and system-wide infrastructure. There are also many layers of political engagement to be negotiated that have created tensions during the implementation processes.

Since its election, the Rudd Government has continued to expand many of these initiatives and, as is its prerogative, introduced new priorities and programs, some with additional funding, others that continue the implementation of programs already being implemented as part of the ongoing NWI implementation.

Even when relief rainfall arrives to commence the replenishment of both surface and groundwater sources and storage systems, the Australian southern Murray-Darling Basin will continue to be a global case study on the urgency to review all aspects of water resource management, to account for all factors, including drought and climate change.

Note to Editor: Doug Miell was, through 2003-2007 CEO, NSW Irrigators Council and a leader of the Australian agricultural sector’s engagement of the development and implementation of the National Water Initiative.
Posted by Doug Miell on 02 Apr 2009

Over much of the country, droughts can extend over several years, relieved only by brief, transitory rains.

Indeed, probably the most damaging type of drought is when one or two very dry years follow several years of generally below-average rainfall. The “Federation drought” of the late 1890s through 1902 is an example, as is the more recent 1991-95 drought in Queensland, northern New South Wales and parts of central Australia.

Over still longer time-scales, Australia’s rainfall history features several periods of a decade or longer that seem to have been distinctly “drought prone”. For instance, the mid to late 1920s and the 1930s were a period of generally low rainfall over most of the country, continuing through most of the 1940s over the eastern states. During these low rainfall periods, not every year is dry; it is just that rainfall in most years is below the long-term average, and there are often runs of years with recurrent drought. Thus in the late 1930s-40s major droughts occurred over eastern Australia in 1937-38, 1940-41, and 1943-45.

The 1990s saw formal Government acknowledgment that drought is part of the natural variability of the Australian climate, with drought relief for farmers and agricultural communities being restricted to times of so-called “exceptional circumstances.”


"Rains Bring Drought Relief to Parched Australia," By Phil Mercer, Sydney, 07 January 2009

"Australia's worst drought in 100 years is showing signs of easing. While much of the continent remains gripped by dry conditions, the Bureau of Meteorology says in 2008 some regions received a much-needed drenching, easing the arid conditions that have made life so tough for farmers in the few years."

Posted by Dahun on 02 Apr 2009

Notwithstanding the bad drought and above average temps in SE Aust this decade, there have been similar events in the past. The federation drought devastated most of eastern Australia (half of the nation's stock numbers was wiped out) and the Murray stopped running in parts as well as the Darling at Bourke and many western Qld rivers.

The 1851 bushfire in Victoria burnt out 5 million ha (25 percent of Vic) and the Argus recorded the temperature on Feb 6th as 117 F. Smoke from that fire covered northern Tasmania causing a 'day into night' effect.

In 2008, Melbourne experienced 5 days of +40 C. The heat waves of 1895 and 1939 in SE Australia killed over 400 people in each. Although this summer has been hot in the SE, it was a very cool summer in the north, so much so that the 2008/9 summer national average maximum temperature was below average. The present conditions are therefore significant but not unprecedented suggesting a cyclical nature to climate.
Posted by Ian George on 03 Apr 2009

Australia has always been drought prone, look at the historic record. This time the drought is associated with CO2 by the power of suggestion. So mate, CO2 warming should not be called global warming -- it's 'gullible warming'.

Posted by Leo Danze on 03 Apr 2009

It's more than a bit incredulous and unsettling that any weather event, whether a drought, a flood, or a snowstorm is now being unquestionably branded as evidence of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

It reminds me of an old episode of the "Bob Newhart Show" Where the brothers Larry, Darryl and the other brother Darryl were talking about whether it would be a cold winter or not and discussing various issues like tree bark thickness, and caterpillar fuzz. Bob listens for a while and then turns to his wife and mentions that he saw a rabbit running into the bush. The three brothers stop their conversation dead and stare at Bob and proclaim "That's a pretty big piece of evidence to be holdin' out on us".

Attempting to tie particular weather events to AGW reminds me of that — long on conjecture,
speculation and even superstition, but short on science.

Posted by Shoshin on 03 Apr 2009

I'm astonished to see (australians ??) negationnists on this topic. Doug, Ian, Leo, are you serious ? Or just one only more Morano clone ? Are you going to explain us the CSIRO can't add 2+2 and compute a trend, or the Antarctic Peninsula and North Pole are not melting ?

A big part of current global warming is CO2- and human-induced. A big part of Australia's drought and high temperatures probably comes from AGW, too - Nature's phenomenons aren't linear, and a small, limited additional warming on a fragile local climate can lead to such big consequences as those recently experienced - and which will happen again. Come on, the whole world is warming - every of the last 10 years was in world's 10 hottest - and Australia wouldn't be hit?
Posted by FredT34 on 03 Apr 2009


Just a small point, but both 1999 and 2000 were not in the world's top 10 warmest. We have been coming out of a mini-ice age since the 1700's and are now in an interglacial period, i.e., a warming phase. Between 1910 and 1940, average temps rose 0.5C with a rise in CO2 of 10 parts per million. Between 1978 and 1908, temperatures rose about 0.5C with a rise in CO2 of 50ppm. That doesn't add up either with AGW. All I'm saying is that these sort of articles above don't weigh their facts with past events. They claim that what is happening now is unprecedented and so must be to do with AGW — there is no real scientific evidence yet. Even the IPCC doesn't give a 100 percent guarantee.
Posted by Ian George on 03 Apr 2009

Actually, Global Warming is a fact, it is undisputed as it is based on direct measurement. Global temperatures have increased by about 1.3 degrees F in the last one hundred years -- this is a numerical value that is well known. The increase has typically been greater in the Arctic where temperature increases have actually been in the range of 4-5 degrees F.

There is also no question that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, this is also a fact. In fact, without greenhouse gases the Earth's temperature would resemble that of the Moon (very large temperature differentials between day side and night side). GHGs are essential for life on Earth.

If there is a question, it has been the degree to which Global Warming is caused by human generated CO2 from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, etc. These effects are now fairly well understood though science of any kind is always a work in progress (i.e., error bars on IPCC work).

Global Warming has been studied in the scientific community since the late 1960's and so there is now a strong understanding of Earth's climate over the last 1 million years.

We know that in the last 1 million years atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have never increased beyond 300 ppm. This was the concentration in 1950, it was closer to 200 ppm in the early 1800s. Currently the concentration is 385 ppm and currently increasing by 3-4 ppm per year (this amount has been accelerating).

These annual increases in atmospheric CO2, which are primarily driven by human activity, have been leading to higher temperatures. Soon there will be multiple feedback mechanisms to increase temperatures more rapidly (methane release from permafrost, reduction in ice cover, fewer trees, oceans less able to absorb CO2, etc.).

AGW is now a fact of life. Sea levels are rising faster, glaciers are shrinking faster, the Northwest Passage is now ice free in the Summer for the first time in recorded history, Spring comes sooner, species are changing their ranges, etc. etc.

We can either deal with it or not. If we do not deal with its causes then we and our children will suffer for our lack of foresight. Either way, higher temperatures are here to stay and reversing AGW will take at a minimum 100 years. The longer we delay the reversal the higher the temperatures will go ...
Posted by Jorden Woods on 04 Apr 2009

Oh that it were so simple, and we could just get on with adapting to our 'warmer' world. In particular we could just base our lives on less rain and hotter weather, in the expectation that is the way it's going to be. Is anybody going to make that call for us in Australia? Maybe then we won't have to trade carbon emissions -- after all it's too late for us.

But wait, here in drought stricken Adelaide, since 1990 we've had our wettest year on record, our longest heatwave on record, our second hottest day on record, one of our coldest nights ever, our second coolest summer. As I write this one of our east coast towns is recovering from flooding rains, including 28" in one night. So that's the weather for you.

Yep, the drought is bad, but we have lots of them and pinning it on global warming is just ignoring how the weather varies so enormously year by year.

Posted by martin carey on 04 Apr 2009

To draw a conclusion that the observed warming is caused by rising CO2 levels, they had to change the rules of science. Generally speaking it was politicians and sensationalist journalists, and only a few scientists, who changed the rules. Political science is not real science, and has no bearing on climate whatsoever.
Posted by Ted O'Brien on 04 Apr 2009

Increasing worldwide disasters resulting from the definition of fossil matter as "fuel" are beginning to lead to ecologic and economic bankruptcy. Further, the brutal lack of concern for the public good from these multi-trillion dollar industries is evident in the PR denial of the above comments.
Posted by James Newberry on 04 Apr 2009

Yes GW is a fact due to the world coming out of a mini-ice age and entering an interglacial period but AGW has not been proved (even the IPCC say only 95% proved). The world has only warmed <0.8 in the last 100 years (not 1.3C) and most was between 1910 and 1940. See http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.lrg.gif

CO2 is a greenhouse gas but so is water vapour which makes up >90% of all GHG. At best, CO2 it is a passive insulator which may keep nighttime temps warmer. Sea levels were higher 1,000 years ago as evidenced by excavations done in Greenland on Viking settlements. Also the recent melting of glaciers have revealed plant fossils 1000 years old proving a warming period must have happened then.

A cursory glance of arctic history from the late 1800s to 1930 will reveal that the ice was losing thickness then and the northwest passage was being navigated (In 1905, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage). The ice became thicker during the 1944 - 1975 cooling and then satellite recordings started in 1979 as temps began to rise again. Reducing pollutants into the atmosphere and more research into green, sustainable energy are admirable endeavors which I fully support. But making 'wild' assertions with no basis in facts does not do those causes any good.

Just a question for you to ponder: If CO2 has only been 200ppm - 300ppm for a million years, what caused the huge changes to temperatures (15C variance) during that period? It can't have been CO2!
Posted by Ian George on 04 Apr 2009

I am astounded that some people state the "Global Warming is a fact". That is actually so self-evident as to be laughable. And "Global Cooling is a fact" is also so self-evident as to be

The issue is whether people have anything to do with either warming or cooling, and that has not been established. Much is made of the Antarctic ice sheet melting, but the fact is that it has grown and melted many times over the past and just because we happen to see it melt, we think that we're somehow responsible. Human egocentricity at it's best.

There is an old saying in the sciences: "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't have believed it". I think that AGW falls squarely into this category.
Posted by Shoshin on 04 Apr 2009

There is no evidence that CO2 levels were only about 200 ppm during the early 1800s. Starting in 1821 there are records of some 90,000 analyses for atmospheric CO2 undertaken during the following 100 years, the average of which was 335 ppm. It is the climate modellers who arbitrarily rejected a large number of these analyses to give them the 280 ppm starting point they wanted for their pre-industrial CO2 level. Concentration as low as 200 ppm would be frighteningly close to the level at which most plant growth stops and very dangerous for all living creatures.

On the subject of melting permafrost and methane/CO2 release – the area of permafrost at the end of the last ice age was several times greater than it is now, and it thawed at a much faster rate than is being suggested by even the most strident alarmist today. Where is the evidence of the methane/CO2 release and the damage it would have caused? There isn’t any.

Posted by Malcolm Robinson on 05 Apr 2009

A lot of the problems here in Australia is simply a lack of common sense by government people who have been sitting around sucking the money out of agriculture and when there is a problem the agricultural sector collapses as we have no cash reserves because we have been playing the world market level playing field which means you cant keep up with the Australian costs of production and maintain a satisfactory profit. When a dry time comes there are no reserves to see you through.

The water problems are government-based. They have done very little to save the seepage of water into the soil. And when the water storages are low, it's decided finally something needs to be done.

The water authorities, however, are still charging for the water that's not delivered and the parasites are now coming looking for a fee for stock water from dams and bores.
Posted by tom napier on 11 Apr 2009

Just a short question. Why are so many non-scientists questioning the outcome of the IPPC report, where >95 percent of climate scientists (!) agree on the relation between human CO2 and GW.

I just want to know what is the emotional background of this. Fear? Conservatism? When I would be using just my mind instead of my emotions I would really take these well educated, honest scinetists serious. It is a whole bunch of them.

By the way, the ice age cycles are well predictable from astronomy (Milankovich cycle) and follow much slower trends then we see today. Even I know that.
Posted by Frits Zandvoort on 04 May 2009

Just popped back to this thread and saw Malcolm's point re CO2. I have also seen this and if you look at the data, he is correct. Callander arbitrarily chose the lowest points of the existing data and used 280ppm as a starting point (in 1958 it was about 315ppm). CO2 can also vary by 6 to 7ppm during the year depending on the seasons. So, Fritz, why haven't 95 percent of scientist checked those calculations. I think it's not in their interests to do so.
Posted by Ian George on 20 May 2009

The Rudd government isn't progressive, it's down right reckless and socialist. Rudd will lead us down a path toward another 1975, when Whitlam was sacked.

Whilst Johnny Howard was a conservative leader of the Liberal party, he was moving toward an emissions trading scheme, one that would probably have been more workable than the one currently being debated in the senate.

Additionally, the "reformed" National Water Initiative is a National Sham, it has not delivered any sizeable quantity of liquid water back to the river, even Penny Wong admits it's only paper water that has been returned. Infact, it assures Victoria will receive an additional allocation from a river already overallocated. I don't know if that's a responsible measure or not, considering that Adelaide, where I am from is on similar water restrictions as Melbourne is.

As for Acid Mud, that's a novel American term and one that I've never heard anyone down on the lake say, even our Canadian soils lecturer at Uni calls them Acid Sulphate Soils. So I don't know where the Author is getting his info from.

Also, the river at Wellington, the closest township to Alexandrina's mouth is still fresh enough to drink, whilst it maybe salty, it's still used as stockwater. Down on Hindmarsh Island, on the southern side of Alexandrina, the salt content is more of a problem than Acid level. Some of the local farmers are hoping to stabilise the beaches forming on the lake edge by seeding a hay crop this year, making some sort of windfall at any rate.

Just thought I'd throw a local persective out there.
Posted by James Bourke on 23 May 2009

Surely the answer to this problem is more desalinisation plants? It never fails to astound me how countries such as Egypt can have no problems with water supplies when they have 40C for half the year and less than 2 days rainfall - yet rich countries like Australia are 'running out of water'. All of the major cities are on the coast where there is an unlimited supply of water! Desalinise it, and store it. Problem solved.
Posted by Tom A on 25 Jun 2009

To the chap who thinks we are in denial of warming. No mate! we just see that the carbon credit and bulldust is just another ploy to make money for investors. Progressive party in power? nope. Labour.

Growing rice anywhere but far nth qld and Nt is stupid, cotton ditto. GM Cotton worst of all.

I grew up in the real dry areas Nthn Territory and similar, and sheer waste! is the reason we ran out of water. to this day I am disgusted at the abuse of it. I can wash in 2 gallons or less quite well. I use the same load of water to wash 4 loads of clothes, and one rinse only and all that goes to the yard. all shower water is diverted and also used on the garden. Lawns are an abomination and stupid. i was doing this well before restrictions were announced, and if more people did we would have less problems.

Hospitality/tourism and cities use far too much.

GM ag is trying the "we can save you" line now, well we do fine without it, always have, and will continue to do so. Monocropping on fragile soils is insane. Yeah its dry now, but wait, it will flood again too. we need C02 to keep plants healthy, they would like MORE in truth! Ask Al Gore about the mine he has on his place! ask why? his power bill is so HUGE too while your'e at it.

Storm water runoff and rain water tanks would go a looong wy to solving problems, and recycling sewer water for industrial/farm use would be smart.
Posted by Laurel on 12 Aug 2009

Comments have been closed on this feature.
keith schneiderABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keith Schneider, a former national correspondent and regular contributor to the New York Times, is director of communications at the Apollo Alliance, a clean energy/jobs advocacy group based in San Francisco. Schneider recently traveled to Australia to report on the drought for Circle of Blue, a multi-media Web site that covers global water issues. In previous articles for Yale Environment 360, he has written about how green planning has revitalized American cities and how President Obama plans to use green energy to help drive a financial recovery.



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The ʻohiʻa is Hawaii’s iconic tree, a keystone species that maintains healthy watersheds and provides habitat for numerous endangered birds. But a virulent fungal disease, possibly related to a warmer, drier climate, is now felling the island’s cherished 'ohi'a forests.

Climate Change Adds Urgency
To Push to Save World’s Seeds

by virginia gewin
In the face of rising temperatures and worsening drought, the world’s repositories of agricultural seeds may hold the key to growing food under increasingly harsh conditions. But keeping these gene banks safe and viable is a complicated and expensive challenge.

As World Warms, How Do We
Decide When a Plant is Native?

by janet marinelli
The fate of a tree planted at poet Emily Dickinson's home raises questions about whether gardeners can — or should — play a role in helping plant species migrate in the face of rising temperatures and swiftly changing botanical zones.

With New Tools, A Focus
On Urban Methane Leaks

by judith lewis mernit
Until recently, little was known about the extent of methane leaking from urban gas distribution pipes and its impact on global warming. But recent advances in detecting this potent greenhouse gas are pushing U.S. states to begin addressing this long-neglected problem.

Is Climate Change Putting
World's Microbiomes at Risk?

by jim robbins
Researchers are only beginning to understand the complexities of the microbes in the earth’s soil and the role they play in fostering healthy ecosystems. Now, climate change is threatening to disrupt these microbes and the key functions they provide.

As Electric Cars Stall, A Move
To Greener Trucks and Buses

by cheryl katz
Low gasoline prices and continuing performance issues have slowed the growth of electric car sales. But that has not stymied progress in electrifying larger vehicles, including garbage trucks, city buses, and medium-sized trucks used by freight giants like FedEx.

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Tribal people and ranchers join together to stop a project that would haul coal across their Montana land.
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An aerial view of why Europe’s per capita carbon emissions are less than 50 percent of those in the U.S.
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The 2015 Yale e360 Video Contest winner documents a Northeastern town's bitter battle over a wind farm.
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup.
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