Enough of cli­mate blame game

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environment - By Alex Lavelle*

Sum­mer­time, and the liv­ing seems easy. But the fish aren’t jump­ing in the Dar­ling River basin and the cot­ton is not as high as it would nor­mally be in cen­tral-north­ern New South Wales (NSW) and south­ern Queens­land as hor­ren­dous drought con­di­tions grip much of eastern Aus­tralia.

How bad is it? Eighty per­cent of NSW is of­fi­cially in drought. Con­cerns about sever­ity have moved well be­yond the ob­vi­ous and sub­stan­tial im­pact on graz­ing and crop­ping in­dus­tries. The big worry now is the crit­i­cal im­pact on wa­ter re­serves, river­ine habi­tats and sub­soil mois­ture con­tent, theage.com.au wrote.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy says nine of the 10 warm­est years have oc­curred since 2005.

Drink­ing wa­ter is be­ing trucked into Wal­gett be­cause there is al­most no flow in the nearby Bar­won and Namoi. South-east of Bro­ken Hill, the Menindee Lakes, an ex­tra­or­di­nary chain of fresh­wa­ter lakes fed by the Dar­ling, con­tain just three per­cent of their ca­pac­ity — and will prob­a­bly fall dry this week as tem­per­a­tures soar above 40°C. Near Weir 32, a cru­cial wa­ter-hold­ing and mea­sur­ing sta­tion near the town of Menindee, many thou­sands of fish per­ished in re­cent weeks after ex­treme tem­per­a­ture changes and toxic al­gae blooms de­pleted al­ready low oxy­gen lev­els in the wa­ter.

Fin­gers are be­ing pointed up river and down in a bid to lay blame. Cot­ton ir­ri­ga­tors draw too much wa­ter, many say. The cot­ton in­dus­try re­jects any blame. The wa­ter man­age­ment sys­tem is a mess, say oth­ers, blam­ing wa­ter au­thor­i­ties for poorly timed and ex­ces­sive re­leases from wa­ter-hold­ing ar­eas along the Dar­ling.

Think we’ve been here be­fore? You’re right. It was less than a decade ago. The 2012 Mur­ray-dar­ling Basin Plan, which was in­tended to re­solve the com­plex tus­sle for pre­cious wa­ter re­sources, has ‘failed at its first drought’, as a se­nior wa­ter re­searcher at the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute aptly noted.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy last week re­leased data show­ing 2018 was Aus­tralia’s third-warm­est year since a na­tional records data­base was es­tab­lished in 1907. The bureau said nine of the 10 warm­est years have oc­curred since 2005.

The bureau also re­leased a monthly drought re­port last week, show­ing vast ar­eas of cen­tral and western NSW and cen­tral Queens­land have recorded se­vere rain­fall de­fi­cien­cies for al­most two years. In some ar­eas, this marks the dri­est pe­riod on record.

Here, again, we have ev­i­dence that global cli­mate change is af­fect­ing the way we live. Ex­treme weather con­di­tions such as drought, se­vere storms and soar­ing tem­per­a­tures, are caus­ing reg­u­lar dis­tur­bances and huge com­mer­cial losses in ru­ral and city re­gions alike. The in­sur­ance in­dus­try rec­og­nizes it, busi­nesses are alert to it, and the greater agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity has re­sponded by chang­ing crop­ping, graz­ing and wa­ter man­age­ment prac­tices.

So what is it with some fed­eral mem­bers that they sim­ply will not ac­cept the sci­ence, or choose to ig­nore it? For rea­sons of po­lit­i­cal power-gam­ing, tren­chant com­mer­cial stub­born­ness or blind ide­ol­ogy, some con­ser­va­tives would have you be­lieve that cli­mate change sci­ence is a fic­tion prop­a­gated by left­ists.

Enough. Our planet is warm­ing. Our land is dry­ing. Our seas are ris­ing. And we need our lead­ers to con­front the prob­lem. Bi­par­ti­san de­ci­sions must be made now to im­ple­ment prac­ti­cal, sub­stan­tial and gen­uine re­duc­tions in car­bon emis­sions, and to tackle the cri­sis in our wa­ter­ways. Time is run­ning out.

*Alex Lavelle is the ed­i­tor of The Age.


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