Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Australia Needed Rain, Not Floods

Australian farmers have been suffering through years of the worst drought on record. Called "Big Dry," the drought was so severe that in April 2007, then-prime minister John Howard warned about turning off all but drinking water to the continent's food bowl, the Murray-Darling basin in the southeastern part of the country...unless heavy rains broke the epic drought.

And the torrential downpours came this week.

Parts of New South Wales north of Sydney have been cut off by heavy rain and declared natural disaster zones. Queensland has also been hit hard. Hundreds of people remained trapped by floods today even though waters had begun to recede. The damages could could run to tens of millions of dollars.

Obviously, the rain is a mixed blessing for the parched country. Some irrigators who had been facing zero water supplies have seen their water rations restored to 100 percent. But others are still staring at bone dry paddocks, while some farmers already on government drought assistance are now applying for flood aid after rivers burst banks.

Al Gore talked about increased drought and flood in An Inconvenient Truth. And for his warnings on global warming, he was mocked by many, including John Howard.

The conservative former Australian prime minister's skepticism on climate change cost him his job.

The conservative Howard was decisively beaten at the polls by Kevin Rudd, in an race with heavy emphasis on climate matters. One of Rudd's first actions after the election?

Rudd signed documents to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The action reversed a decade of Australian environmental policy, left the United States standing alone among industrialized nations in its refusal to ratify the treaty, and brought prolonged applause at a United Nations climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia. (New York Times.)

Read about recent floods around the globe (scroll past the videos at the top of the page). These include Mozambique, threatened with what could be its worst flood ever; and reports from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Great Britain - just in the last 30 days.

(From The Great Red Comet - Earth Science Chronicles).