Australia is suffering through an epic six-year drought and it just got a lot worse. The Australian government has warned its farmers that they are dangerously close to pulling the plug on their irrigation supplies to meet the need of all-time low drinking water reserves. Basically, Australia will stop producing food for a little while so they can allow their citizens to drink and shower.
Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.
This ban on irrigation (through May of next year) would mean ruin for thousands of farmers and a huge hit on the industry itself.
With paddocks reduced to dust bowls, graziers have been forced to sell off sheep and cows at rock-bottom prices or buy in feed at great expense. Some have already given up, abandoning pastoral properties that have been in their families for generations. The rural suicide rate has soared.
What was Prime Minister Howard’s ask to the people of Australia? “We must all hope and pray there is rain.” Mr. Howard, prayer is not an answer in itself.
Environmentalists and scientists worldwide have already noted this drought sequence as a result of climate change.
Environmentalists point to the increasing frequency and severity of drought-causing El Niño weather patterns, blamed on global warming.
This isn’t the first drought that has been blamed on climate change. Spain, in 2005, suffered one of its worst droughts in over 60 years, forcing the government to ration water, import grain and other crops. The drought was, similar to the current one in Australia, connected to climate change by scientists.
I hate to be the one to say, “I told you so,” but…
Until a few months ago, Mr Howard and his ministers pooh-poohed the climate-change doomsayers. The Prime Minister refused to meet Al Gore when he visited Australia to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. He was lukewarm about the landmark report by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned that large swaths of Australia’s farming land would become unproductive if global temperatures rose by an average of four degrees.
I hope John Howard takes a bite of humble pie and gets over this aversion to what the majority has been saying (and predicting) for over a decade. His country’s farming industry might very well depend on it.