Sunday, July 06, 2008

Frequent Extreme Weather Events scenario for 20 years

Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has likened a scientific study into links between climate change and drought to the final chapters of a disaster novel.

We live in strange times.

Mr Burke on Sunday released a joint assessment by the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO, which found that what are now considered to be one in 25 year climate events could become as frequent as once every one to two years.

In particular, the study found exceptionally high temperatures would occur almost yearly, while low rainfall would almost double in frequency from current figures.

The report found about 50 per cent of the rainfall decrease in south-western Australia since the 1950s was likely due to greenhouse gases.

The reports are inputs into agricultural policy development. It's gratifying to see a Government allow science to inform policy development, at last.

"While this is a scientific report, parts of these high level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report," Mr Burke told reporters.

"What's clear is that the cycle of drought is going to be more regular and deeper than ever."

Mr Burke said events of extreme temperature, which currently occurred once every 20 to 25 years, were forecast to happen once every one to two years coming up to 2030.

The area of Australia declared to be in drought would double and the likelihood of drought would also double, Mr Burke said.

"What this means is that in terms of government policy, we now know what would happen if we did nothing," he said.

"If we fail to review drought policy, if we were to continue the neglect and pretend that the climate wasn't changing we would be leaving our farmers out to dry well and truly."

The CSIRO report is the first in the federal government's three stage review of drought policy with the scientific findings to be fed into an analysis of social policy and economic review being undertaken by the Productivity Commission.

The release of the report follows the announcement for drought figures in NSW, which put 65 per cent of the state in drought, an increase of more than two per cent on last month.

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