Australian Prime Minister John Howard is in a sticky, yet dry, situation.
Even though a drought has caused Australia’s agricultural production to fall 25 percent in the last year, Howard may have to ban irrigation so that urban centers can have drinking water.
The targeted river basin, the Murray-Darling, is known as Australia’s “food bowl” because it houses 72 percent of Australia’s farm and pasture land. If insufficient rain continues through the next few weeks, this year’s harvest will be devastated and cities will need to implement water usage restrictions.
Prime Minister Howard doesn’t accept the connection to global warming, but scientists and farmers disagree, saying “this drought has the fingerprints of climate change all over it.” In climate models, Australia is predicted to be one of the first areas seriously impacted.
Australia is accustomed to drought, but not of this proportion. During the last major drought, agricultural production fell 10 percent, not nearly one quarter. The Prime Minister’s struggle to manage water resources is a testament to just how unprepared for climate change’s impacts even developed countries are.
There is no use denying climate change anymore, not when a drought is sucking three-quarters to one percent of the GDP dry. According to Sir Nicholas Stern’s report, that could be the GDP it takes to prevent future damage by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
Without any sort of adaptation or mitigation policy, our future is beginning to dry up.
Get Grist in your inbox