A global trend toward drought
A few months ago, I reported on the decade-long drought that’s bedeviling Australia. In it I predicted — with the help of experts such as Tim Flannery — that climate skeptic John Howard would lose his seat to the Labor Party leader, Kevin Rudd, in this October’s national elections. Rudd is running on a platform that includes $50 million for geothermal energy, $50 million for an Australian Solar Institute, and a 60 percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2050. And according to Flannery, the election will in large part be a referendum on climate change.
That may explain why, when we posted the story online yesterday, we had to change “October” to “November.” Howard’s Commonwealth party, fearing near-certain defeat, has successfully postponed elections until November 24. I’ll be watching eagerly to see what happens.
Meanwhile, it’s been eerie to watch so many of the predictions I encountered while researching the article materialize. Last year, in the journal Science, climatologists forecasted desert-like conditions for much of the American Southwest. And now, nearly into November, not only are we experiencing epic conflagrations in California, but crippling drought throughout the Southeast (here is a cool interactive map).
Just as in Australia, where an entire country is having to grapple with water for agriculture versus water for people, the U.S. will soon be faced with liquid trade-offs. For anyone remotely interested in the coming water crisis, this fantastic piece in last week’s Sunday Times Magazine is a must-read. In it, author John Gertner describes one western town’s novel plan to recycle its water ad infinitum, why water managers are tantamount to gods, and how Las Vegas plans to stay afloat (hint: lots of $$ attached).
It’s becoming increasingly clear that water, not oil, will be the most precious resource in the coming century. Gulp.