23 July 2007

Southern Hemisphere impacts

Being a resident in the under-represented (in the media) Southern Hemisphere, it's nice to hear about things that are happening in our neck of the woods (so to speak)...Here are a few items related to climate impacts in the SH and equatorial regions.

Global warming is drying up mountain lakes and wetlands in the Andes and threatening water supplies to major South American cities such as La Paz, Bogota and Quito, World Bank research shows.

Australia's worst drought in a hundred years is driving its kangaroos into cities in search of food and water, experts say.

In Canberra, referred to as the Bush Capital for its pockets of parklands scattered throughout the city, residents encounter the common sight of eastern gray kangaroos on the streets

Canberra's urban kangaroo sightings have been complemented by reports of greater numbers of kangaroos in other cities and towns in the southeast of Australia, apparently driven there in search of food.

North-west Queensland graziers says low temperatures and heavy unseasonal rain last month led to stock losses on many properties.

"It's never happened in the hundred years of records we've got. Here at Werrington we had 12 inches of rain...”

  • New Zealand: Wild weather's cost – Nelson Mail via Climate Ark

    Tornadoes in Taranaki, severe flooding in the Far North, storm damage in Coromandel, Auckland and other districts and the southern whiteout have caused an estimated $32 million in damage this month, with the detailed assessments still to come. Nelson had provided a foretaste of what was to happen when a deluge at the end of May flooded parts of Stoke and was described as a once-in-50-years downpour. It is almost as if weather demons have been unleashed - except that there have been similarly catastrophic storms in many other years. Rather than leaping to the conclusion that climate change is responsible and that we are in for much more of this type of thing, the response should be to acknowledge that it has happened before and will happen again, and to prepare for it.

The last item brings up a valid point. We cannot “leap to the conclusion” that these events are due to climate change. Events of similar magnitude have happened before. At issue is the timing and frequency of such events. Those are the true marks of climate change. Yes, droughts have happened in Australia before. Yes, it has rained in Queensland before, but not usually this much in the dry season. (Actually, a big swath of tropical Australia received their highest on record rainfall in June...). The questions I ask (as always) are: Why now and why globally? Doesn't that tell us that something is happening?

If we as a society wait until we have absolute statistical certainty before deciding to act to mitigate/adapt to climate change, we don't have a lot of hope. It is much more sensible to plan on these things happening more frequently in the past (for example, the 1-in-50 year flood becomes a 1-in-10 year flood) and adopt an appropriate risk management strategy to cope with issues before they unfold, rather than after.

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