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  Yahoo News 2 Oct 07
Agency warns Australia on gas emissions
By Meraiah Foley, Associated Press Writer

Yahoo News 2 Oct 07
More droughts, floods for Australia as globe heats up
by Madeleine Coorey

PlanetArk 3 Oct 07
Australia to be Hit Hard by Climate Change
Story by Michael Byrnes

SYDNEY - Australia, the driest inhabited continent in the world, will get even hotter and drier due to climate change triggered mainly by greenhouse gases, authorities said on Tuesday in new projections.

Temperatures had already increased, sea levels had risen and the oceans surrounding the country had warmed, said Scott Power, principal research scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

"Further warming and further sea level rise seems inevitable," he said, releasing the "Climate Change in Australia" report produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Temperatures were expected to rise by about 1 degree Celsius by 2030 and could rise more, said Penny Whetton, head of climate impact and risk at the government-backed CSIRO.

Rainfall is forecast to decrease by up to 20 percent by 2070 in southern Australia if greenhouse gas emissions are low and by up to 30 percent if gas emissions are high.

Temperatures in Australia have already risen by 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1950, producing the hottest year on record in 2005.

The present year could eclipse that in key areas.

Southern Australia, and the Murray-Darling Basin food bowl in particular, had its hottest year on record between January and September this year, new data shows.

"It's bitterly disappointing ... that the rainfall during the last month in the Murray-Darling Basin, just when we were all hoping for well above average rainfall, turns out to be the lowest on record," Power said.

"We're more confident than ever before that these changes can be largely attributed to human intervention in the climate."


Australia was likely to be hit harder by climate change than other sub-tropical parts of the world, including South Africa, the Mediterranean and parts of South America, because it was already very dry, Whetton said.

Frequently recurring Australian droughts will be more severe because of higher temperatures, while periods of high fire danger are increasing, as is coastal flooding from storms.

Inland parts of Australia, home to vast agricultural enterprises producing wheat and cattle which supply export markets in Asia and the Middle East, would warm faster than coastal areas and receive less rainfall, Whetton said.

Dryland crops such as wheat could possibly increase because of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, if rainfall decline was not too large, Whetton said.

But Australia's wheat crop has already been hit hard by drought in 2002, 2006 and 2007. And there will be less water for irrigated crops, which include grapes, cotton and rice.

Higher temperatures increased coral bleaching and could pose a severe risk to the Great Barrier Reef, she said.

City water supplies could decrease significantly. Melbourne and parts of southern Victoria state have already had 10 years of below-average rainfall.

At low emissions of greenhouse gases, warming of between 1 degree Celsius and 2.5 degrees was expected by 2070, with a best estimate of 1.8 degrees, Whetton said.

At high emissions, the best estimate was warming of 3.4 degrees, in a range of 2.2 degrees to 5 degrees.

The report predicts fewer frosts and substantially more days over 35 degrees.

Yahoo News 2 Oct 07
Agency warns Australia on gas emissions
By Meraiah Foley, Associated Press Writer

Parts of Australia could be 9 degrees Fahrenheit hotter and 80 percent drier by 2070 if global greenhouse gas emissions are not radically reduced, government data said Tuesday.

The report by the Bureau of Meteorology and the government's main research body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, predicts lower rainfall, longer droughts and more searing hot days for Australia, known by locals as "the sunburned country."

Penny Whetton, a climate scientist with the CSIRO, said Australia is already locked in to a 1.8-degree increase in average temperatures by 2030 due to past carbon dioxide emissions, and that the figure could rise as high as 9 degrees by 2070 if global emissions are not dramatically reduced.

Rainfall across Australia, already the world's driest inhabited continent, could fall by up to 30 percent by 2070, with longer periods of drought broken by short bursts of more intense downpours, Whetton said.

Under the most extreme scenario, Australia's northern city of Darwin could face as many as 230 days above 95 degrees each year, compared with just 11 under present average temperatures.

Southwestern Australia, one of the country's premier wine-growing regions and an agricultural breadbasket, will be hotter and drier in coming decades, with periods of drought increasing by up to 80 percent by 2070.

Meanwhile, rainfall is forecast to increase in the country's tropical north, home to the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, with more severe cyclones and coastal flooding also predicted.

"Some climate change for Australia is certainly inevitable, so we're going to need to adapt to its impact," Whetton told reporters at a climate change conference in Sydney. "However, for later on in the century, if we're able to reduce our global levels of greenhouse gas emissions we'll be able to reduce the risks of some of those higher rates of warming."

Report co-author Scott Power dismissed critics who claim such long-term variations in climate are part of the normal weather cycle, saying scientists were "more confident than ever" that human activity is largely responsible for global warming.

"Yes, you can still have a whole range of climatic variability from natural sources, but the changes we've seen over the past 50 years or so have been dominated by ... human increases in greenhouse gases," Powers told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Yahoo News 2 Oct 07
More droughts, floods for Australia as globe heats up
by Madeleine Coorey

Floods and droughts will become more frequent in Australia and cyclones more intense, as the world's driest inhabited continent heats up due to global warming, a new scientific report warned Tuesday.

Sea levels are expected to rise and snow and rainfall to decrease as average temperatures in some areas rise by as much as five degrees Celsius within 70 years, according to the report by government scientists.

"By 2030 we are looking at an increase in temperature of about one degree," said one of the report's authors, Penny Whetton.

"If you go out to 2070, what happens then depends on what happens to our global emissions of greenhouse gas.

"There is the risk of warming as high as four or five degrees by 2070 in parts of Australia," she said.

Whetton, from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, said temperatures in Australia overall would likely rise by between 2 and 3.5 degrees by 2070, but could go higher or lower depending on the level of greenhouse gas pollution.

These gases, produced by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, are contributing to the so-called greenhouse effect by blanketing the Earth's upper atmosphere and trapping heat inside.

The report, "Climate Change in Australia," found that rainfall would decrease by between 10 and 30 percent by 2070, particularly in the major agricultural zones in southeastern Australia.

Drought months could increase by 40 percent in eastern Australia and by 80 percent in the country's southwest by 2070, it said.

Whetton said there would also be changes in extreme weather events, meaning more days when the temperature topped 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), fewer frosts, more intense tropical cyclones and a higher risk of bushfires.

Scott Power, from the Bureau of Meteorology, said Australia's average temperature had already increased by 0.9 degrees Celsius since 1950 while oceans were warmer and sea levels had risen.

"We are more certain than ever before that these changes can be largely attributed to human intervention," he told a press conference.

Parts of Australia have been in the grip of drought for more than six years, threatening the country's major agricultural zone, while water restrictions are in place in most state capitals.

But Whetton said Australia was no worse than most other places on earth at a similar latitude in terms of the impact of global warming.

"Everyone will experience warming," she said.

"Very broadly, if you look around the world, it's sort of a pattern of dry areas getting drier and wet areas getting wetter."

Whetton said the planet would be hotter by 2030 even if carbon gas emissions were dramatically cut immediately but the sooner action was taken, the greater the ability to limit the future warming.

"But some warming is inevitable."

Tim Flannery, noted scientist and global warming campaigner, said despite the prognosis he was optimistic humans would become "planetary engineers" to make their environment liveable.

"The only reason that we would act on any of this at all is to preserve ourselves from dangerous climate change," he told a conference in Sydney.

"It's not to make money from the carbon trading floor or anything else, it's simply to give our global civilisation a chance at surviving the 21st century."

Flannery urged Australia, which with the US has refused to ratify the UN-supported Kyoto Protocol, to tackle greenhouse gases by changing its tack.

"It's abundantly clear there's no time to forge another global treaty on this issue. Kyoto at the moment is it," he said.

Related articles on Climate change
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