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Australia Warned Of 'Frightening' Climate Change

The country's most significant river system, in the south-eastern Murray-Darling Basin, could run out of water in six months after six years of drought, the Australian government has warned.
by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Nov 6, 2006
Global warming could force temperatures in parts of Australia up by more than six degrees Celsius by 2070, the government's top science body warned in a new report Monday. Annual rainfall in vital farming regions in this driest of all inhabited continents could drop by 40 percent over the same period, the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO) said.

Bushfires and intense storms will increase and pastures will become dustbowls if climate change follows its current trends, the report warned.

"The CSIRO research paints a frightening picture," said New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma, whose government commissioned the report. "That's why we need a national approach to climate change."

Australia is already in the grip of the worst drought in living memory, and Iemma and the premiers of two other south-eastern states will attend an emergency drought summit with Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday.

The country's most significant river system, in the south-eastern Murray-Darling Basin, could run out of water in six months after six years of drought, the government has warned.

About 30 rivers and hundreds of tributaries run across the basin, which provides for about 70 percent of Australia's irrigated farmlands. In the face of growing public concern over the country's environmental future, Howard has abandoned his previously sceptical response to the idea that pollution is driving climate change.

But he continues to refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which seeks to limit the emission of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Under a local emissions trading scheme proposed by state governments, greenhouse gas emissions from Australia's electricity industry would be capped at between 1997 and 2000 levels by 2035.

Electricity generators would be required to have permits to emit greenhouse gases but would be able to purchase extra permits and offset emissions through forestry and capturing or storing carbon.

"To our national shame, John Howard refuses to sign up in the face of overwhelming evidence of the impact of climate change on families and the economy," Iemma said.

earlier related report
Shocking Wetlands Destruction In Indonesia Fuels Climate Change
Nairobi (AFP) Nov 6 - "Shocking" destruction of wetlands in Indonesia is fuelling global warming with the emission of huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the earth's atmosphere, an environmental group said here Monday. Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based NGO, said massive amounts of peat bogs have been drained, logged and burned in the southeast Asian nation, producing large quantities of carbon dioxide.

"New research shows the enormous impact of peatland degradation on climate change," it said in a statement released to coincide with the opening of a UN climate change summit in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Such activity in Indonesia, largely caused by growing global demand for hardwood, paper pulp and palm oil, is emitting some two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air each year, the group said.

"These amounts change the global picture concerning carbon emissions," it said.

Layers of peat, normally wet, dry and begin decomposing and emitting carbon dioxide when swampy areas are drained for commericial agriculture use. The process is rapid in the tropics and is often accelerated by fires.

In Indonesia, these fires have caused massive amounts of acrid and polluting smoke to disrupt air travel, create health problems and cause regional anger as the haze has billowed across neighbors Singapore and parts of Malaysia.

The group said if peat emissions were taken into account, along with industrial emissions, they would bring Indonesia from the 21st-largest carbon dioxide producer in the world to the third, ahead of India, Russia and fully developed economies like Britain and Germany.

Peatland emissions are not now calculated under the Kyoto Protocol that seeks to limit the amount of greenhouse gases countries produce and so there is little incentive to reduce them, the group said.

The statement was issued ahead of a Tuesday presentation of a report on the matter to the UN conference by Wetlands International and its partner Delft Hydraulics, it said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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