Southern Australia facing a scorch-earth future

Southern Australia facing a scorch-earth future

21 March 2013

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Australia — SOUTHERN Australia is facing a scorch-earthed future, with its people subjected to more disease, natural disasters, mental health issues and sharp falls in agriculture production, a new climate change assessment predicts.

The Napthine government’s climate change adaptation plan accepts there will be higher temperatures and less rainfall in the future.

The likely cost of dealing with the fallout will be tens of billions of dollars, given that climate is blamed for more than $4 billion worth of damage in the past decade alone in Victoria.

But the government report also suggests that even with climate change there will be regional gains, including the potential for marlin fishing in warmer waters as part of increased habitat range and populations for some fish species.

While most of southern Australia faces a drop in crop productivity, the water and soil rich southwest Victoria – once the heartland of the squattocracy – could enjoy gains in crop yields of up to 20 per cent until 2070, the report says.

“Projected climate changes affecting essential services, industries, communities and ecosystems across Victoria are likely to have complex economic implications through direct impacts and the flow-on effect of disruption and change through the economy,” the report warns.

“Extreme natural events, such as storms or bushfires, have immediate economic impacts on both the private and public sectors through loss or damage to property, infrastructure and natural systems. Loss of life, injuries and health impacts (including mental health) may increase demand on services.”

The climate change adaptation plan, tabled in parliament this week, is framed to deal with projected climate changes including more days over 35C, lower rainfall and stream flows and possible sea-level rise and storm surges.

The significance of the report lies in the fact that the government has effectively locked into the view that climate change is inevitable, calling for a tri-government response to what it believes is a looming crisis.

The report reveals that Victoria has spent more than $4 billion during the past decade responding to, and recovering from, climate linked bushfires, floods and drought.

By 2050, increased bushfire activity will cost the agricultural sector an extra $1.4 billion and the timber industry $2.8 billion.


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