Australia faces water crisis from global warming

Australia is likely to suffer increasing water shortages, extreme weather events and natural disasters such as floods and droughts if it fails to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050, the results of a study published this week have found.

The report, Climate Change - Solutions for Australia, by the Australian Climate Group, an alliance of scientists, the finance sector and WWF, claims that Australia's current water shortages are clearly linked to global warming, and that carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to the frequency and severity of droughts as well as a decline in winter rainfall in southern Australia.

It quotes figures which show that water flow into Sydney's biggest dam and main source of drinking water, Warragamba, has fallen from an average of 71,635 megalitres a month between 1990 and 1996, to an average of 39,881 megalitres over the past seven years. This has led to approximately 80% of the population of Australia being covered by new water restrictions.

Tony Coleman, a founding member of the Australian Climate Group and Chief Risk Officer of the Insurance Australia Group, said: "The current drought and increased frequency of storms and cyclones are clearly the effects of climate change. The business sector can help prevent the escalation of these threats by exploring new business and employment opportunities in the emerging global economy that is growing in response to climate change."

According to the report, an increase in the average global temperature by just one or two degrees Celsius could lead to more natural disasters worldwide, increasing agricultural and economic losses and damaging homes, businesses and infrastructure. It calls on the Australian government to establish market mechanisms for emissions trading to provide a business incentive to meet reduction targets.

In turn, the report's authors hope this would drive investment in clean energy technologies , bringing a range of employment opportunities.

"Australia must take a leadership role in identifying and implementing solutions to reducing the impacts of climate change," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF's Climate Change Programme. "As one of the wealthiest and well educated nations in the region, they could share their innovations and technologies with other Asia-Pacific nations."

By David Hopkins



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