Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s drought disaster a political disaster too, for its climate-sceptic Morrison govt?

Inadequate drought preparation may prove to be political disaster too, Brisbane Times, Tony Walker  4 Oct 19

Panicky. That’s a word to describe the Morrison government’s response to a national drought emergency. Lack of rain, arid conditions, scorching winds and higher temperatures are contributing to an evolving disaster against the background of a contentious climate change debate.

This is a challenge that will become increasingly difficult for the governments, federal and state, to ignore as water supplies run down in New South Wales towns such as Dubbo and Queensland towns such as Stanthorpe. Risks of bushfire will be further elevated.Judging by Bureau of Meteorology forecasts, drought over much of eastern Australia is set to surpass all others in living memory going back to the beginning of record keeping. In other words, things may get a lot worse before they get better. What is left unspoken by government officials and farm representatives is this aridity will prove to be the new normal. Let’s repeat these words in capitals: NATIONAL DROUGHT EMERGENCY.

It might also be observed that no less than a drought emergency, this is a POLITICAL EMERGENCY for the Morrison government. Governmental responses, both federal and state, to a catastrophic dry across central and northern New South Wales and southern Queensland have been unfocused, according to farm representatives. Tony Mahar, chief executive of the National Farmers’ Federation, the peak body for Australian farmers, awards federal and state governments a “fail” when it comes to developing a national drought strategy to deal with emergencies. “No government, red or blue, has successfully nailed drought policy,” Mahar tells me.

Government inattention may well reflect agriculture’s diminishing share of the national economy at just three per cent of Gross Domestic Product. On the other hand, 1.6 million jobs reside in the complete agricultural supply chain. Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s dash – on his return to Australia from a state visit to the United States – to Dalby in the heart of drought-stricken southern Queensland to announce a $100-million relief package as part of an overall $7-billion allocation reflects government political concerns.

Morrison himself would not need reminding that the 2001-2010 millennium drought contributed to John Howard’s undoing, given he was perceived – rightly or wrongly – to be indifferent to climate change. At least six Coalition seats are at risk in the face of seething local anger over water mismanagement, or no management at all. In all of this, what tends to be overlooked is that the government has a wafer-thin majority of one after the Speaker is excluded……….
Finally, the latest Bureau of Meteorology bulletin provides little encouragement to believe that drought conditions will ease in the short term. The BOM reports the lowest rainfall on record extending from the Great Dividing Range as far as Dubbo and Walgett in central NSW. This is a huge swathe of the country under some of the most extreme drought conditions in the history of white settlement. Only the peak of the terrible 1900-02 “Federation Drought” was worse.
This is bad enough but meteorologists at the BOM are also reporting that a phenomenon known as sudden strategic warming above the South Pole risks contributing to a further deepening of the drought. The SSW effect would cause warmer westerly winds to track north, intensifying drought conditions in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. If those forecasts prove correct, distinctions between a natural disaster and a national emergency will certainly become moot. Regardless, in a cloudless sky, these weather conditions will constitute an accelerating political emergency.

October 6, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics

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