Drought worsened by climate change finds Climate Council

South East Australia’s ongoing drought has been severely worsened by climate change, according to a new report released by the Climate Council.

“Climate change is shifting our rainfall patterns and increasing the severity of droughts and floods. We’ve always been a sunburnt country, but things are getting worse,” said Climate Councillor, Professor Will Steffen.

“We’ve seen temperatures rising in Australia over the long term. This has been driven primarily by the burning of coal, oil and gas,” he said.

The Deluge and Drought: Australia’s Water Security in a Changing Climate report was authored by seven of the nation’s leading climate change exports, including former head of the Bureau of Meteorology, Professor Rob Vertessy.

“Australia will have to face up to some significant water security challenges as a result of climate change,” said Professor Vertessy.

The report found that the Murray-Darling Basin, which produces more than a third of our food, has experienced a 41% decline in streamflow over the past 20 years.

“We’re very concerned that streamflow in the Basin will reduce even further, affecting everybody who depends on the river as well as fish and bird life,” said Professor Steffen.

Report Key Findings:

  • Australia’s water security has been significantly influenced by climate change.

  • Less water is likely to be available for agriculture, urban water supplies and ecosystems in coming decades across southern Australia, including regions surrounding Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

  • Less water is likely to flow into dams in southern Australia as a result of human-driven climate change.

  • Short-term drought solutions will be ultimately futile without concerted and rapid action to tackle climate change.

  • Australia’s long-term water security is dependent on action on climate change, particularly on the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

The Climate Council report also examined the health impacts of climate change.

“Severe droughts, heavy rainfall and floods all affect our health in many ways – contaminating water supplies, increasing mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and ross river virus, and increasing psychological stress in rural communities,” said Professor Steffen.

The full report can be found here

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