Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Melbourne Has Driest 12 Months On Record

Climate Change Predicted to Hammer Victoria In Coming Decades

Melbourne has just experienced its driest twelve month period in the 150 years since such records began being kept. Less than half the yearly average amount of rain fell. This is now, according to reports, the 10th year in a row that Melbourne has experienced below average rain falls.

While Melbourne gradually runs out of water, climate change looks set to hammer Victoria in the worst way in the coming decades :

An alarming new report on the impact of climate change in Victoria has warned of risks to some of our most basic services and necessities — including water, electricity, transport, telecommunications and buildings.

The report, obtained by The Age ahead of its release, says water supplies and major infrastructure will be "acutely vulnerable" to climate change in coming decades, even if greenhouse emissions are cut steeply.

...the report found that by 2030 power, telecommunications, transport and building infrastructure would also be at much higher risk of damage from hotter days, bushfires, storms and floods.

Key risks highlighted include:

* Higher water, energy and telecommunications bills to cover the growing damage to infrastructure across the state.

* Worsening water shortages, as temperatures climb and rainfall is reduced.

* Power blackouts and potential fatalities during heatwaves.

* Coastal buildings and infrastructure, including ports, being hit by storm surges.

* Less water for hydro and coal-fired power plants, and more erratic wind generation.

* Longer and more frequent telecommunications outages from stormier weather, potentially hampering emergency rescue and clean-up efforts.

The report cites scientists' predictions that by 2030, average daily temperatures across Victoria will rise by between 0.5 to 1.5 degrees, compared to 1990 temperatures, and by up to 5 degrees by 2070.

Project leader Paul Holper told The Age that Victoria's climate was likely to change dramatically over the next few decades, and that "we have to plan as if we'll be living in a different country".

"I've been working in this field since 1989, and it surprises even me how strongly climate change has begun to affect us already," said Mr Holper, who co-ordinates the CSIRO's Australian Climate Change Science Program.

As population grows, average temperatures are predicted to keep climbing while rainfall is cut, putting water supplies under more pressure. Potential solutions nominated in the report include catching and re-using stormwater, or "costly, large-scale and politically sensitive infrastructure developments such as desalination plants or dams".