Some dark days are ahead for Australia, threatening all its economic achievements thus far. It will experience severe heat waves almost every year and droughts more often and over wider stretches of the country in the next three decades.
The Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, say that exceptionally hot years will occur almost every year for 30 years beginning 2010. In the last century such heat waves used to occur only once in 22 years.
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Exceptionally low rainfall could torment ever wider areas in regions such as Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and southern Western Australia.
Australia's Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke, described the report as alarming and said: "Parts of these high-level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report."
Burke said it was clear that the cycle of drought was going to be "more regular and deeper than ever before". He added: "If we failed to review drought policy, if we were to continue the neglect and pretend that the climate wasn't changing, we would be leaving our farms out to dry."
Parts of Australia are now in a sixth year of drought, and the report coincided with an announcement that there has been a worsening of the drought in New South Wales. Some 65% of the state is affected, an increase of more than 2.3% on last month, although opinion is divided on whether it can be attributed to climate change.
A plague of locusts is also threatening crops in the state, with farmers on 900 farms reporting finding locust eggs. The government plans to fight the infestation with aerial spraying before the eggs hatch
The financial burden for the community as a whole would increase consequent on the climate change impact, observers note.
The federal government, for instance, has budgeted to spend $760 million this financial year on drought relief payments to farmers and businesses hit by drought.
But the new report says the current thresholds for farmers to claim financial assistance are out of date because hotter and drier weather will become the norm.
Only two days ago, Professor Ross Garnaut, a senior advisor to the federal government, had warned that Australia had to adopt a scheme for trading greenhouse gas emissions by 2010 or face the eventual destruction of sites including the Great Barrier Reef, the wetlands of Kakadu and the nation's food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin.
The two reports emerge at a time the Kevin Rudd government is struggling to put in place an emission trading scheme (ETS).
Under the proposed ETS, the government will set a cap on the amount of greenhouse gas that can be pumped into the atmosphere, and then divide the amount to determine how many permits will be sold to high-emitting industries.
Industry will have to pay to pollute and those extra costs to energy and petrol will be passed on to consumers.
Rudd said the Government would decide in coming months how to help households and businesses cope with the costs of its emissions trading system.
"If you are going effectively [to have] a cap on carbon and therefore have a new price for carbon, that flows through to the price of energy for households, that's true," Rudd said on ABC TV Sunday. "The key question, then, is how to support households, particularly lower-income households, in their adjustment to that new system and that is where the devil lies in the detail."
Asked about the effect on jobs, he said moving to a cleaner economy would create millions of new jobs in such sectors as renewable energy but acknowledged there would be losses in other areas.
"There will be difficulty and there will be adjustment and there will be pain when it comes to certain parts of business. We accept that, and that is why we embrace the principle of helping business with adjustment support."
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