Sunday, February 1, 2009

Immersed in Hot Blood

A few days ago, in an email to me Aqueductista Lucy Sussex remarked of her local weather that "it's like wandering around, immersed in hot blood." Temperatures, she said, had been above 40C for several days. She lives in the Melbourne area in Australia. Since that email, it's only gotten worse. In an article in today's Independent, Parched: Australia Faces Collapse as Climate Change Kicks In, Geoffrey Lean and Kathy Marks report that temperatures have soared to 43C (that's 109.4F!) for three days running and that in Adelaide the temperature reached "a staggering 45.6C."

Ministers are blaming the heat - which follows a record drought - on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change.

At times last week it seemed as if that was happening already. Chaos ruled in Melbourne on Friday after an electricity substation exploded, shutting down the city's entire train service, trapping people in lifts, and blocking roads as traffic lights failed. Half a million homes and businesses were blacked out, and patients were turned away from hospitals.

More than 20 people have died from the heat, mainly in Adelaide. Trees in Melbourne's parks are dropping leaves to survive, and residents at one of the city's nursing homes have started putting their clothes in the freezer.

"All of this is consistent with climate change, and with what scientists told us would happen," said climate change minister Penny Wong.

Australia, the driest inhabited continent on earth, is regarded as highly vulnerable. A study by the country's blue-chip Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation identified its ecosystems as "potentially the most fragile" on earth in the face of the threat.

It sounds like hell, doesn't it?

And here is one more bit of news today (this one reported in The Telegraph) about the Southern Hemisphere:

When Charles Darwin set foot on the Galapagos Islands, he was so astonished by the unique diversity of plants and animals there that his visit led to him developing one of the most influential scientific theories of all time. But as scientists around the world prepare to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the great biologist's birth, the rich ecosystems he found 174 years ago on these islands off the coast of South America are now under threat of collapsing.

Conservation groups warn that invasive animals and insects introduced by visitors along with the rising number of tourists and permanent human inhabitants on the islands are destroying the rare endemic species that are found no where else in the world.

There are 106 species on the islands and in the surrounding waters, out of around 450, that are now considered endangered or critically endangered, while another 90 have been officially declared as vulnerable.

Of the 168 unique plants found no where else in the world, 60 per cent are close to extinction and in the past 10 years alone, at least three species, including a mouse that bore Darwin's name, have died out.

We're in Forty Signs of Rain territory here, no?


Anonymous said...

Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth

Is this true? All the stats I can google say that either the US, Qatar or the UAE have the highest CO2 per head.

Not that Australia is much better. And it is very very hot for those poor Melbournians at the moment.


Anonymous said...

Small population, but decades of govt. neglect of alternate technology, due to dedicated reliance on the coal industry, and its export market. A tsunami of protest is building over the lack of support for the solar energy, of which we have lots! Dry continent, not much water, tendency to bushfires. Yes, we face hell. Lucy Sussex