Expert. Australia drought may be permanent

Dried up river

It may be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation’s most senior weather experts warned yesterday.

“There is absolutely no debate that Australia is warming,” said Dr Jones. “It is very easy to see … it is happening before our eyes.”

The only uncertainty now was whether the changing pattern was “85 per cent, 95 per cent or 100 per cent the result of the enhanced greenhouse effect”.

So what happens when areas with populations of many million like southeastern Australia become permanently dry? After a few years will there be a population exodus? Certainly people will learn ways to save and reuse water plus there will be an explosion of new technology to aid in doing this. Certain business sectors will shut down while others will be created. This translates into economic dislocation.

Where southeast Australia is now, the American Southwest could be soon. Is there any other heavily populated westernized area facing such an extreme water shortage? They are in uncharted territory, seems to me, and what they do may serve as a model for other increasingly dry areas to follow.