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Droughts? Floods? Or Will We Run Out of Fuel First?

By James Ward & Simon Beecham

Does the impending arrival of “peak carbon” mean that alarming climate change scenarios need to be revised downwards?

James Ward is a Lecturer in Water and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Australia. Simon Beecham is Professor of Sustainable Water Resources and Head of the School of Natural and Built Environments at the University of South Australia.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

For Australia’s water resource managers, one of the hottest topics is the impact of long-term climate change. Are Queensland’s floods and cyclones a sign of the future? Will there be more droughts in the Murray–Darling Basin?

The stakes are certainly high when it comes to the impacts of long-term climate change on water resources, and some of the predictions are indeed dire. But have you ever considered that there may not be enough carbon fuel available to burn to generate such severe changes in climate? Most people, it seems, have not.

Unfortunately, when studying the changing water cycle, hydrologists are always faced with tremendous uncertainty. With a system this complex there is a great deal of natural chaos, leading to Australia’s natural variability in rainfall (our land of “droughts and flooding rains”).

Because of this natural uncertainty, the computer models we use to assess future climate change impacts from greenhouse gas emissions often do not agree with each other. This is especially true when it comes to future changes in rainfall patterns. In fact, some models predict a decrease in rainfall while others predict an increase. And, the more severe the climate change scenario, the greater the disagreement between the models.

One of the major unknowns we have when it comes to modelling our future climate is guessing what the planet’s...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.