Battered Australia a Preview of Climate Devastation

Country grapples with drought, wildfires, and heat
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 9, 2009 9:29 AM CDT
Battered Australia a Preview of Climate Devastation
Sheep feed on a line of barley on a dusty field on a southern Australia farm, June 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Pummeled by drought, wildfires, and heat, Australia may be offering the world a preview of what’s to come as the planet warms, experts say. “Australia is the harbinger of change,” says a paleontologist. Many say climate change has already taken a human toll in the 173 killed by wildfires and 200 who died in a heat wave—to say nothing of a string of suicides among struggling farmers. The Los Angeles Times reports from a continent in transition.

While most of the country faces its worst drought in more than a century, the north is grappling with flooding and cyclones. Crops are failing and plants and animals face extinction. “We're holding on by the skin of our teeth. It's desperate times,” says a man whose orchard has dried up. Asked whether climate change is to blame, he says, “You'd have to have your head in the bloody sand to think otherwise.”
(More Australia stories.)

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