Melbourne, Australia : Australia might face an extreme El Nino and the overall world conditions could lead to severe drought like situations, warns the head of United Nations office of disaster risk reduction. Australia has been projected to being in the grip of an extreme El Nino weather event, with more heatwaves and a heightened bush fire risk expected coming summer.
Margareta Wahlstrom, special representative of the UN secretary-general for disaster risk reduction, said, ‘Most countries in the world still suffer badly in drought — even rich countries. It’s an area where we are not quite well prepared. I don’t think the world has quite yet settled down to realise this is the way it’s going to be. Australia, especially, will be getting drier in all likelihood in coming season.’
Wahlstrom spoke while on tour to Australia, during her meetings with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Environment to discuss how Australia could reduce the risks and costs of disasters. She said of all the hazards, drought was the most complex because it was difficult to model. She added, how to deal with drought from an economic perspective was a very important policy area and the anticipation of what measures were put in place, would be a really big issue under consideration.
Australian forecasters are a little more conservative with their language and say the weather event is tipped to rival the monster El Nino of 1997. Dr Andrew Watkins, the manager of climate predictions with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said parts of Australia had already experienced high temperatures, with Melbourne about 16 degrees Celsius above the average earlier this month.
The impacts, as interpreted by the UN, could be far more disastrous elsewhere in the world. Parts of Middle East ‘could be uninhabitable, ‘ as Nature Climate Change journal indicated that if carbon dioxide emissions continued at their current rate, areas of the Persian Gulf could become virtually unlivable and eventually people might have to abandon areas. Wahlstrom stated, ‘The advice to us today in heatwaves is drink more water, stay indoors, don’t move too quickly — but that’s obviously not enough. We can see some of the impacts now with these very long heatwaves. In fact in Europe the deadliest disaster in many decades was a heatwave, which had such a serious human impact in France, western Europe and a few years later in Russia. This year we’ve seen (heatwaves in) India, Pakistan, the big cities — it’s very obvious that this is one of the most critical health and human impacts of climate change.’