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wild weather for a wild year?

The terrible flooding in Queensland, Australia, is particularly news-worthy to me as I have relatives living in Brisbane, and I recently stayed with them in Brisbane about six months ago, so I can remember, and visualise easily, many of the places in Brisbane that are currently underwater; for example, I was in the Suncorp stadium last year, watching the Tri-Nations clash between the Wallabies and the Springboks, so seeing an aerial view yesterday of the same stadium completely underwater was very surreal. What strikes me powerfully about this flooding, apart from the massive human suffering, is that there was no awareness of the potential risk of such a terrible flood that I could detect amongst Brisbanites (is there such a word?) when I was there; indeed, there seemed to be a feeling in the local media that the risk of such flooding was greatly reduced because of the construction of the Wivenhoe Dam further upstream from Brisbane after the last great flood of 1974. And I remember talking about climate change to a few people out there, only to receive blank stares or outright scepticism about it. So now I hope that the Queensland flood will give Australians, and everybody else for that matter, a wake-up call to the realities of climate change (how many wake-up calls do we need?). Although I notice that most of the Australian media, and British media too, are only linking the flooding to an unusually strong La Nina cycle, without looking at what is making the La Nina unusually strong, or what made the preceding El Nino particularly strong either. This, despite the fact that Queensland has had its wettest spring ever, and has had, in 2010, the wettest December ever, and the waters off the Queensland coast are the warmest ever recorded. The truth is that climate change is making both El Nino and La Nina more extreme, thereby leading to more extreme drought and rainfall events, as any determined trawl through the internet for the considered opinions of climate scientists will reveal. Then consider the severe drought currently affecting Argentina and the southwest of Australia, the excessive rainfall and flooding occurring in Brazil, and the extreme rainfall and floods hitting Sri Lanka and the Phillipines and other parts of East Asia too, and you have the growing picture of a world where extreme weather is becoming even more extreme and frequent, and inflicting even more human suffering and economic damage, in ever more diverse locations simultaneously. Even the severe rains affecting California at the moment can be attributed to climate change, specifically the rapid warming of the Arctic that is leading to the current extreme temperature anomalies, both hot and cold, in the Arctic and those regions near the Arctic (see http://huff.to/gxjSpq).

Such wild weather going on worldwide right now is already impacting upon commodity prices, especially food, making those prices rise dramatically, and several countries, such as Tunisia and Iran, are already experiencing internal dissent and protests as those prices affect those most dependent upon these commodities. Combine this with the relentless increase in the price of oil, which is once again approaching $100 a barrel, and the increasing pressure that puts upon businesses, especially those in economies which need a strong economic recovery to cope with the effects of the sovereign debt crisis, and you have a growing picture of peak oil, climate change and financial crisis all combining to create a triple whammy this year, earlier than I thought it might. I really cannot see how the sovereign debt crisis can be resolved if economic recovery is short-circuited by  peak oil and escalating food and commodity prices exacerbated by the increased frequency of extreme weather events in key commodity-producing areas of the world.  The sheer pace and intensity of current events is awesome to behold, and the urgency of the need to raise collective awareness of what is happening is growing day by day. The wild weather at the start of 2011 could be the precursor for a wild year in all sorts of ways.

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