Effect Floods Cause
Australia, the world's leading exporter of coal, appears to be reaping the climate chaos it has sown. First it was the 10-year "Big Dry" that cost a quarter of all farm jobs in the country and led to severe water rationing. Now, an area the size of Germany and France combined in Queensland is under water. (The NASA Earth Observatory satellite image at left shows the Fitzroy basin; compare to the pre-flood image below.) While we all know that no individual weather event can be conclusively linked to global
warming, we also know that these are exactly the kind of climate disruptions climatologists predict that global warming will bring. As Australian journalist Guy Pearse wrote in "Addicts and Enablers" last May,
"Drought is just the start of Australia's torments, which also include floods, cyclones, and dust storms. Hundred-year weather events seem to happen all the time now. Few openly link climate change to the 173 deaths in the Black Saturday bushfires of early 2009, but they are a horrible taste of what's coming. . . . Australia is feeling the effects of climate change--and fueling them as well. It's by far the world's leading coal exporter, shipping out 290 million tons of coal a year from 120 inland mines, out of sight and out of mind for most Australians."
In a final irony, Queensland is the site of many of Australia's largest coal mines, and the flooding there has greatly disrupted their operation. According to the Australian online Business Spectator,
The Queensland Resources Council, the industry body, estimates that flooding across central Queensland has already cost the state’s coal industry $1 billion in lost production. It could take several months before coal companies are able to pump the water out of flooded mines and resume full production.
Meanwhile the cost of coal is soaring, which is expected to increase inflation in China, and make that nation more desperate from coal from whatever source--including the United States. But for that story you need to wait for the March/April issue of Sierra.