Battered Australia a Preview of Climate Devastation
Country grapples with drought, wildfires, and heat
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Apr 9, 2009 9:29 AM CDT
Sheep feed on a line of barley on a dusty field on a southern Australia farm, June 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
camera-icon View 4 more images

(Newser) – 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.”