Global Warming Alarm: Doomsday for Australia?

ByABC News
February 11, 2007, 1:51 PM

SYDNEY, Feb. 24, 2007 — -- It was something of a double whammy for one of the world's most desirable cities.

The ominous report issued earlier this month by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was frightening enough: The evidence of global warning was unequivocal, most likely caused by humans, and likely to continue for centuries.

But another report had been issued, just one day before, by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. And its conclusion read like a dagger through the heart of the land down under. If global warming continues at its current rate, the CSIRO report warned, life in the city of Sydney could be completely transformed by the year 2070.

In just one generation, Sydney could slide into a near permanent state of drought. There could be a dramatic rise in deadly bushfires. Temperatures would rise 10 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or more. Heat-related deaths would soar from nearly 200 to more than 1,200 a year. The report was very grim reading, especially for the people of Sydney.

To better understand how Australians were responding to this "doomsday scenario," I met with Michael Archer, the dean of the science faculty at Sydney's University of New South Wales.

Watch Mark Litke's report on the "doomsday scenario" tonight on "World News." Check your local listings for air time.

Professor Archer is a noted geologist and paleontologist, who has studied the history of climate change and its effects on prehistoric life. He is among the prominent scientists who have warned repeatedly that global warming posed a dire threat to mankind.

I interviewed Archer as we walked on the predictably sun-drenched Bondi Beach in the Sydney suburbs. It seemed an appropriate location, since Australians have known for years that the growing hole in the ozone layer over neighboring New Zealand has made the sun's rays increasingly harmful in this part of the world.

Were residents of Australia surprised by the two reports?

In a sense, it was a confirmation of what we knew was going to happen anyway. As a geologist, I've seen these sort of things recorded in the rocks we've studied for the last 30 years. The thing that worries is the rate of change, the pace at which this is going to happen.