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Blame the whites for climate change?

Posted By Joanne Nova On May 23, 2012 @ 3:06 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

Back when the climate was perfect, and there was no internet, no cars, no electricity lines, and not a single evil coal fired station –  ominously, the Australian climate was changing.

Back in 1846, the population of Australia was essentially just the size of the city of Canberra (a mere 340,000 people). They all rode bikes, or horses, or walked to work; it was “Earth Hour” every hour; every plasma screen was not just on standby, it was permanently unplugged.

Yet the flooding rains were giving way to droughts, and the creeks were drying up. Aboriginals said that the climate has undergone this change “since white-man came in country.”

Stephen Goddard found the quote.


The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Wednesday 11 March 1846


“That great changes have taken place in the climate of Australia all testimonies satisfactorily prove. It is evident to any observer, at some period, the country has been subjected to the mighty action of heavy rains, and of sweeping, deluging floods. The mountains and hills are cut and furrowed into deep ravines ; the parting ridges are at acute angles, and frequently washed bare of vegetable mould ; and all so precipitous, that the waters are no sooner showered from the blessed heavens than they run off with rapidity and fury through the gullies into the recipient creeks, scarcely leaving a witness of their visit, either as running brook, clear spring, or stagnant pool, a few days, perhaps a few hours, after. The aborigines say that the climate has undergone this change since white-man came in country. ”

http://trove.nla.gov.au/: The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser, Wednesday 11 March 1846

And so history repeats. The climate is always changing and it’s always blamed on target number one, whomever that may happen to be. If it wasn’t the witches, it mustv’e been the whites.

That said, the Aboriginals may possibly have had a point. On a regional scale, the little skeptic points out that European land development may affect local weather patterns:

“Australian native vegetation holds more moisture, than broadacre crops and improved pastures, and this moisture evaporates and recycles back as rainfall and also helps raise humidity. It also reflects less shortwave solar radiation into space, and this process keeps the surface temperature cooler and aids cloud formation.”

Though I’m not sure how much land-clearing had been done by 1846. I suspect it was minor.

Hat tip: Roberto Soria (who also  wrote the ARC grant post recently).

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