Skip navigation

Tim Flannery is regularly held up for ridicule amongst the Climate Change denialist community with the most common accusation made against him being that he is an alarmist.

Frequently this crticism is extended to state that Flannery is an unhinged doomsday prophet: a religious nutcase devoted to the Gaia hypothesis who thinks that the world is a gigantic human being.

When either of those accusations are made, references to Flannery’s supposed failed predictions of doom in relation to major Australian capitals are wheeled out and the continued survival of those capitals with reference to the abundance of drinking water available to them is juxatposed in order to show that Flannery is detached from reality and that therefore Anthopogenic Climate Change is not occurring.

I have rebutted the arguments against Flannery here and here.

In relation to Perth, the accusation against Flannery is that in 2004 he supposedly predicted the immediate collapse and abandonment of that city in the face of reduced rainfall bought about by AGW. Here’s the party line bought by James Patterson of the Institute For Public Affairs in an undated article which appears to have been written in about 2011:

In 2004 [Flannery] predicted that ‘Perth will be the 21st century’s first ghost metropolis.’ The following year, he said that Sydney could run out of water in as little as two years.

Undaunted by that botched prediction, he tried again in 2007, saying Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane would ‘need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months.’

Undeterred by their failure to dry-out, Flannery was at it again in 2008, arguing that ‘the water problem for Adelaide is so severe that it may run out of water by early 2009.’ Of course, even amid a severe drought, none of these cities have met Flannery’s doomsday scenarios.

Patterson, writing in 2010/2011, excoriates Flannery because Perth is not yet abandoned, following Flannery’s 2004 statements, but ignores or does not realise that Flannery’s remarks about Perth were made in relation to likely events over a 50 year time period, not a six or seven year time period.

Step Trend

In particular Flannery noted that the deterioration in rainfall catchment in Perth is occurring as a step trend with approximately 20 years between each step (not as immediate cessation as block-headedly insinuated by Bolt

[Flannery] said climate change tended to move in steps. In 1976, when the first step occurred, the south-western corner of Western Australia lost 20 per cent of its rainfall, and its catchment fell from 340 gigalitres to 111 gigalitres. The average is now 160 gigalitres. In 1998, when the second step occurred, the world experienced the worst El Nino effect and the death of 17 per cent of its coral reefs. South-eastern Australia was hit by drought.

Noting declining rainfall catchment across Australia’s capitals, Flannery became an advocate for desalination plants.

Given the intensity of contempt poured out at Flannery from the denialiatariat, it was interesting to see that The Australian, the most important organ for dissemination of denialist viewpoints in this country, published on October 3rd this year an article confirming Flannery’s statements on the situation with Perth’s water catchment and showing the strong contribution now made to Perth’s water supply by desalination. The article is called ‘Dam Buster Water Works’ by Nicolas Perpitch.

The article contains a chart showing Perth’s rainfall catchment from 1911 to 2012 and clearly highlights the step-trend described by Flannery, showing steps commencing at 1975 and 1998 with a mini-step at 2004 and 2012 on track for the lowest catchment since 1914. This backs up Flannery’s statements.

A further graphic shows that desalination contributes one-third of Perth’s water, expected to increase to 50% by December 2012. This contribution is essential in conserving Perth’s water supply as dam levels are at about 33% and the major aquifer system, the Gnangara Mound has been raided beyond sustainable levels in the face of a very dry year this year.

The subtitle to the article is ‘Long-term declining rainfall has pushed Perth to the brink of a crisis’, which words echo Flannery and notes a long-term trend of declining rainfall and increasing population which is completely unsustainable without major desalination works, again echoing Flannery.

Science Supports Flannery Again

Perpitch’s article makes plain that far from Flannery being a religious fruitcake, his comments on rainfall catchment in Australia’s capitals are supported by science and responsible planning by city administrations.

Why else would Colin Barnett, Liberal Party Premier of Western Australia and hardly a deep-green afficionado of One World Government, support the proposal to pump water to Perth from the Kimberley region ?

It is inevitable that water in West Australia’s far north will eventually be channelled to the south, Premier Colin Barnett says. Mr Barnett said that while the Kimberley continues to become wetter and the south becomes drier, it is certain that water will be pumped from the north some time in the future.

Barnett is obviously reading the reports of his engineers and scientists and acting in accordance with them and Flannery’s recommendations as Campbell Newman did in Brisbane. One can only hope the denialatariat catches on.


One Comment

    • csteddy
    • Posted July 5, 2017 at 4:54 am
    • Permalink

    And now the water authority is doubting that we’ll get as little as 25 billion litres runoff from our dams and that our dams are redundant. If it wasn’t for the desal plants Perth would already be a ghost city.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] Of course, Flannery’s statements about the step trend decline in Perth’s water catchment and the inevitability of its exhaustion are fully supported by rainfall and catchment data (i.e. the real world) and by Perth’s city planners including Liberal Premier Colin Barnett. See here. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: