Tony Abbott Damming Up the Country

The only conclusion that I can draw is that Tony Abbott and a team of geniuses, work through the wee hours of the night to put together ridiculous plans so that people have something to deconstruct. I mean, no-one could intentionally be so misinformed and be in a position to ask Australians to vote for them as Prime Minister, could they?

Shallow pools of fresh water going to waste
Shallow pools of fresh water going to waste

Yes, water management on an arid continent such as Australia is important. I’ve always questioned the fury from NSW and Queensland farmers in response to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, when it is they who then cover their land with a few inches of water, a large shallow pool, begging to be evaporated, to grow cotton and rice in the dry interior.

However, are dams really the option?

We know that with increasing climate change there is a high chance for drying conditions (Liu et al., 2013). Unlike increasing sun activity, which affects the planet with heat loading disproportionately, an increasing greenhouse effect is likely to increase the heterogeneity of the atmosphere. Basically, it becomes more stable, reducing the potential for your typical rainfall (Liu et al., 2013). That isn’t to say anything about the intensity of storms – a warmer atmosphere can “hold” more water.

So, while we do have a problem already with the boom and bust cycle of Australia, changing between drought and flooding rain, we can expect an increasing amount of water instability the longer we do next to nothing to mitigate anthropogenic climate change.

Abbott is excited to let us know that his team are dabbling with the idea of adding as much as 100 new dams to help with this water insecurity, which will also increase food production and hydro-power production.

Here’s the problem.

Flooding land, covered with biomass (which will die as part of the inundation) provides a nice environment for anaerobic respiration. In short, dams are wonderfully good at producing the potent greenhouse gase, methane (Kemenes et al., 2007). As a side note, this is another issue I have; the sudden new “wetlands” developed as part of every new suburb also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions in much the same way.

So we have a situation where water insecurity is exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change and the Coalition’s plan to help this water insecurity is to increase water capture via methodology that will inevitably exacerbate anthropogenic climate change.

If Australia collectively votes for this party with the coming election, with such wacky logic on the table, surely, are we not eligible as a contender for the Darwin Award?


Liu, J., Wang, B., Cane, M.A., Y, S., and, Lee, J. (2013) Divergent global precipitation changes induced by natural versus anthropogenic forcing. Nature. 493. DOI: 10.1038/nature11784

Kemenes, A., Forsberg, B.R., and, Melack, J.M. (2007) Methane release below a tropical hydroelectric dam. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2007GL02476


5 thoughts on “Tony Abbott Damming Up the Country

  1. Thanks for raising this new example of idiocy.

    Another problem with dams is the impact on flow through the water course and the consequences for flora and fauna, salinity, water tables etc etc. Plus the longer term impact on settlement patterns and development (towns, farms etc).

    And 100 of them? Where in Australia will he be siting them? What rivers is he going to ruin? How big will the dams be? Which ones for hydro and which ones for drought-proofing? Is the drought-proofing for potable water or for irrigation? What about flood mitigation?

    It’s proven almost impossible to get consensus on the Murray-Darling. Just imagine the impact on any hopes for a national water strategy would be – torn into such tiny pieces it would be virtually impossible to put anything together.

    If Abbott gets to implement crazy policies like this one we are all doomed.


    1. All great points. Abbott pretends to be about the environment, but any quick analysis on anything he says about any environmental issue demonstrates quite the opposite. He’s clueless on environmental issues, climate change and natural resource management.

      I’ve got a report that I’ll go live with in the very near future where I look at his Direct Action Plan. Needless to say, no fine toothed comb was required to do simply mathematics and show how ridiculous his plan is.


      1. I’ll be interested in your analysis, Moth. I did a quick and dirty some time ago and figured that the plan would require a huge chunk of existing farmland, and that didn’t allow for the negative impact of droughts, fires and floods. Even if they were able to co-opt sufficient farmers, the monitoring cost alone would take a huge chunk out of taxpayer funds and pose logistical challenges (soil sample collection, testing etc and what they do in years when the soil emits carbon instead of storing it!).

        I get the impression that Hunt and Abbott didn’t look at the proportion of suitable land vs the size of the country, or give much thought to how the proposal would be managed in practice. Soil carbon sequestration has a lot going for it, but I can’t see it working on the scale or in the way it’s proposed in the Direct Action Plan on the time scales they propose.


  2. Another example of “direct action” resulting in a massive government intervention and wasting tax payer dollars. The irony is too much to ignore…


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