Me and my brother operate a dairy farm in northern Victoria, not far from the Murray river.This drought has been the longest in recorded history for the nation. Like the U.S., the Australian leadership wasn't above denial.
We made the heartbreaking decision to sell half of our herd. Its genealogy can be traced back to the first head of cattle that my father acquired when he started the farm 60 years ago.
The dam that serves the area, the Eildon dam, is at 4.5% capacity at the moment.
Even with the small amount of rain that has fallen recently, it's a case of too little too late. We are in too much debt to be able to buy water or feed.
Our farm is on 410 acres of land and we used to have 185 cows. This year we had only 150 and next year it will be 70.
During the 2002-03 drought, we were able to cut half of our cows by "renting" them to another farmer. He looked after them, but he also got the milk. We call it "cow parking".
We lost about A$1,000 (US$835) for each cow and ended up borrowing A$70,000 (US$58,460) from the bank.
This time round, we collected as much hay as we could, but in February we ran out.
We have probably lost A$150,000 (US$125,271) in revenue this year.
Until a few months ago, Mr Howard and his ministers pooh-poohed the climate-change doomsayers. The Prime Minister refused to meet Al Gore when he visited Australia to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. He was lukewarm about the landmark report by the British economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned that large swaths of Australia's farming land would become unproductive if global temperatures rose by an average of four degrees.Farmers are currently being hit the hardest with the drought, but that won't last long. City and town dwellers are facing water restrictions. Not only that, but the lack of water in farming areas result in fewer crops. This means that food prices will very easily rise.
Faced with criticism from even conservative sections of the media, Mr Howard realised that he had misread the public mood - grave faux pas in an election year. Last month's report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted more frequent and intense bushfires, tropical cyclones, and catastrophic damage to the Great Barrier Reef. The report also said there would be up to 20 per cent more droughts by 2030. And it said the annual flow in the Murray-Darling basin was likely to fall by 10-25 per cent by 2050. The basin, the size of France and Spain combined, provides 85 per cent of the water used nationally for irrigation.
This isn't a problem restricted to Australia alone:
Many of the world's rivers, including the Colorado in America, China's Yellow river and the Tagus, which flows through Spain and Portugal, are suffering a similar plight. As the world warms up, hundreds of millions of people will face the same ecological crisis as the residents of the Murray-Darling basin. As water levels dwindle, rows about how supplies should be used are turning farmers against city-dwellers and pitching environmentalists against politicians. Australia has a strong economy, a well-funded bureaucracy and robust political institutions. If it is struggling to respond to this crisis, imagine how drought will tear apart other, less prepared parts of the world.
Climate change isn't something we need to worry about happening in the future. It is already happening. The time has come for us to acknowledge this and prepare for it. We will be the ones to suffer if the problem continues to be ignored.