According to the Old Testament, Noah built an ark because there was too much rain. In Australia they’re building one because there hasn’t been enough.

Following a series of extreme heatwaves and lack of rain, New South Wales a faces a "potential fish Armageddon", according to NSW Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall who has just approved a $6.8 million fish restocking programme.

Jumping in with both feet

Earlier this year, at the height of the Australian summer, around a million fish were found dead in the Darling River, in NSW. Their deaths were caused by a combination of heatwave conditions – drought, falling river levels and algal blooms that starved the water of oxygen.

The decomposing fish further worsened the situation by polluting the river even more. Eventually, a 40km stretch of the Darling had to be cleared of their remains.

To safeguard fish populations in the Darling River, such as the Murray Cod, the Trout Cod and the Golden Perch, the NSW state government is rescuing fish from the affected areas to house them in safe, sustainable conditions until the rivers are once again inhabitable.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

The Darling River
Image: Mattinbgn

Work to get the waterways ready involves artificial aeration, oxygenation and chemical treatments to improve water quality, plus the allocation of more people to the grim task of rapidly removing dead fish in the event of further mass deaths.

Can’t stand the heat

Extreme heat is becoming increasingly common in Australia. Between 1951 and 1980, “very high monthly maximum temperatures” occurred around 2% of the time. But between 2003–2017, they were seen 12% of the time, according to the Bureau of Meteorology

Australia has warmed just over 1ºC since 1910
Image: Australian Bureau of Meteorology

“We’re expecting temperatures over 40ºC ... so once again I’d encourage everyone to take the risk of heat related illness seriously,” NSW Health’s Director of Environmental Health, Dr Richard Broome, said in January.

During last summer’s heat waves even elite athletes were affected, with Andrea Petkovic collapsing during her first-round match at the Australian Open tennis tournament, and the Tour Down Under cycle race being shortened by almost 30km due to the heat.