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Australia’s Burning, Flooding, Disastrous New Normal

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WAMBOIN, Australia — This is what climate change looks like, Australia style: A viral video, released in early January, of two middle-aged men, one a local farmer, standing knee deep in the stagnant shallows of an outback river, cradling the corpses of two enormous fish.

The river is the Darling, just south of the Menindee Lakes in northwest New South Wales, and the fish are Murray cod, native, iconic and endangered. Given their size, these two could be more than half a century old. Behind the men, who are close to weeping, thousands more fish drift belly-up, asphyxiated in a cold snap that killed the blue-green algae blooming along the river and deprived the water of oxygen. Unprecedented summer temperatures and low water levels produced the algal bloom, which can itself be an indication of a waterway under stress.

In their impassioned accusations against the government authorities tasked with managing the river, neither man mentions climate change. What they do say is that the deliberate emptying of the Menindee Lakes twice in the past four years — in a period of extended drought and rising temperatures — has broken the resilience of the river.

Cut from outback New South Wales, still in the grip of a multiyear drought, to the rains in North Queensland. Instead of dead fish, the images are of drowned cattle, hundreds of animals trapped by the brown tides of rising floodwaters as the monsoonal rainfall that has devastated the coastal city of Townsville in recent weeks moves inland, drowning stock, ruining crops and isolating homesteads.

There is nothing unusual about floods in north Queensland. Every summer, somewhere in the tropical north, a cyclone generates enough rain to inundate the low-lying suburbs of coastal........

© The New York Times