10 July 2007

Over the Top Down Under

A lot about climate change and Australia in recent days. Most of it is speculation, but interesting and relevant nonetheless. First, some likely impacts:

North Australian barramundi may be forced to migrate as far south as New South Wales as climate change impacts on sea temperatures.
A central eastern Queensland mine has turned up bat fossils which show climate change has had a negative impact on the state's bat population.
An ecology professor from the University of Tasmania has warned the World Heritage Area in the state's south is under extreme threat from climate change.
Only one of these (the bats) is an observed impact. The other two are speculation. Maybe they won't happen. Shall we hope the Deniers are right and take the chance? I suspect that we are going to. If (and when) it does turn out badly, Australia cannot claim that they were not at least partially to blame. We've led and continue to lead (myself included!) an irresponsible lifestyle.
For a country of just 21 million, Australia has a huge impact on the global ecosphere. Domestically, the CSIRO have just estimated that our less than one third of a per cent of the world's population produces 1.43 per cent of its CO2 (more than 4½ times our share proportionally) and there is much we could and should be doing to address that. Unfortunately, our government has been a standard bearer for the “business as usual” lobby - preferring to deny, delay and dodge any movement to address the issues.
It's not much CO2 in the grand scheme of things, but it is a lot per capita (second highest). There are several problems:
  1. Australia’s reliance on coal for our nation’s energy and its unwillingness to adopt alternative energy sources has contributed greatly to our status as a high carbon emitter.
  2. Australia is also in the unenviable position of being geographically isolated both internationally and domestically. As a result, we rely heavily on high carbon emitting air transport for travel both intra and interstate as well as internationally.
  3. ...[O]ur heavy reliance on livestock both domestically and for export. The impact of livestock in terms of carbon dioxide and methane is something that has received little attention to date but it impacts more on greenhouse gas emissions than travel.
None of these are excuses not to act, though.

Our inaction and lack of leadership continues to harm the global ecosystem, global co-operation and action. We must not continue to use other nation’s lack of action or vastly different circumstances as an excuse not to change our behaviour. By introducing emissions targets along with developing and implementing strategies and technologies to achieve them, we can show leadership in our region. It makes economic and environmental sense.

There is no single strategy that will address all the challenges of climate change, but to have no strategy, is a betrayal of our children and future generations - it is their future we are trashing through our inability or unwillingness to act now.
The last article linked above is an opinion piece by Andrew Bartlett , a member of the Australian Democrats and has been a Senator for Queensland since 1997.

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