04 October 2007

Australia and climate change: The official story

A definitive government study on Australian climate change was published 2 October 2007. The report is entitled (imaginatively enough...) “Climate Change in Australia”. A link to the complete report can be found here. The report is written by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

It is interesting to see some of the headlines and the different emphases that the various parts of the country take in their coverage. It is a comprehensive report.

In some ways, the individual news reports all say the one thing: Warming 'inevitable' in Australia. Some prominent Australians don't believe it, but previous readers will know my thoughts on climate change in Australia. Climate change isn't a future problem, it's a here-and-now problem. Hopefully we are not underestimating the unexpected pace and magnitude of change, as much as recent observations of say, polar climate change (particularly the Arctic cryosphere), would suggest we are.

Despite the inevitability of some warming, it is not too late to mitigate the worse effects. But we need to act now. Just because John Howard thinks that any contribution we make towards GHG reduction is worthless (see endnote) doesn't mean it is true. Australian of the Year Tim Flannery has some sound advice on what we should (and realistically could) actually be done to at least prevent some of the worse effects.

Some of the political reactions to the report have been interesting throwbacks. One Liberal Senator is apparently concerned about the Yellow Peril and advocates extensive colonization of the north, particularly “the remote and largely unsettled Top End” to keep other (apparently disease-ridden) migrants and/or climate refugees out. As for the Cape York Peninsula, “Half is locked up as national park and more or less unsupervised Indigenous land," he said,”...it's only a canoe ride across to Papua New Guinea”.

Terra Nullius all over again.

We do have a say and a chance. The federal election is coming soon. Make the environment a top priority in deciding your vote. The rumor is that a change in government will result in Australia signing the Kyoto Protocol. There is hope. But it is time for us to give up our unsustainable ways. It is likely going to crash soon anyway as the global financial situation is grim. Act now for future generations, and for ourselves.


Specifically, Howard notes

Australia contributes only 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which when compared to China’s greenhouse gas emissions, are an extremely small percentage globally. If Australia was to close down all of its power stations tonight, the savings in greenhouse gas emissions would be replaced by the growth in China's energy sector emissions in less than 12 months.

Mr. Howard (and the next PM), it's not about tit-for-tat. It's about leading by example. If we sign, it puts pressure on the Americans. If they sign, China will likely follow. The path of least resistance might be easy, but is it moral? Is it the right thing to do?

1 comment:

Megan over at Imaginif said...

Howard may well posit that nothing we do will make a difference but I choose to do something.
We have change light bulbs, reuse grey water, switched to solar (even decorating the house for Christmas with all solar) and don't flush yellow.
Here via the Carnival of Australia. Thanks for joining us and hope to see you at next fortnight's edition.