I am concerned about the fact that urgent action is needed to address climate change. My principal concerns are for the future of the human race and for this country, particularly younger generations who will need to live with the devastating effects of climate change resulting from climate inaction of this, and previous, governments.
The science is clear: atmospheric carbon must be reduced this decade if we are to have any chance of minimising rising temperatures and avoiding more extreme weather events with increasing frequency. It is worth reading the Climate Council ‘Aim High, Go Fast’ report (https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resmyces/net-zero-emissions-plummet-decade/) which explains the urgency of taking effective action. What is genuinely alarming is that the mechanism was first revealed by Eunice Foote in 1856 and John Tyndall in 1861: yes, well over a century ago. The impact on the world’s average temperature was made clear by Nobel Prize-winner Svante Arrhenius in 1896: also more than a century ago.
Australia has, for the past 20 years, been concerned about people turning up here to seek protection from persecution. If we don’t help other countries defeat (or at least minimize) the impact of climate change, we are bound to find that lots of people come here to escape the impact of climate change: either because sea-level rise has made their country unliveable, or has made it disappear, or because climate change has made healthy survival impossible for them. But although we call them “climate refugees”, they will not fit within the current definition of “refugee”.
At that point, we will be forced to face directly what sort of people we are.
With COP26 scheduled in Glasgow Oct 31 – Nov 12 this year, Australia has an opportunity to regain some credibility by making a strong commitment to effective climate action. But it is still uncertain whether our Prime Minister will join other world leaders and attend. Sadly, he seems wedded to the idea that climate change is not the concern that most scientists say it is. He has a deputy PM who would prefer to ignore climate change rather than lose jobs in the fossil fuel industry.
What we need is a commitment from the Federal Government for a national plan to significantly reduce carbon emissions this decade, with strong targets that at minimum match our key allies the United States, the United Kingdom and trading partners such as the European Union and Japan. If the present government actually cares for this country, it should make that commitment.
Most politicians, if told that the plane they are about to board has a 90% chance of crashing before it arrives, would not board it. Most politicians rely on mobile phones, which work because of science. But most politicians ignore the science of climate change, and ignore the fires and floods which are warnings. We deserve better.
We have all heard the mantra ‘technology not taxes’ for some time. But we have not seen a clear plan to develop and implement the many technologies known to be effective in reducing atmospheric carbon emissions. An effective plan would include:
- 100% renewable energy (and energy storage) by 2030
- A national plan to facilitate a shift to electric vehicles for personal and light commercial use, and technologies using renewable energy appropriate for heavy vehicles
- An end to public funding for coal, oil and gas
- A clear plan to reduce climate pollution by drawing down CO2 by at least 1 billion tonnes by 2030.
The Climate Works report “Decarbonisation Futures” (https://www.climateworksaustralia.org/resmyce/decarbonisation-futures-solutions-actions-and-benchmarks-for-a-net-zero-emissions-australia/) outlines many existing and future zero-emissions technologies. Australia can achieve a decarbonised economy by responsibly implementing these technologies. There are significant commercial opportunities in terms of jobs, economic growth and export markets if the transition is responsibly executed.
Australia cannot defeat climate change by itself; but it can set a global example. Australia should take the lead in implementing these technologies to maximise their potential benefits and make the most of our technical, mineral and intellectual capital.
The need for immediate action in relation to greenhouse gases has never been more obvious and urgent than it is now.
The future of the human race depends on how we respond.