Climate change action needed now
Its time we all started pulling together to do something about climate change according to Ross Gittins.
It’s a sore test of faith when people put power bills before their children’s future.
Like most people, I’m an instinctive optimist. In any case, I see no margin in pessimism. If you concluded the world was irredeemably wicked, or destined for certain destruction, what would be left but to curl up and die? Since we can never be certain the end is nigh, much better to keep living and keep plugging away for a better world.
I confess, however, I’ve needed all my optimistic instincts to avoid despair over the terrible hash we’re making of the need to take effective action against global warming. We’re showing everything that’s unattractive about the Australian character.
We pride ourselves that Aussies are good in a crisis, but until the walls start falling in on us we couldn’t reach agreement to shut the door against the cold.
This week’s report from the Climate Commission – established to provide expert advice on the science of climate change and its effects on Australia – tells us nothing we didn’t already know, but everything we’ve lost sight of in our efforts to advance our personal interests at the expense of the nation’s.
Its 70 pages boil down to four propositions we’d rather not think about. First, there is no doubt the climate is changing. The evidence is clear. The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps, and sea levels are rising. Global surface temperature is rising fast; the last decade was the hottest on record.
Second, we are already seeing the social, economic and environmental effects of a changing climate. In the past 50 years, the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwave-associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfires.
Sea level has risen by 20 centimetres globally since the late 1800s, affecting many coastal communities. Another 20-centimetre increase by 2050 is likely, on present projections, which would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.
Third, these changes are triggered by human activities – particularly the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – which are increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with carbon dioxide the most important of these gases.
Fourth, this is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience. Without strong and rapid action, there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine society’s prosperity, health, stability and way of life.
That scientists still need to repeat these long-established truths is a measure of how much we’ve allowed short-sighted and selfish concerns to distract us from the need to respond to a clear and present danger.
In this we haven’t been well served by our leaders. The Labor government’s decline dates from Kevin Rudd’s loss of nerve following the defeat of his carbon pollution reduction scheme in the Senate in late 2009, following the success of the Coalition’s climate