Extremes of Nature – Australia’s Stake

by Guy Hallowes

Extremes of Nature

The term climate change has attracted controversy from polarised opinions on issue but whatever the phrasing appointed there can be no denying the extremes of nature are increasing both in frequency and ferocity.

Author, Guy Hallowes, addresses Australia (a land synonymous with extremes) in a call to action that acknowledges our role and stake in implementing effective measures for climate change.

Australian climate change policy is now in a muddle because Tony Abbot successfully politicised the climate change debate; it helped get him elected. This action resulted in the abandonment of the bi-partisan approach agreed between Labor and the Liberals in 2009.

As a consequence, currently, Australia has no effective climate change strategy. The direct action policy of the Liberal party is a short term sop to the community and has been condemned worldwide as useless. The Palmer United Party’s contribution merely establishes a negotiating position. The Greens seem to have withdrawn from the discussion.

Both major parties agreed that a 5% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020 should be the target. Unfortunately this achieves nothing! To be effective the figure needs to be nearer a 20% reduction. The bottom line is that on this issue we are going nowhere fast.

The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report confirms that Australia is not doing anything like enough to combat climate change. According to the IPCC the major effects of the relentless progress of climate change on Australia will be the destruction of coral reefs; lower crop yields, especially wheat and maize; violent conflicts elsewhere in the world increasing the number of refugees wanting to come to Australia; an increase in heatwaves, floods and droughts; water insecurity and a rise in sea levels resulting in inundation of coastal infrastructure. Most of this is starting to happen already. Are we, in Australia, doing enough to mitigate the on-going and inevitable change to our climate? No we are not.

According to the IPCC report, warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Human influence on the Climate System is clear. The World’s human population has increased from two billion to seven billion since 1940, most of the increase in the third world. The third world has aspirations to a first world standard of living with the first world’s much higher use of resources and consequent higher CO2 emissions. So the pressure is relentless.

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases at current levels will cause further warming. In order to avoid catastrophe the average worldwide temperature increase needs to be kept to less that 2% above pre-industrial levels (i.e. since 1750). To achieve this Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions should not exceed 450 parts per million. A level of 430 had already been achieved by 2011, and emissions are continuing to increase, so the chances of achieving this are non-existent. With current international settings the likelihood of CO2 emissions far exceeding the above levels is very high. This will result in average world temperature increases of anything up to 7.8%. Temperature increases of above 2% will result in catastrophic changes throughout the world.

Anecdotal observations confirm what the scientists are telling us. In past months we have seen more frequent extreme weather events covering all parts of the globe. This year the Polar Vortex in North America has produced the coldest and most devastating winter in living memory. At the same time California is suffering from a severe drought! The UK has experienced the most damaging floods for more than sixty years covering large swathes of Southern England. At the same time the Europeans are saying: ‘We had no winter this year’.

Another report, published recently, confirmed that Greenland’s enormous Ice Sheet is contracting at about fifty metres a year, contributing to a continuing rise in sea levels.

The advent of bushfires in Australia has doubled between 2000 and 2011 compared to the previous eleven years and this takes no account of the particularly vicious 2013/2014 bushfire season in Victoria and South Australia. So we can see the consequence of climate change is already happening. It’s all around us.

As a community we need to put pressure on Government to take on board the reality of the threat that climate change represents and put into place policies that really address the issues. Australia needs to take leadership on this issue; the effect of climate change on Australia will be worse than in most other countries. Helping to convince the world to act now will in the end cost less than waiting for an expensive catastrophe.

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Guy Hallowes
Sydney-based Guy Hallowes is the author of Icefall (Shot Stop Press, $29.99), an environmental thriller dealing with the consequences of climate change.
Guy Hallowes

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