Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Will run-away climate change make drought permanent?
According to a new study funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF) which appeared in the 20 July 2007 issue of the journal "Science",
"Overwhelming odds point to global average temperatures that will rise 4 to 7 degrees over the coming century, according to a new probability analysis by scientists in the United States and Europe. As early as 2030 the planet is likely to heat up 1 to 2 degrees, say the scientists. A one-degree temperature rise was observed over the past century."
Most scientists argue that we need to stabilise global temperature rises at or below 2 degrees Celsius to stop irreversible climate change which could threaten the very basis of our survival. 2 degrees Celsius may not sound like much, however, this refers to mean global temperature rise. Many areas of the globe will experience far greater temperature changes.
In South-Eastern Australia, many inland areas are already experiencing even greater temperature rises. In the region around Canberra, minimum average temperatures over recent years have risen by several degrees Celsius while maximum average temperatures have risen by up to two degrees compared to hundred-year averages. At the same time, rainfall levels of recent years were around 50 per cent or less of the 100 year average rainfall for the region.
The head of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and other Australian water and weather experts warned this week that we may need to stop talking about the ongoing dry weather condition as a severe drought as this may be the new normal weather.
We are clearly not facing the THREAT of climate change, we are already in the middle of a climate change crisis!
Yet, does that compel politicians at any level of government to act?
At the local level, many regional Councils continue to foster unsustainable housing developments as if there was endless water available. They pay lip service to climate change issues but do not consider it at all when debating and approving development applications.
At the state level, the NSW government is considering building coal fired power stations as if more carbon pollution is not an issue. At the same time, the NSW government has now let their carbon trading scheme falter.
At the federal level, the Australian government has done all it could to hinder international efforts to curb carbon emissions by refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Ten years ago, Australia's renewable energy sector was leading the world. Today, some companies have left Australia and are now investing overseas as the Federal Government has failed to create the framework necessary to allow renewable technologies to compete with polluting energy industry giants. Now, the Howard government talks about undefined "aspirational targets" at a time when we need really tough targets. We even need targets much tougher than even the 60 per cent reduction promised by the European Union. George Monbiot convincingly argues that we need to reduce emissions in developed countries by 90 per cent to stop run-away climate change. If only we had started acting when scientists first alerted us the issue of climate change over twenty years ago! And why don't we act now, immediately, without delay?
Instead, on every level we see governments that put a lot of effort into creating the perception that they are doing something to tackle climate change when really they are still not all that interested.
Yet, in a democracy, governments are accountable to their people. It is time the people demand action and vote for politicians who are likely to deliver real progress in tackling climate change. It is also time we all start doing our bit.
It is easy to blame governments. However, as long as we, the people, believe that we have a right to live in abundant luxury, eat fancy food imported from all over the world, live in over-sized houses, drive polluting cars, buy new clothes for every season and travel around the world just for fun, we are no different to the politicians who represent us.