(This is part 1 of an updated version of an article I published in the Palerang and District Bulletin in May 2008). Part 2; Part 3.
Climate change is happening faster than previously anticipated. Many climate scientists now warn that we may have less than a decade to prevent more severe weather events, sea level rises of several metres, and the loss of up to fifty per cent of native animal and plant species in some areas.
In response national governments are putting a price on carbon emissions, either with carbon taxes or emissions trading schemes. The Rudd Government has chosen the latter and has set itself the highly ambitious schedule of having the scheme up and running by 2010.
Meanwhile, the scientific and political understanding of impacts has become much clearer since Mr. Rudd’s election promise to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.
Economist Ross Garnaut was called in to analyse the likely economic impacts of various responses and now calls for emissions reductions of 90 per cent – partly on the analysis that doing less will ultimately be far more costly.
Some scientists believe not even that is enough. For example, NASA’s Dr James Hansen calls for emission reductions of greenhouse gases above 100 per cent as the world is already beyond what he considers to be a “safe” threshold of 350 ppm of CO2-equivalent in the atmosphere. That means we not only have to stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere, we also have to make a concerted effort to sequester the carbon already emitted, for example through massive tree plantings and carbon sequestration technologies.
Clearly, it is high time we stop talking about reducing emissions and actually start acting at a large scale now. And sorry Mr Rudd, but 60 per cent emissions reductions by 2050 simply is not good enough.
Continue reading: What is emissions trading?