Australian news, and some related international items

Climate emergency is here, whatever the election result – Editorial -The Age

Whatever the election result, we must tackle climate emergency   May 11, 2019  Election 2019 is in its final week – and for many people that will be a relief.

Many voters have switched off from politics and been disengaged from the campaigning, which may be one reason why almost 2 million people have already voted.

But beyond the usual photo set-ups and faux outrage during the campaign, an issue of fundamental importance has gained greater prominence across the nation: climate change.  It has become one of the fastest-rising issues of concern for Australians, as it has in many countries. Just over a week ago, the British parliament became the first in the world to declare a ‘‘climate emergency’’, and students across the globe have protested about the lack of action from all governments.

In Australia the issue has gained momentum on the back of relentless drought and a North Queensland flood in early February that killed tens of thousands of livestock and wildlife. A lack of coherent and effective policy on managing our waterways has also been blamed for the death of millions of fish in the Darling River near Menindee.

Last week we received another grim warning: a global report on biodiversity said 1 million species around the world face extinction. The 2019 report for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services revealed the pace of destruction was as much as 100 times faster than the natural rate over the past 10 million years.

Few mainstream politicians in Australia deny that climate change is real. So why is there not enough being done about it? The main point of contention centres around the argument that given whatever Australia does in isolation will make negligible difference, why take risks on harming the local economy?

The obvious counter to that is that Australia is and must be a global citizen. We are all in this together and Australia must pull its weight. And we, like the rest of the world, must act now.

This paper has long argued for urgent action to bring down Australia’s emissions and to prepare the economy for a cleaner future.

In his landmark review of the impact of climate change in 2006, economist Sir Nicholas Stern warned governments to make the changes early or pay a much steeper price later. His analysis – updated in 2008 – was that ignoring climate change was many times more expensive than fixing it.

Australia did not heed his advice.

Climate action became nothing more than a political weapon for the Tony Abbott-led Coalition, especially through its attacks on the carbon-abatement scheme introduced by the Gillard government – a scheme that saw the country’s emissions fall.

According to the last report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018, we have only 12 years to halve emissions – and almost eliminate them by 2050 – to keep the rise in temperature around 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Exceeding 2 degrees could trigger irreversible tipping points.

“There is nothing opaque about this new data,’’ Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief said. ‘‘The illustrations of mounting impacts, the fast-approaching and irreversible tipping points are visceral versions of a future that no policy-maker could wish to usher in or be responsible for.”

To do nothing, then, abrogates our and every government’s responsibility to future generations.

Whatever the result of this Saturday’s federal poll, our elected politicians would do well to emulate their British counterparts. A united approach to tackling this emergency is needed. The time for shallow partisan politics has long past.

Our future depends on it.

May 13, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming

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