News & Media Opinion Pieces Climate change action in Australia- Go back to Go

Climate change action in Australia- Go back to Go

Two weeks of shame
This is a personal opinion but probably reflects the majority of our members some of whom have written to us saying they are “ashamed” -Editor

In the past two weeks, climate change action in Australia is a tale of infamy. Two State premiers took a chainsaw to State targets and renewable energy intended to reduce greenhouse emissions saying that there were now Federal measures to reduce emissions (carbon tax). Yet they support the Federal Opposition’s resolve to demolish the carbon tax. The hypocrisy was breathtaking. The Queensland premier excelled himself in this crusade by instructing the senior public servant who developed the emission reduction program to dismantle it! The Victorian premier, not to be outdone in the macho stakes, schemed to mine more brown coal!

These premiers do not wish to recognise that a carbon price can co-exist with other schemes as is evident from Germany. The German story is remarkable with a rapid move to a renewable energy economy in a land with much less natural solar and wind energy than Australia. The technological spinoff is huge and threatens to leave Australia with nothing once the hole in the ground is empty.

The recent EU report on solar thermal energy is comprehensive.  The many functional solar thermal plants in Europe are in stark contrast to Minister Ferguson’s failure to produce a single development.

Climate change is accelerating
At the same time, a spate of reports from other scientific institutions indicated that warming was proceeding faster than expected from earlier IPCC reports, extreme weather events were likely to relate to warming; sea level rise and acidification were faster than previously predicted (World Meteorological Organisation, CSIRO, OECD and the IPCC reports on extreme weather events see references below). Those who cannot believe in climate change are surely left to ponder why insurance claims for extreme weather events have soared around the world.

If you expected a Federal government response to these reports you would have been disappointed. Only Bob Carr stood up.

If you had expected a vigorous response from the AMA and from the venerable Australian Colleges to these portents for human health, you would have been disappointed.

To me the most remarkable scientific observation was on sea level rise. The rise per annum has increased over the past decade to around 3mm per year as measured by satellite. The recent sudden fall of 5mm reported by NASA was remarkable.  This fall can be equated with the huge volume of water deposited on several continents including Australia and now draining back to sea. This is a cogent picture of the increased evaporative energy in play. Listen to John Church

Where does this leave Australia?

In a mess.

One DEA member remarked “We will be left to dig charcoal into the ground.”

Queenslanders are the highest per capita emitters in the world, a status endorsed by the Federal government with approval of one of the world’s largest open-cast coal mines, Waldoan. The approval process and subsequent legal case negated any consideration of greenhouse emissions.

In 2001 the Environmental Health Council reported on Global Environmental Health Management for inclusion in the national EIS process.

“The impact of environmental issues on health extends beyond the local or national level.

Global issues include : climate change (in particular the greenhouse effect), ozone depletion, ocean and air pollution, loss of biodiversity, movement of hazardous products and wastes and the spread of diseases and their vectors.

It is important to recognise that management of our environment and environmental health issues has local, national and international implications. Australians contribute to ocean pollution, greenhouse gas accumulation and ozone depletion. Our health is also impacted upon by global problems.

Australia must – and has – recognised that it is a global citizen with global responsibilities”

This view has been buried deep under the mine slag heaps.

There is a silver lining!
Unexpectedly this comes from the USA.

If you follow the US Press there is a change of attitude probably brought about by a year of storm, flood and drought.

The President has survived incredible adversity from Bank activities, market operations and Republican obstruction but it is possible to see that he has been working away quietly to deliver energy renewal. Legislation, even to remove huge subsidies to the oil industry, is blocked but he is able to use a national instrument to quietly bring change. The centrality and power of the USEPA was established by Richard Nixon (the last reforming Republican!). The action on coal fired emissions is decisive and will reduce mining and health impacts as detailed in the DEA news item on the Victorian Dual gas development.

The USEPA ruling relates to new plants. ‘No new coal fired power” has been a pillar of DEA policy for two years (where are the Colleges and AMA on this health hazard?).

Australia does not have a national EPA and is unlikely to get one if the States have their way. DEA will campaign for one.

David Shearman



Health and Environment Chapter of the OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction,3746,en_2649_37465_49742254_1_1_1_37465,00.html

State of the Climate 2012

IPCC Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)

What’s happening to Australia’s climate?

Germany’s $263 Billion Investment In Renewables Is Biggest Energy Shift Since World War II

Cavalier approach to climate data is infuriating

Scrapping the target won’t solve the problem

The state climate smokescreen

Manmade Climate Change Accelerated In 2001-2010, World Meteorological Organization Reports

Must-Read Trenberth: How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change

Miners might not dig a coal delay, but it makes sense

The end for coal?