In the face of so much scientific evidence of global warming, it’s a puzzle as to why the basic arguments continue. Is the climate really changing? Can we prevent it? Does it matter?
We debate whether this summer’s devastating bushfires are ‘caused’ by climate change. No, of course they are not; Australia has always had bushfires, and single events don’t prove or disprove trends. But the increase in their frequency and severity in recent years is clearly a symptom of a changing climate, and it is a change that we would be better off without.
Conversely, certain newspaper columnists have chuckled over the fate of the climate scientists stuck in Antarctic ice. They present this as “proof” that the polar icecaps are not melting after all, but conveniently ignore the fact that ice floes must melt and break up in order to move around and reform – in this case, unfortunately around the ship where the scientists were observing the process.
Meanwhile, the new government seems unconcerned that no one believes its policies can achieve its current modest emissions reduction target.
It seems irrational to continue to ignore the changing climate – or to deny the need for action – even though it is a big emotional leap to reject what we grew up with: our history, our values, our way of life, our understanding of science. Fossil fuels have brought comfort, convenience and prosperity to many millions in the past couple of centuries. Many of our parents and grandparents have worked hard in those industries to make a living for themselves and their families. No one can, or should, deny that.
But now that we have discovered the downside of it all, it’s time to move on. Just as we used to burn coal and oil to make the world better, now we can build wind farms and solar thermal power stations, and line our roofs with solar PV arrays. We can use modern technology and renewable resources, creating new jobs to achieve the same comfort and convenience, without the downside. This is something we should do for our own children and grandchildren. We should be searching for more sustainable answers to local transport and domestic energy efficiency.
Of course, fossil fuel companies have a huge investment in the old technology and governments are scared of upsetting them. But now, every year that passes without reducing emissions means more we must inevitably reduce. We won’t achieve the changes without strong government leadership, but as Gandhi said, “When the people lead, leaders will follow.”
Words: Dominic Case, Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle.
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