Whilst acknowledging the limitations of what we can do directly to reduce our global warming, we nonetheless desperately need to use what influence we have with other world leaders to get real global action on global warming. How can we do this?
Our government needs to stop hiding behind the excuse that we are only responsible for 1.07% of global emissions when in fact we are the third largest producer and exporter of coal in the world – which can be translated into an overall responsibility for a very large slice (perhaps up to 6%) of global carbon emissions.
If this fact was acknowledged then we would be duty bound to do more in the fight to keep the global temperature within the required 1.5% of pre-industrial levels. Although we are by no means the only country in the world experiencing widespread drought and catastrophic bushfires, our experience of doing so provides us with the credentials to argue on the world stage that global warming is the biggest threat we have not faced up to in our lifetime. This would represent a complete change from our current position of arguing for things like using credits from Kyoto to make us look better than we really are.
Australia now is in the same position as the Pacific Island nations were recently when they asked our government to take more action on climate change to help them mitigate the effects of rising sea levels. Our government dismissed their requests with a degree of arrogance. We are now facing catastrophic conditions which are being substantially caused by wealthy nations and vested interests around the globe and like the Pacific Islanders we now need global assistance. Rather than stand with those nations who are not taking the action that is required of them, Australia has an opportunity right now to show leadership on global climate policy.
Then we have to call out those governments that are getting in the way of meaningful action, countries like Brazil and (with apologies to the American fire fighters who are currently assisting us) the USA (at least their President). Former fire chief (and current front-line voluntary fire fighter) Greg Mullins makes a good point when he compares our moral obligations re climate change to those when Australia campaigned globally to defeat apartheid even though we were only responsible for 0% of its application in South Africa.
For us to be in a position to take such action we need to firstly put our own house in order and that means we need a credible and bi-partisan climate and energy policy – hard to achieve with our current batch of politicians. Perhaps the only way to actually achieve this is to remove the issue from the political arena and appoint a panel of experts, including a strong representation of scientists and other experts, to formulate policy and oversee our position going forward.
It is time to get serious. Time for our government to stop pandering to the fossil fuel industry; time to stop listening to the climate denialists (including those in its own party); time to start listening to the vast majority of credible scientists; time to stop grabbing for every opportunity to blame others (the “greenies” – who are they actually?); time to stop using climate strategy for political advantage; time to accept responsibility and time to show leadership both here and on the world stage. Please let’s do so before time runs out.