My name is Peter Gardner and I call myself a climate emergency activist. I have lived in the Omeo district for forty years and am now retired to Bairnsdale.*
The notice for the “Climate Action Day” from Get Up said: “This is your chance to be part of something huge, something important. On Sunday we will stand together with tens of thousands of Australians across the country and demand our nation do better on climate change. When history looks back, we will be remembered for how we responded to this challenge. Historians will write about two groups. Those who took action, and those who remained silent.”
Climate science is one of the most complicated subjects on earth. I urge you to trust the scientists rather than the politicians in this matter. In a highly specialised society much of what we do is based on trust. We trust the pilot when we fly. We trust our doctors when we consult them. So unless you are curious about all the detail – and there’s plenty of that with five peer reviewed articles published on climate science daily around the world – here are the three things you need to know about climate change.
First the Greenhouse effect is a physical law like gravity. It was discovered in the 1820s and it keeps the earth warm. Without the greenhouse effect the earth would be 30 degrees cooler – a ball of ice and snow. Second methane and carbon dioxide are the main greenhouse gases. They are in effect the earth’s thermostat – increase them and the temperature rises and vice versa. Third since the industrial revolution we have been turning up the earth’s thermostat – from about 280ppm to 400ppm of carbon dioxide and it is getting measurably warmer.**
The land here at the Jetty was last the ocean front between 10 and 20 thousand years ago. It is a sobering thought that this may be the ocean front again in as little as one to two hundred years. When the carbon dioxide concentrations were last at 400 ppm – about 3 million years ago in the Pliocene age – earth’s average temperature was 2 to 3 degrees warmer and sea levels were about 25m higher.
Steven Sherwood of the UNSW in the New Scientist of 17.11.12 summarised our dilemma of burning fossil fuels. He said: “It looks like if we fully ‘develop’ all of the world’s coal, tar sands, shales and other fossil fuels we run a high risk of ending up in a few generations with a largely unliveable planet.” James Hansen formerly of NASA argues that exploiting all fossil fuels will lead to a “different, practically uninhabitable planet” by causing a “low-end runaway greenhouse effect” and “that the large climate change from burning all fossil fuels would threaten the biological health and survival of humanity”…. It would appear that the situation is far worse than we are being told. (To be continued)
*Get Up Climate Action Day 17.11.2013
** CO2 levels now around 420ppm