We encourage every Australian reading this post to do what we have done, and actively support the Climate Council of Australia Ltd. You can sign up and donate at: http://www.climatecouncil.org.au
The Climate Council is a not-for-profit organisation set up following the new government’s actions to sack, terminate and/or destroy the framework established by the previous government to start addressing Australia’s obscene levels of carbon omission, and of course, does not receive any money from the Government.
One of the reasons I have taken this action is embarrassment. A couple of weeks ago I was in Copenhagen and visited the Experimentarium with one of our grandchildren. Experimentarium is an independent non-profit science communication centre with the main objective of promoting the interest of natural science and technology to the general public – with particular emphasis on young people.
One of the themes is ‘clean energy’ and the interactive map pictured has weights representing the carbon emission per person in key areas of the world. At 75 kg, Australians are generating 10 kg per person more than Americans and nearly double the emissions of Europeans. We are embarrassingly bad as every child visiting the Experimentarium quickly finds out.
Back in Australia, and within hours of being sworn in as the government, the Luddite party under smasher Abbot seem to be unable to deal with any problem that has no simple answer. From the problems associated with illegal immigrants arriving in boats, to the need to reduce our cities dependence on private cars, to the overall issue of climate change this governments approach is to smash the bodies designed to provide informed debate and lower a veil of secrecy. As a result, some of the most pressing social and economic issues are now ‘off the table’ as far as public debate goes.
Just one example, transportation is the second largest contributor to our greenhouse gas emission and over 90% of that comes from motor vehicles, but smasher Abbot and the Luddites have closed the agency focused on long term improvements in our cities and have stated a preference for more roads over any other option for improving the transportation systems and liveability of our cities. If you want to see how a low net carbon transportation system can work in a city like Melbourne go to Copenhagen.
Similarly, the government’s proposed ‘direct action’ may be better that the carbon tax and it may not – direct action fixes specific problems but relies on the government picking ‘winners’ (and no government as a good track record in this regard). Whereas the carbon tax over time may (and may not) address the attitudes and actions of business and the general population in protecting the environment, our ‘commons’ – if our attitudes and actions don’t change, the Tragedy of the commons will inevitably see the environment degraded to the point of permanent damage. For a brief outline of the theory see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLirNeu-A8I
Overall, the climate situation is not good, we have just completed the warmest September on record, there have been more than 100 heat-related records broken over the past year, and this year is on track to become Australia’s warmest year on record. For a brief overview of the current situation see: CC Latest Report. But despite the data, the government seems intent on avoiding and national debate!
Secrecy is the domain of the weak, the fearful, and the dishonest. Certainly in some areas of public life, national security in particular, being fearful (ie, aware of threats) and keeping secrets is prudent; but these needs have to be offset against a democracies need for informed debate leading to consensus on important issues. And to stimulate a constructive public debate the first need is reliable information.
I would suggest there is no more important debate than the one around the opportunities, threats and challenges associated with climate change. I don’t know the answers, but I do know we need the debate and it needs to be an informed debate leading to consensus and appropriate action. For this reason we are supporting the Climate Council of Australia Ltd and encourage you to join in as well. If Australia is going to stay ‘open for business’ in the long term we need to be proactive and effective in dealing with the inevitable changes and challenges we are all facing.
For additional reading, the Climate Council’s summary of the recent IPCC climate report can be downloaded from here.