Feb 4, 2005

Too many uncertainties to justify complacency


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 4 February 2005

Overnight a 3 day conference of leading scientists from 30 nations concluded and the evidence they presented should shake the Howard Government out of their irresponsible complacency about the threats associated with human-induced climate change.

The Conference entitled, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, was organised by the British Government as part of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s push to make climate change a priority during his presidency of the G8.

Evidence presented at the Conference included:

  • The de-glaciation of Greenland may be triggered by only 2.7 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature. Such an occurrence would increase sea levels by 7m and have enormous implications for coastal cities. Many Pacific island states would disappear. (Source: UK Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, University of Reading, German Alfred-Wegener-Institute, Free University of Brussels, University of Southampton)
  •  Temperatures in the Arctic are rising two to three times faster than the global average causing the ice cover to retreat. These changes not only threaten local animal species, but have implications for sea levels and global biodiversity as local habitats for migratory species disappear. (Source: Tonje Folkestad, et al) 
  • It is estimated that between 15 and 37 percent of species across parts of Australia, Brazil, Europe, Mexico and South Africa could be "committed to extinction" as a result of climate change. (Source: John Lanchbery, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)
  • By 2050, 150 million "environmental refugees" may have fled coastlines vulnerable to raising sea levels, storms or floods, or agricultural land that became too arid to cultivate due to changed rainfall patterns. In India alone, there could be 30 million people displaced by persistent floods, while a sixth of Bangladesh could be permanently lost as a result of rising seas levels or land subsidence. (Source: Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)
  • A 2 degrees Celsius increase in global temperature could place between two and three billion people at risk of water shortages. (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research)

These are the very real risks we are inviting if we do not take radical action to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Thanks to the Howard Government Australia’s performance at reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been appalling. Emissions from the energy sector are projected to rise by 40-50% over 1990 levels by 2010 and in the transport sector by 60-70% over 1990 levels.

Precisely because of the magnitude of this challenge, we do not have the luxury of delaying action any longer. If we do not start make these radical changes today, the world we leave to our children and grandchildren will be in worst shape than the one we inherited.