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A proxy for the future


Governmental and community denial of the fundamental truths of climate change can’t last forever.

Climate change impacts are going to operate over the long term. That’s why we can’t immediately envisage the danger and it’s why climate change isn’t regarded as being as pressing as balancing the budget or “securing our borders”. It is primarily for this reason that the world has missed opportunity after opportunity to respond appropriately, to the point that it is universally regarded as too late to prevent cascading climate change from occurring. Instead of falling rapidly, worldwide carbon emissions continue to accelerate. This does not mean that we should stop trying to save the environment; the eventual extent of the destruction can yet be ameliorated. But governments and populaces worldwide are deliberately kept in a state of confusion by entrenched interest groups, and confusion allows governments and populations to continue to operate in a state of denial.

At the moment in Australia, denial manifests itself in a “business as usual” approach. The Coalition is busily dismantling anything that conflicts with the idea of status quo – business as usual doesn’t include things like climate commissions, carbon prices or renewable energy research. (For the Coalition, “business as usual” also doesn’t include things like modern broadband, up-to-date healthcare or new ways of doing education either, but that’s another blog post.)

Despite this, there are things that we do now that operate on the same timescale as climate change effects, and these may begin to act as a proxy for the future. Whilst it is possible to take a “business as usual” approach to these things, doing so is neither prudent nor effective for the future.

Case in point: demographic and developmental planning for cities in Australia’s north. Under both Labor and the Coalition, development of the north of Australia is an expectation. Growth in population, increasing urbanisation, technological advance and infrastructure dissemination are a part of governmental planning. But whilst these plans are being laid, cold-eyed scientists are looking at the north of Australia and saying bluntly that, far from developing into a new demographic powerhouse, whole latitudes may need to be abandoned as not suitable for human habitation. The best laid plans of our politicians are likely to be sabotaged by the remorseless, uncaring forces of the unleashed beast of nature. It is only stubborn denial that allows governments to continue to plan future expansions that will simply not be viable.

This kind of planning quandary extends into every aspect of the future. Urban planning in cities needs to take into account projected rises in sea levels. Whilst

Urban planning is but one area where future expectations will need to be revised to cope with the new truths of a +4°C world. Other areas that come to mind include:

  • The future of mining and resource exploitation;
  • Food security;
  • Refugee and migration policy; and
  • National security.

The latter of these warrants a post of its own. Suffice to say here, that we live in a world where current generations of Australians are not ready for the concept of a war of defense. Since the 1940s, Australia has not been seriously under direct threat of military force, and our involvements have been remote. We send our boys off to war and welcome them home; we lament and mourn (rightfully so) at the loss of individual soldiers. But climate change carries with it the risk – the near certainty – of regional conflict, as whole countries start to starve, due to desertification and loss of arable land. Australia will have cause to be thankful for its remote location and inaccessibility. Our military is likely to be too concerned with domestic issues of food security to be able to worry too much about billions of starving people in India and China.

These areas of concern fall squarely into the remit of our national government, which has shown an unparalleled recalcitrance to accept the truth of global warming. It is unlikely that government policy under the current government will include much consideration of a world shaped by forces that the Coalition denies actually exist.

The best hope for future climate action, discounting the remote possibility of a spectacular implosion of our new government, is a change in public opinion forcing our governing bodies to reconsider their attitude to climate change science. The Coalition government is unlikely to change its mind without being dragged, kicking and screaming, into an unpalatable recognisation of the truth. There is more potential for change at other levels of government. From city planners to urban land management authorities, from companies divesting from coal and backing out of investments such as the Abbot Point port expansion to the application of new mandatory building codes, we need regulations and laws, based on empirical understandings of the future, which will impact on the everyday lives of Australians and people around the world.

If these bodies and organisations allow their agenda to be dictated to them by those with investments in the status quo, then not only will the investments made now be seen as foolhardy at best and downright negligent at worst, but the trajectory for the future will continue to deteriorate.

We can’t afford that. The push for climate action must come from the individual upwards, because it’s clearly not going to be led by the government on high. So, on an individual level, when we look to investments in property, when we consider our shareholdings and our superannuation, there are questions to ask. Have those who seek to sell you a future considered what climate change will mean for the investment they are proposing?

Tony Abbott’s “mandate” about removing the carbon price is not as strong as he wishes it to appear. There is already a large and growing force in the community that is concerned about climate change and willing to agitate for action. We can hope that it will not take a revolution in public attitude to tip the balance. Every individual who is confronted with the reality of climate change and the impact it will have on their own life – and the lives of their loved ones – is an important step closer to the critical mass needed to get Australia on the path of the righteous. So if your job involves you in any form of future planning, or if you are undertaking any investments of your own, make certain that climate change is an important part of your consideration. The outcomes of your planning depend on it. And the future of your planet depends on it.


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  1. bjkelly1958

    The loss of arable land is a huge worry and the loss now has a helping hand in Governments across this wide brown land wanting to profit from CSG mining

  2. billy moir

    the rabbott has a mandate on removing the carbon price and worse labor must help and lose all credibility to the greens who caused all the problems by voting with the rabbott in 2009. oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive but the rabbott can move through the lies with spiderlike agility, with the luck of the Irish. Fortunately, he is always the winner because his god is in charge and he will save the planet or destroy it and save him.

  3. Chris

    How has he got a mandate, they are only in power through preferences of the Nationals and other small parties. They received less votes than Labor in two party preferred, so if you say Liberals have a mandate you must accept that Labor also have a mandate. Most Liberals will scoff at this but did Abbott respect Labor’s mandate in 2009, when he deposed of Turnbull and abandoned the bi-partisan support for the ETS. The door swings both ways but Abbott doesn’t get that. By the way I am neither a Rudd or Gillard supporter but a Labor voter.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Way to be a good global citizen!

    “Australia has become an “anti-climate” influence on international efforts to slow global warming after dropping close to the bottom of a ranking of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

    Australia’s ranking on the climate change performance index fell from 51 to 57 out of 61, as the United Kingdom became the second highest ranked country behind Denmark.”

    “While 30,000 people rallied for climate action in Melbourne, and an estimated 60,000 nationally at 130 events across Australia, it seems Australia has won an unprecedented fourth fossil of the day award in Warsaw for a statement that obligations for new, predictable and reliable finance from developed countries are “not realistic” and “not acceptable.”

    As the citation points out, this amounts to “an attack on an important cornerstone of the UNFCCC.” That developed countries due to their historic emissions have an obligation and commitment to provide funding for developing countries for climate mitigation and adaptation.

    Earlier this week Australia won Fossil awards for repeal of carbon pricing and abandoning neighbors on loss and damage. Australia started the week at COP19 winning the first Fossil of the Day award for not be putting forward any new finance commitments.:”

  5. Gina

    Reblogged this on In my own opinion.

  6. whatismore

    I can’t understand why the insurance companies aren’t waiting for Abbott with baseball bats.

  7. mikestasse

    “This does not mean that we should stop trying to save the environment”

    Don’t you worry about the environment…… The Earth has survived Armagedon before when asteroids killed off the dinosaurs and even further back when 99% of all life was extinguished by climate change. It may have taken a few million years to recover, but, after all, here we all are……..

    What we are facing here is the extinction of humanity and civilisation.

    It may well be too late already. A film I posted earlier this week shows how Greenland could be ice free within 20 years. That being the case, then the picture of London at the top of this story could be reality BEFORE I DIE…

    Never mind long term…….. we are now facing the possibility of Near Term Human Extinction (2050?)

    IF you missed the film the first time around, here is the link:

    Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb

    Better have a Scotch or two on hand…… if this doesn’t shock you, then you’ve fallen asleep.

  8. mikestasse

    “Whilst a 20cm rise by 2030 might not seem like a huge amount, it will reshape the coastlines of the country and threaten beachfront properties”

    Never mind 20cm…….. GREENLAND is melting so fast, scintists from the US, Russia, and the UK are scared shitless the whole lot could melt in 20 years, and that would raise sea levels by 7.3 METRES.

    Watch the film, and get everyone you know to watch it too………..

    Arctic Death Spiral and the Methane Time Bomb

  9. Kaye Lee

    Ross Gittins’ letter to his grandchildren:

    “You will find this hard to believe, but in the mid-teens, it was still common to think about ”the economy” in isolation from the natural environment which sustained it. Economists, business people and politicians had gone for two centuries largely ignoring the damage economic activity did to the environment.

    The idea that, eventually, the environment would hit back and do great damage to the economy was one most people preferred not to think about. At the time, it was fashionable to bewail the lack of action to increase the economy’s productivity. Few people joined dots to realise the climate was in the process of dealing a blow to our productivity, one that would significantly reduce the next generation’s living standards.

    At the time, we rationalised our selfishness – our willingness to avoid a tiny drop in our standard of living at the expense of a big drop in our offspring’s – by telling ourselves half-truths and untruths about the global nature of climate change.

    We told ourselves there was nothing Australia could do by itself to affect climate change (true), that at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, countries had failed to reach a binding agreement on action to reduce emissions (true) and that the world’s two biggest polluters, China and the US, were doing nothing much to reduce their emissions.

    We had no excuse for not knowing this was untrue because successive government reports told us the contrary. One we got just before the carbon tax was abolished, from the Climate Change Authority, said the two superpowers were stepping up their actions to reduce emissions. ”These measures could have a significant impact on global emissions reductions,” it concluded.

    I recount this history to explain how my generation’s dereliction occurred, not to defend or justify it. We knew what we should have done; we chose not to do it. I never fell for any of these spurious arguments.

    Did I ever doubt that climate change represented by far the greatest threat to Australia’s future economic prosperity? Never. Should I have said this more often, rather than chasing a thousand economic will-o’-the-wisps? Yes.”

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/climate-change-dear-grandchildren-i-can-only-say-sorry-20131119-2xt90.html#ixzz2l8WHurWv

  10. mikestasse

    The LNG export boom will make it virtually impossible for Australia to meet the government’s carbon emissions reduction target.

    The high price of gas in Australia has made replacing coal-fired power stations with gas uneconomic and “fugitive emissions” from the LNG plants mean that reducing overall emissions within Australia by 5 per cent by 2020, as government policy states, will require much bigger cuts in other industries.

    Tony Abbott will have to either drop the promise to cut emissions by 5 per cent or the promise to repeal the carbon tax – both together will be impossible without massive government spending under the proposed “direct action” policy of paying companies to reduce emissions.


  11. Science: Problem or Solution?

    If a thermometer is wrapped in a wet cloth and suspended in warm air, the reading rises to a point of equilibrium and stops. That is, the thermometer rises due to the heat of the surrounding air, but that same heat from the air causes the water in the cloth to evaporate, thus cooling the thermometer bulb in the same way that sweat cools our bodies. The equilibrium point is dependent on how high the temperature of the air is, and the amount of water vapour (humidity) in the air. More humidity slows evaporation rate and thus the quantum of the cooling effect. The highest stabilised readings for the hottest, most humid places currently on Earth is 31 degrees Celsius. If this wet-bulb temperature gets to 35 degrees, humans and other animals and plants die from heat stress. The increased temperatures and resulting,automatic increases in humidity that are within the scope of current climate change predictions mean that large parts of Australia will be uninhabitable. Before we get to the lethal stage though much outdoor work, sport and liesure activity will be curtailed. This isn’t speculation, it’s just simple, junior grade physics and biology.

  12. Amanda Webb

    It’s annoying when after the last election, we r being told, such as in this article, that Tony Abbott will not win the carbon tax repeal if we all get on board for the sake of our future, when, quite obviously the majority of Australian’s voted for this twit, because they want the carbon tax repealed. It’s going to take a massive paradigm shift & quite frankly, the only people listening are the already converted or believers from the start. I so wish Australia would have seen how much for a mess Tony would make and bot have voted for him. Especially so I don’t have to hear people cry over spilt milk when I wasn’t stupid enough to vote for him, though, also, have to put up with the outcome for 3 years.

  13. OzFenric

    Of course the Coalition will win their repeal. With any luck it will take a new Senate in July 2014, or later by the time legislation winds its way through the courts, before it happens, but barring a miracle or a Double Dissolution (which would be politically stupid, so don’t expect it) the ETS will be gone soon enough. The Australian people might possibly get a bit shirty when the promised decreases in power prices don’t manifest on day one, but more likely it will be papered over and nobody except the “already converted and believers” will care.

    You’re right, a paradigm shift is truly needed, but it’s not going to happen in the short term. But in terms of raw numbers, the Australian people are on the verge of the tipping point, and all it will need will be a small number of people to come on board before climate action becomes an imperative even the Coalition can’t ignore. And long-term planning and hard-nosed understanding of what climate change, unabated, will mean for our future might help just a few more people to add to that critical mass.

    BTW I don’t think that the majority of the Australian people want the repeal. Most simply don’t care – they just wanted Labor and its “leadership squabbles” gone. Climate change, IIRC, rated about eighth on the list of top priorities for voters just before the election. The problem is, for a lot of people voting is about one primary issue, and for far too many voters that issue was not climate change. We need to change that.

  14. Kaye Lee

    Over 3 million eligible voters either didn’t register, didn’t vote, or cast an informal vote. Analysts calculated that Tony holds power based on 30,000 votes in marginal seats.

    We need to mobilise those young people who failed to register in time and we need to have a better information campaign about how to make your vote valid.

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