Despite the overwhelming evidence, the federal government does not believe that climate change is real.
The Climate Council recommended a reduction of 45% to 65% of Australia’s 2005 carbon emission levels as the minimum that would be required to prevent runaway climate change.
Yet the government’s response was to set a target of reducing emissions by 26% to 28% of 2005 levels by 2030 — a recipe for climate change disaster even if it could be achieved under present government policy — which it cannot.
Labor and the Greens are equally off the mark in thinking that the market can solve climate change with an emissions trading scheme. As Naomi Klein has pointed out, "the prospect of getting paid real money based on projections of how much of an invisible substance is kept out of the air tends to be something of a scam magnet."
As the evidence of climate change being already underway accumulates, so too is it ignored or denied by Australia’s mainstream political parties.
The latest evidence came last week from the US weather agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
It reported that average global temperatures were the highest in 136 years in the month of July. The globally average sea surface temperature was 0.75°C above the 20th-century average.
This is the highest temperature for any month in the period from 1880 onwards. The previous highest record was in July last year, something of an alarming trend to even the most casual observer.
Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA was reported as saying that the latest scientific finding, "just reaffirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming. The warming is accelerating and we are really seeing it this year".
Globally, the combined sea and land temperature in July was 16.61°C, which is 0.81°C above the 20th century average of 15.8°C.
Professor Will Stefen from the Australian Climate Council noted that records were being broken as the reality of a warming world set in.
With this year expected by climate forecasters to be an El Nino year, professor Stefen said that "the presence of a powerful El Nino that could break records increases the likelihood of another angry Australian summer’’.
Capitalism is a boom and bust system that the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter made a virtue of with his notion of "creative destruction". It is also based on the long implausible proposition of infinite growth from finite resources.
The evidence of capitalism’s failure is abundantly clear – the four-fold increase in manufacturing output in the two decades from 1950 came with a tripling of carbon dioxide emissions.
As early as 1972, the science was predicting economic and ecological collapse in the 21st century if the overuse of resources continued unchecked.
In the weeks leading up to the failed 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research released a study which showed that even if countries adopted the most ambitious targets they had proposed, the global average temperature would still rise by 3.5°C in the 21st century.
Fiddling while Rome was burning in the fire of AD 64 is almost certainly wrongly attributed to the Emperor Nero. But fiddling around on the periphery with climate change is most definitely what the Tony Abbott government is doing.
The challenge of climate change is beyond capitalism, which is why the Socialist Alliance has a ten-point climate action plan that includes reducing net emissions to zero together with 100% renewable energy by 2020.
The time for talk is past; the time for immediate action is upon all of us.