The message of the new CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology report to the Australian Climate Change Science Program, Climate Change in Australia, couldn't be simpler: Stop fiddling while Australia burns!
No objective person, after reading the report, could doubt that Australia's climate change crisis is already well under way.
Australia's average temperatures have already risen by 0.9ºC since 1950 and, according to the report, the best estimate of further average warming increase is 1ºC by 2030, with a 50% probability of the warming increase exceeding this figure in inland areas. That takes us perilously close to the 2ºC increase identified by climate science as the point at which runaway global warming could be unleashed.
Moreover, the report establishes that in a business-as-usual scenario there's a 90% likelihood of warming exceeding this figure by 2070.
The report reaffirms the findings of every new serious study of global warming: It's happening faster and more dangerously than previously imagined.
This science shows the utter inadequacy of Coalition and Labor policy on the issue. It confirms that to have any chance of arresting global warming we have to keep the concentration of greenhouse gases below 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent. But PM John Howard's and Labor leader Kevin Rudd's fiddling guarantee that greenhouse gas concentration will exceed this level.
Only the accelerated introduction of renewable and sustainable energy sources could achieve the necessary goal of reducing Australian greenhouse gas emissions by 4-5% a year.
To really start making gains against global warming we need an emergency program of sustainable energy conversion that sets a ten-year limit for completely phasing out coal. The recent news that the University of New South Wales' solar thermal technology has been taken up by US companies confirms that sustainable energy technology is begging to be applied.
But this simply will not happen at the rate needed if left to private investors, no matter how generous the tax breaks offered are. The sustainable energy transition will only happen fast enough if there's a huge government effort to implement it.
The disgrace of the UNSW solar thermal technology finally reaching production outside Australia dramatises how miserably inadequate the Coalition and Labor both are on climate change.
A government dedicated to attacking greenhouse emissions would have poured funds and expertise into projects like that at UNSW, accelerating the establishment of pilot plants and full-scale commercial operations.
That's the approach of the Socialist Alliance, as spelled out in our climate change charter. And it's the only serious way to stop Australia — and our planet — from burning.
[Dr Kamala Emanuel is the Socialist Alliance's climate change spokesperson and a New South Wales Senate candidate. Visit <http://www.socialist-alliance.org>.]