Almost universally, governments are refusing to recognise the scope and urgency of the changes demanded by global warming. The menace, however, is real, and the time available for concerted action to combat it is frighteningly brief.
Australia’s new Labor government is in denial on the seriousness of climate change. That much is shown by its inadequate target of reducing the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 60% by 2050. But more on that later.
Amid audible gasps of relief, on December 15 the US delegation to the United Nations climate change conference in Bali signalled that Washington would be part of the Bali Roadmap for combatting global warming. With the US on board, a two-year process of discussion would begin hopefully to culminate in the adoption of a new pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.
Delegates from more than 180 countries began meeting on the Indonesian island of Bali on December 3 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The gathering is meant to begin the process of negotiating an agreement on climate change for the period after 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.
The scientists are horrified. But not being media-savvy publicists, they generally leave their shocking findings in scientific journals. The politicians quote cautious statements issued by scientific committees early in the decade, and worry about scaring off corporate funding. The business executives look for the chance of new profits, and hire public relations experts to advise them on cultivating a green image.
If you’ve sat in front a TV in the past few weeks, you’ll have seen the message: Australians need to get “climate clever” just like the Howard government, which, we’re told, is encouraging and funding new, environmentally friendly technologies such as “clean coal”. In fact, we’re led to believe, the government has put some $3.5 billion in recent years into new methods for combatting climate change.
With support from the South Australian Labor government and the federal ALP, pilot work is starting on the desalination plant that is to supply fresh water for BHP Billitons planned expansion of its copper-gold-uranium mine at Olympic Dam.
Late February three wealthy business leaders with close Liberal Party connections Robert de Crespigny, Ron Walker and Hugh Morgan announced the formation of Australian Nuclear Energy to develop nuclear power generation. Prime Minister John Howard praised the initiative as a great idea.
The federal governments Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review, released on November 21, had only one real purpose to provide John Howard with evidence for championing the nuclear power cycle. What other conclusion can we come to, when the review made its assessments while ignoring Australias most spectacular renewable energy resource the hot dry rock geothermal energy of the Cooper Basin and other regions.
In the final years of perestroika, when there was little in Soviet shops except bare shelves and bored salespeople, Russians could still comfort themselves: at least you could always get bread. In four or five varieties, at prices so low they are almost painful to remember: about 25 kopecks (at the time, a few US cents) for a half-kilo loaf.