With climate change, humanity basically doesn’t get any second chances. For a recognisable climate to be preserved, net global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak within the next decade, then decline to zero by around mid-century. It’s a tight call, so we have to get things right first time. If we delay, the laws of physics will not be kind.
“A White House investigation … uncovered a culture of complacency, cost-cutting and systemic failures and companies unprepared to deal with accidents and consequences.” That was how ABC News on January 18 summed up the findings of the US inquiry into last year’s disaster at BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion caused 11 deaths, and unleashed the worst accidental marine oil spill in history. About 4.9 million barrels of oil escaped over nearly three months before the well was capped.
When the right-wing press isn’t hacking the voicemail of murdered teenagers, much of its energy goes to denouncing “green extremists”. You know, the ones who’d destroy our economy just to claw back a few tonnes of greenhouse emissions. So what would Rupert Murdoch, Andrew Bolt and their whole tribe prefer be done, in practice and in the near term, to stop global warming? Let’s be honest — nothing. Cutting emissions, they implicitly argue, will inevitably cost more than if society lets carbon polluters get on with what they do best.
When you’re the world’s biggest resource corporation, and aim to gouge high profits for the next century from the world’s largest mine, you probably won’t care to let environmental considerations block your path. Add in a state government frantic to get investment dollars flowing, and the outlook for threatened species in the vicinity could be grim. BHP Billiton is due to decide early next year whether to spend an estimated $20 billion on a massive expansion of its Olympic Dam copper, gold and uranium mine near Roxby Downs, 560 kilometres north of Adelaide.
Ever spent time in Dubai airport, on the shores of the Persian Gulf? You might have reflected that human beings can live quite well when temperatures exceed 50°C. All they need to do is stay behind plate glass, with the air conditioning on maximum. No doubt you looked out through the glass at the dust and sand. If you’re unusually reflective, you might then have asked yourself: if this is what global warming has in store for huge stretches of the Earth, what’s everyone going to eat? See also:
In the land of desperate excuses, coal seam gas is king. The new boom industry of the Queensland and New South Wales hinterlands contaminates ground and surface waters, while taking rich farmland out of food production. But at least, its promoters argue, coal seam gas (CSG) is a weak hitter among sources of greenhouse pollution. When burnt in modern power plants, the story goes, CSG can be as much as 70% “cleaner” than coal.
Love Andrew Bolt or loathe him, you’ve got to admit the right-wing Herald Sun columnist and radio shock jock is a master of the ambush interview. Add in Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott’s slipperiness with any kind of truth — scientific, political or otherwise — and you have a media product so toxic it deserves to be trucked off for incineration by people in respirator suits. Unfortunately, that’s the product that was all over the talkback airwaves and parliamentary reports for several days at the end of March.
If there were an Olympics for climate amorality, Australia’s capitalists would be hauling in the medals. Just consider this quote from Queensland coal baron Clive Palmer in the December 15 Australian: “The Galilee Basin overall has got 100 billion tonnes of thermal coal, so it’s a great reservoir for Queensland in the future, so you’d be crazy not to develop it.” And it’s not just coal, but any greenhouse-polluting fuel that can be can be dug or drilled from the landscape or seabed. Take Australia’s natural gas industry, poised now for a vast expansion.
Under heavy public pressure, the South Australian government of Labor Premier Mike Rann appears to be wavering in its support for mining uranium in the Arkaroola wilderness in the state’s north. On February 18, the Adelaide Advertiser gave front-page headlines to reports that Arkaroola, a privately-held nature sanctuary and ecotourism site in the Flinders Ranges about 600 kilometres north of the state capital, could be declared a national park.
If a city drowns beneath a once-in-a-hundred-years flood, that's weather. Such things have happened in the past. But when hundred-year floods start happening every few decades, that's no longer just weather. The dice have become loaded for different outcomes. Climate — that is, the average of weather — is changing. So let's get down to the question everyone's asking. Were this summer's floods the result of climate change?