Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Dealing with climate change

We have no option but to deal with climate change.

Either we deal with it or it will deal with us.

There is no serious challenge to the science behind climate change. The whole basis for the denial movement is not attacking the science, but attacking the scientists. Look for a real scientific paper attacking the science. There is a very small number of these, all of which have been debunked. Most other material is on blogs and the opinion papers of the mass media, replete with the language of personal attack. Climate scientists are "alarmists", "warmists", "catastrophists", and any other number of made-up appellations.

As with the tobacco and HIV denial movements, personal attack does not prevent the ultimate harm that denial of the facts causes.

Unlike tobacco and HIV, we are not talking about something that will ruin the lives of a few million people if not dealt with expeditiously. Rapid climate change is causing a rapid acceleration of extinction rates. The rapid depletion of the Himalayan glaciers threatens the food supply of a half a billion people: melt water from these glaciers feed major river systems of both India and China. And reduced agricultural output is likely to be worst in poorer countries.

Talk therefore of whether an emissions trading scheme should be contemplated in the absence of any serious alternative is crazy. The Australian government's scheme falls far short of any reasonable solution, but their main opposition is opposing it without offering an alternative.

Given that, how will climate change deal with Australia?

There are two possibilities: Australia's inability to face up to the problem could be a worldwide phenomenon, in which case we face a period of growing environmental disaster: death of the Great Barrier Reef, collapse of food supply in India and China, famine in Africa. If on the other hand the rest of the world gets its act together, Australia as the world's biggest coal exporter and the country with the highest per capita CO2 emissions will be left high and dry, and as uncompetitive as a country that did not foresee the trend away from horse-based transport a century ago.