“This is the critical decade for addressing climate change”September 16th, 2012
Though Australia is ranked as the world’s 15th largest greenhouse gas emitter, it has the potential to influence global climate change. However, that influence will depend on how effectively solutions are implemented at home, argues Pak Yiu, 19, a journalism student from the city of Brisbane in Australia.
Climate change has been evident in the unusual conditions and distribution of weather events we’ve experienced recently.
Rising sea levels, increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather such as heat-waves and bush fires all have social, economic and environmental impacts that are detrimental.
These are the result of human actions, according to Professor Tim Flannery, Australia’s Chief Climate Change Commissioner and the author of the Australian Climate Commission’s report The Critical Decade.
“This is the critical decade for addressing climate change because unless we can reduce emissions this decade in the developed world, it’s going to be exceedingly difficult coming under the threshold so we don’t trigger dangerous climate change,” says Professor Flannery.
“It becomes a more expensive issue to address and becomes less certain of success if we do not act resolutely in this decade,” he says. “If we increase our efforts [this decade] we may face a 75 per cent chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.”
Many of the world’s countries are currently acting on climate change – some for over 20 years. Australia meanwhile has been listed the 15th largest greenhouse gas emitter, ahead of almost 180 other countries. Australia also belongs to a group of 20 heavy carbon emitters which contribute 75 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate Commission’s report found that Australia is the world’s highest per capita carbon emitter due to strong reliance on old and inefficient coal-fired power plants. Energy generation is one of the main reasons that Australia ranks so highly among the world’s greenhouse gas contributors.
Taking action now will reduce emissions and put Australia under the threshold for triggering dangerous climate change. However, some researchers fear the chance of avoiding that catastrophic change is less than 50 per cent if we move into the next decade without efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
“We are the 15th largest emitter as a nation and other nations are looking at us for action,” says Professor Flannery. “If we can honour our pledge to reduce our emissions by five per cent and see other countries do the same thing I think all the countries will gain some confidence to make larger cuts required to avoid dangerous climate change.”
Flannery says Australia has the potential to influence global climate change. However, that influence will depend on how effectively solutions are implemented at home.
Currently China sits at number one in clean energy technology, with researchers from Harvard University and Tsinghua University predicting it could meet all of its electricity demands from wind power by 2030.
Australia also has the potential for adopting clean energy technology, and over the last 12 months has installed a number of solar energy modules.
“We have some of the world’s best wind and solar resources here and they can be very efficient,” Professor Flannery says. “Many of the small modules are on roof tops because people are facing increasing electricity prices. Many people want to be free of that and generate their own electricity and we hope to see that continue.”
There are a thousand different policy options that any Government body can choose from for making a difference on climate change. The real job of the Government is to choose the ones that are most efficient and have the least adverse impact on Australia’s economy.
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