A COUPLE OF urgent and insightful articles following our bushfire summer are worth sharing here today.
I should preface with the comment that the articles come from The Guardian with thanks for their persistence in reporting on the greatest national crises of our times: (no they are not what Barnaby and Michael and the rest of the Nats are up to this week, or the latest attempt by Scott Morrison and Coalition strategists to wedge Labor).
Both climate change and the epidemic of biodiversity loss with flora, fauna extinctions are well advanced in Australia thanks to our way of doing business and of ‘growing’ the economy, including how we spread population. These ARE the big issues facing us.
If those two issues are not soon addressed with national and state-based leadership rather than confronted with lies and window-dressing and pointless point scoring, all the rest of what grabs 99% of media attention will be rendered meaningless, or worse, by nature’s gathering pushback.
ABOVE: Silhouettes of two firemen facing the raging flames of a huge bushfire in rural countryside of Queensland, Australia. Photographer: Lifeontheside.
This past summer has been pushback exhibit A, showing Australia’s serious vulnerability to extreme weather events, noticed around the world.
So, here’s a radical idea for the Canberra Bubble and the Sydney Bubble: you all work together for the good of the country, because you know, the hour is late, and we’re marching to disaster.
Climate summit does not hold back
We have just seen, on-ground not theoretically, the edge of the disaster cliff. This scary fact was emphasised at a barely-reported climate summit held in mid-February.
The summit released a declaration stating: “The climate is already dangerous — in Australia and the Antarctic, in Asia and the Pacific — right around the world. The Earth is unacceptably too hot now.
“If the climate warms 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the Great Barrier Reef will likely be lost, sea levels could rise metres and massive global carbon stores, such as the Amazon and Greenland, will hit tipping points, releasing millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere.”
What is the biggest threat to human civilisation as we know it?
The Guardian was part of the summit meeting and reported that signatories to the declaration were well-known civic and political names including Ian Dunlop (former coal executive), Carmen Lawrence, John Hewson, Tim Costello and Kerryn Phelps.
The declaration warned “that even the Paris agreement emissions reduction targets would put the world on a path to 3.5C warming by 2100, and 4C to 5C warming “when long-term climate-system feedbacks were factored in.
“National security analysts warn that 3C may result in “outright social chaos”, and 4C is considered incompatible with the maintenance of human civilisation.
“Climate change must be accepted as an overriding threat to national and human security, with the response being the highest priority at national and global levels.”
The declaration said Australia’s political leaders were especially culpable, guilty of short-term political expediency instead of planning for what has been known to come for a decade and more.
“The first duty of a government is to protect the people, their well-being and livelihoods. Instead, Australian governments have left the community largely unprepared for the disasters now unfolding, and for the extensive changes required to maintain a cohesive society as climate change impacts escalate.”
— The Guardian, 15 February 2020
Regional Australia: a land apart?
Australian politicians of both major parties along with much of the parliamentary press galleries would have us believe that “regional Australia” is a singular entity of like-minded and similarly focused people. They vote for continued production and export of coal and gave Labor a thrashing for daring to have some climate mitigation policies at the last election.
Brief consideration of both the actual close vote at the last election and the whole premise, particularly if you live in regional Australia as we do, indicates that this is nonsense.
Not least because of the gerrymandering of some electorates, particularly in Queensland, that allow a small number of rural voters (say in electorates reliant on the coal industry) to out-poll many more urban and other regional voters.
The second article that caught my eye tackles this premise.
It takes us to some of the rural electorates in NSW that were hardest hit by the bushfires.
The reporter demonstrates how the lowest-income rural electorates in northern NSW bore the brunt of nature’s pushback while well-paid Queensland and Hunter Valley miners and their communities voted for the politicians who would retain the fossil fuel status quo.
While pointing out that at the end of the day the fate of coal won’t be decided by Scott Morrison’s Canberra Bubble but by international markets and financiers (not looking good), the article examines the two economic faces of Australia’s regions. It is fair to coal’s current role in the economy while reminding us of the small business ventures and tourism that are the heart of today’s non-coal regional economies.
Unfortunately, absent from this picture are government foresight and assisted pathways to urgent non-traditional job creation in the regions. Those would come with transformed energy, transport, agricultural and other sectors, and honesty about same, with some local exceptions.