Our political processes have failed us on climate change and the environment.

The Covid crisis will be controlled in a few years with new pharmaceuticals, vaccination or gradual human attenuation or immunity. Its lasting impact may well be from its distraction from addressing the crises eating away our life support systems.Scientific consensus indicates that humanity is approaching a point of no-return on climate and environmental crises.

The Covid crisis will be controlled in a few years with new pharmaceuticals, vaccination or gradual human attenuation or immunity. Its lasting impact may well be from its distraction from addressing the crises eating away our life support systems.

In Australia we know what measures are needed but our government has been incapable of delivering them even before the Covid crisis. We cannot await democratic and political reform, so what urgent steps can be initiated now to aid our reparation and protection?

The growing threats

The immediate danger to the nation is political indifference and even antagonism to the scientific evidence that Australia’s climate is warming and drying faster than most, and that our living environment is deteriorating more than any in the world. Add to these threats, the recognition that epidemics from Zoonoses are increasing.

Indeed Australia has not yet reached base camp in addressing the mountain of risks which threaten us

On climate change, the most recent government culpability extends to appointing an undemocratic NCCC with the intent of promoting gas production.

On environment, the wielding of the Ministerial knife has castrated the only potent measure of the EPBC Act, the independent arbiter, as described by Mungo Mccallum in his article “An obituary for our native flora, fauna and habitat”

On the issue of Zoonoses, the leading medical journal The Lancet has called for a holistic approach to environmental sustainability, livestock health and human health. In 2017 the AMA called for an Australian National Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and we still await government action which would have greatly benefited our response to Covid.

We also seem oblivious to the international and Australian impacts of these linked crises of climate and environment, the growing impacts of poverty, war and refugees that they and Covid will bring to our region and the decreasing ability of nations to interact to solve them. For example the World Bank projects that in South Asia, where nearly one-fourth of the global population lives, the region will soon have the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world.

Political and personal failure

There are two cogent reasons why government cannot deliver the necessary measures and why we must seek other means of action.

Firstly government has failed to demonstrate its intellectual ability to understand the complex issues now facing humanity and therefore deliver appropriate policy. It might be said that this has always been so, therefore why is it an issue now? Quite simply, until now policy has been based on population and economic growth which are the fundamental causes of the crises. This has to change yet Government thinking remains with growth, immigration and babies “one for the nation”. Parliamentarians are incapable of breaking this mould to address sustainable alternatives.

Secondly, the public has lost confidence in the majority of parliamentarians because of their widespread unprofessional behaviour, but unfortunately they are not a profession which would carry codes of behaviour or disciplinary structures.

The impact of the 4 Corners program Climate Wars may well grow from a tremor to a seismic shift. The words of eminent and trusted public servants and former Chief Scientists emanated from their experience of a decade of national government inaction on climate change. Their body language displayed emotional distress and hopelessness. Turn off the sound, then they become relatives at the funeral of a loved one. Their message about their ministers was personal position first, Party second, the nation third.

The ambition to be Prime Minister as admitted by Mr Pyne and other retiring ministers is a most unhealthy aspect of current democracies for decisions are subsumed into this desire rather than working on collective action in the interest of the nation.

In the words of Jack Waterford Is it “time for asking ourselves how it is that we have created a political class which is apparently morally, intellectually or practically unfit to govern, yet which continues to do so confident that it is beyond any check or accountability from a system they have thoroughly corrupted”. And as John Menadue writes, there isgrowing anger that power is now rigged in favour of a largely unchallenged and powerful oligarchy.

So far my anguished communication has delivered a host of concerns expressed by many well credentialed Australians.

The time has come to commence discussion on possible solutions for urgent action- excluding a coup!

Solutions must be engineered now-

Parliament remains closed and valiant attempts of cross benchers to raise these issues are thwarted. Action has to be developed outside parliament.

We urgently need a proposal which will simultaneously impact both parliament and public using the power of scientific veracity and the skill of those delivering it. An array of groups are disparately trying to deliver a message, Climate Council, Commission for the Human Future, the Environmental Defenders Office, Australian Academy of Sciences, etc

But the need is for a hundred or even two hundred known and respected names from science, technology, public service, industry, former chief scientists, and nobellists; the task, the analysis of government inadequacy and the solutions in simple terms and a Platform for Change delivered for parliament and public education.

They would develop proposals to move society to a reparative phase using means that would be expected in a national adaptation policy – if we had one An example is the proposal on a land management stimulus from a coalition of 70 groups led by The Pew Charitable Trusts now before the government and gaining support from some members of parliament. This should have been within the intent of a properly constituted NCCC for it acknowledges a necessary process of repair rather than further economic growth using fossil fuels.

Your say?

Many eminent contributors to Pearls detailed these critical failings of government. Please would each of them consider making comment on their thoughts on action?

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Dr David Shearman AM FRACP is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Adelaide University

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