PETER SAINSBURY. Sunday environmental round up, 7 July 2019

Jul 7, 2019

While the Australian government continues to obfuscate and avoid any real action on climate change, other nations are ignoring the ‘our emissions are too small to make a difference’ argument and demonstrating ambition and leadership. Asian countries could help their populations, economies and environments by investing in renewable energy rather than coal, while Turkey’s changing climate poses threats for food production and hydroelectric power. Finally some tips for attracting wildlife to your garden and a guide to plastics in the 21st century.

Remembering Australia’s dreadful record of tackling climate change (unambitious emissions reduction target, intent to use dodgy Kyoto credits to meet the target, only country to remove a price on carbon, increasing carbon emissions in recent years, miserly contributions to international climate funds for developing countries, for starters), The Conversation recently published a rebuttal of the all-too-commonly heard argument that Australia is such a low emitter that whatever we might do is pointless.

To The Conversation’s arguments I would add that while China and the USA are currently responsible for 42% of global CO2 emissions, and including India and Russia pushes the figure up to 53%, that still leaves about 200 nations responsible for almost half of the world’s emissions. If they all did nothing because it was ‘pointless’, the chances of controlling global warming would be zero. In fact, the big four emitters might then, with some logic, say ‘Well if you lot aren’t prepared to reduce your half of the emissions to zero, why should we reduce our half?’. Climate change is a shared problem. We haven’t all played an equal part in creating the problem but we are all existentially threatened by it. All 7.7 billion of us are in it together. Either we work to solve it together or we perish together. Regrettably, Australia continues to demonstrate little interest in playing any meaningful part domestically or internationally in solving the problem.

Fortunately some countries with much larger populations and lower emissions than Australia (that’s lower total emissions, not just lower emissions per capita) are serious about tackling climate change – take a bow France and Britain. The UK has become the first country to legislate net zero emissions by 2050 and France’s President Macron stood firm at last week’s G20 meeting to ensure that climate change featured strongly in the final communique. I am not suggesting that France and Britain are perfect when it comes to tackling climate change, both countries continue with some very environmentally-harmful policies and exhibit some hypocrisy at times, but their aspirations, commitment and leadership are clear.

Talking of climate leadership, who made each of these comments recently?

Today’s ecological crisis, especially for climate change, threatens the very future of the human family. This is no exaggeration. For too long we have collectively failed to listen to the fruits of scientific analysis and ‘doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony and disdain.’

 ‘[They] have laid bare the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way’ (page 3 of the link).

Countries in South and South East Asia are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming and sea level rise for a range of historical, social, geographical and meteorological reasons. Currently they are all developing socially and economically and need to expand their access to energy. Unfortunately, fossil fuels play a major role in their present energy supply and several countries have plans to develop even more coal-fired power stations. This is completely contrary to the direction the world needs to go in. Taking account of the findings of last year’s IPCC 1.5oC report, Climate Analytics has produced a report demonstrating how seven Asia countries (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines) could take advantage of cheap renewable energy sources (particularly solar) to deliver affordable, clean energy to their populations faster and cheaper than relying on coal. The countries would benefit socially and economically, and they would be contributing to keeping global warming under 1.5oC. Wealthier nations need to help them make a rapid transition to renewable energy, not provide funds for more coal.

A few thousand kilometres away droughts in Turkey pose threats. Traditionally Turkey receives good annual rainfall but experiences a drought every 25 years or so. The agricultural sector has developed strongly within this established meteorological pattern and hydroelectricity is planned to be an increasingly important element in Turkey’s power supply. However, projections of higher temperatures, lower annual rainfall and more frequent droughts (already every 4-5 years in last 40 years) threaten both sectors. Turkey’s experience illustrates how changes to established conditions and patterns of behaviour can cause significant social and economic disruptions, more than might be expected from looking only at the new conditions and saying ‘well, that’s like ‘elsewhere’ and they have been coping for centuries’.

Looking for some tips on how to make your own neck of the global woods more inviting for wildlife? Check out Habitat Stepping Stones for tips on providing food, water, shelter and safety for birds, insects, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Costa will be proud of you.

If you don’t know your polyethylene terephthalate fibre from your expanded polystyrene, here’s a graphic outlining the growth in different sorts of plastics. Overall, plastic production has increased approximately 10-fold over the last 40 years and is projected to almost double again over the next twenty. And we know where most of it ends up.


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