WORDS by Alicia Scott
While it is often absent from Australia’s mainstream media, the seriousness of climate change is a tremendous issue that is increasingly difficult to ignore. Earlier this year, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed 2014 was the hottest year globally since records began. Meanwhile, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology announced 2014 was our country’s third hottest year, with 2013 recorded as the hottest.
This news was delivered a week after bushfires ravaged through parts of South Australia and Victoria. Thousands of firefighters battled extreme blazes over three days, which ultimately burned over 14,500 hectares in both states combined. Whilst specific events cannot be attributed to climate change, bushfires and heatwaves are occurring more frequently as a result of a steadily warming climate.
Many Australians, particularly the elderly, farmers, and outdoor workers, are struggling to deal with haphazard weather patterns and soaring temperatures. All the while Prime Minister Tony Abbott continues to downplay what has been described as the biggest challenge the world has ever faced.
Member of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and Macquarie University student, Liam Hawke, believes Tony Abbott’s complete lack of action towards climate change is unfortunate.
“The only silver lining in the political landscape right now is that climate policy is very much a part of national conversation … this can only be good for future action,” Liam says.
In order for Australia to take significant, long term action to mitigate the irreversible effects of climate change, the government needs to end its love affair with coal. The UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources recently found that eighty per cent of coal must remain unused by 2050 to prevent global temperatures rising by more than 2 degrees. This staggering research ultimately leaves Tony Abbott’s “coal is good for humanity” remark null and void.
This discovery coincided with the Queensland Government accelerating the construction of nine new mega mines in the Galilee Basin, funded by taxpayers’ money. The AYCC’s “Don’t Risk The Reef” Campaign aims to prevent coal from the Galilee Basin being exported through The Great Barrier Reef, potentially causing environmental destruction.
Liam shares his concern, “The reason [why] the Galilee Basin is so important is that, if developed, it could potentially export 60 million tonnes of coal per year (for perspective Australia exported just over 300 million tonnes in the 2012-2013 financial year).”
To say that 2015 will be a critical year in the fight against climate change is an understatement. All government efforts will be leading up to the United Nations Conference at Paris in November, where world leaders will attempt to design a global binding agreement. Australians, in particular, will have to hold their government to account and demand lasting change.