Before the current conservative government came to power in 2013, Australia was well-positioned to make the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy. But now, the country is heading in reverse, and has already fallen behind most developed countries, and even China, on reducing emissions and building resilience against climate change.
NEW YORK – Few countries have such a fundamental interest in addressing climate change as Australia. Yet Australia’s current conservative government refuses to take necessary actions in response to climate science: to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and therefore play its part as a responsible member of the international community. Instead, we Australians are now free-riding on the rest of the world.
The Australian government is not listening to the international business community, despite the fact that investors responsible for $2.4 trillion in assets recently pledged to move to carbon-neutral portfolios by 2050. It is also out of step with Australia’s military leadership, which recognizes the threat to global security from climate change, as well as the increasing strain caused by constant disaster-relief missions in the region. And it is showing disrespect for the public, especially young people, many of whom are beginning to dread the world they will inherit.
According to Australia’s national scientific body, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, our climate has already warmed by 1°C since 1910. Our mid-year rainfall has declined by 20% since the 1970s in some parts of the country. Our farmers face droughts that are 20% longer, prolonging and intensifying bushfire seasons. The economic cost of natural disasters is already enormous: $182 billion in the decade to 2016, according to Deloitte Access Economics. And sea levels are projected to rise by almost one meter (39.4 inches) by 2100, threatening 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) of coastal road and rail infrastructure. Natural disasters don’t only take lives, destroy homes, and ruin livelihoods. They also close ports, sap insurance pools, devastate food production, and blow up government budgets.