Is Australia the World’s Wake Up call for radically different climate management? What is playing out in front of our eyes is the effects of a climate crisis across the whole continent. Is this a sign for us all to heed, in what it is going to mean for many of us if the world continues to warm?
In the past few weeks, we have been witnessing Australia grappling with massive bushfires fuelled by record-breaking temperatures and months, even years of severe drought.
For some time, scientists have warned that a hotter, drier climate will contribute to fires becoming more frequent and intense with the conditions being faced in Australia.
The question currently being asked is whether these fires, more intense and regular, are linked to climate change and within the control of Australia?
Recently the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack dismissed climate change as the concerns of “raving inner-city lefties” and “we have had fires in Australia since time began.”
Scientists are arguing this climate denial is “passing the buck,” and Australia, like so many other countries, are not doing enough to stem the rise in global temperatures and the politics around this is causing growing concern, the world will pass the point of human intervention in managing rising temperatures.
The science of global warming is complicated.
If you take Australia, it is only partly in their hands and partly not, until climate change has some real effect, and that is years or even decades away. It needs concerted global coordination. not just national commitments that seem, today, lacking.
The main climate driver behind the current heat causing more significant bush fire and drought problems in Australia has been a change occurring in the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) where events are creating rising sea surface temperatures to be warmer in the western half of the ocean, closer to Australia, pushing cooler temperatures towards the Indian subcontinent, where they are experiencing the opposite, floods and heavy rains.
The concern is, will this change in the sea temperatures be more a consistent one where both Australia and the Indian subcontinent suffer these climate issues on a more regular basis. Extreme heat and the increased severity of natural disasters such as drought or flooding are not in the hands of one nation or another; it is in all our collective hands.
The other climate effect is being caused by the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) in the Southern Ocean. A change is causing the westerly winds that circle the Southern Ocean to shift southward toward Antarctica, causing rain-bearing winter cold fronts to pass south of the Australian continent
Climate variability is pushing the Australian climate toward a more fire-prone state. The present conditions have become the perfect storm for wildfires. Long-term climate warming, combined with years of drought, colliding with a set of climate patterns that deliver severe fire weather. Recognizing these trends are happening more frequently in patterns across the world, needs a shift in policies to combat these in multiple ways.
What is getting more exposed by witnessing these disastrous bushfires in Australia is an inadequate response to growing natural disasters. Policies are lacking in any coherence in immediate response, in sustaining approaches to managing this growing phenomenon. Increasingly there is the need to form a comprehensive roadmap to achieve climate change through radically different energy policies or combating climate issues.
Many solutions are in the hands of Australians. They are themselves, contributing to their own heat problems in a lack of renewal to address a very changing climatic set of conditions.
The use of different energy initiatives is lacking a concerted effort in reducing emissions, in their homes, in their energy sources, and in their conservation of resources. This can change but it needs policies linked to a concerted action plan to get this going.
Lacking commitment to the Climate Accord is not facing up to a confronting real lasting change
What we are seeing evolve in Australia, is a lack of determined commitment to the Paris Agreement, signed in 2016, that requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Australia is not alone in lacking the resolve to “undertake best efforts”
The present Australian policy is to look after their national interests of supporting the continued exploitation of coal. Coal provides 60% of Australia’s electricity, 50,000 jobs, and was the country’s biggest export. The Australian government has backed coal-fired power, despite the recommendations of a major report on climate change and numerous others where the phasing out of coal is considered crucial to limiting global warming to within 1.5C, a goal agreed to in the Paris Agreement that had Australia as one of the signatories.
Is Australia running from the back of the pack for implementing different climate policies? It does seem so.
From what I read the Australian government to climate change in its commitment is tucking into the back of the climate change pack coming out of the COP25 meeting recently, in not wanting to change policy initiatives, undermining the climate ambition and blocking the progress for better response to this global challenge.
Australia, it seems, is not wanting to undergo a real transition from fossil fuel reliance into renewables. Or in harnessing the use of sun and wind and insulation of their buildings to counter the changing warming. In their rejection of climate change issues that they can “effectively manage,” they are seemingly in denial.
What we are witnessing in the heat of the fires raging across Australia is a harbinger of what most of the world will face in not recognizing the effects of global warming and not having a comprehensive co-ordinated global plan to make a successful sustainable energy transition, over the next twenty to thirty years.
If we wait too long, we will find it extremely hard to regain control over the effects of climate change and global warming without major consequences. The costs to the Australian economy are again, sacrificing the long-term to prop up the immediate, and I feel that is not a winning strategy.
Moving towards life-support might be what we are witnessing is occurring in Australia
Are we seeing the early effects of countries, determined to play national politics and tie all of our global future to their coal or oil resources? Is it going to be events like the bushfires raging in Australia that are signaling our environments are on a life-support system? The biodiversity of millions of species of plants and animals is fundamental to our health, well-being and fuel the economy, not what some are so intent on extracting and taking out of the ground.
Australia offers such incredible diversity- is this changing?
Australia is first and foremost one of the world’s global diversity hotspots, but it is under extreme stress. We are making ecosystems much more vulnerable.
Will vast swathes of Australia become uninhabitable if the temperatures continue to climb?
Humans derive so much from the natural assets; the environment provides the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink. It is through designing this ecosystem to be based on a shift to effectively harnessing the wind and the sun we can, given global determination, the chance for the ecosystems we depend upon to allow time for them to regain the balance necessary.
You do not achieve that through denial or taking what you can get today as immediate gain. We must put our planet back into balance. It is a lack of sustained, thoughtful policies that need to be put into place, and at present, we do not have this political commitment at all.
We are witnessing all our futures in what is playing out in Australia.
Australia is being transformed before our eyes. A continent that has such incredible beauty, diversity and raw nature is becoming a global hothouse and the forerunner of all are futures of floods, fires, natural disasters by not dealing with the effects of our present climate warming.
Nature seems to find a way to “bounce” back but it needs time and conditions to enable this. As humans, we have to play our part to provide the conditions to allow the diversity to thrive, not be threatened by our constant intervention, and we must learn to value our ecosystems far more, it is all interconnected.
A wake-up call or a sign of what is to come?
Australia can be our wake-up call if you appreciate what is being played out, we are escalating more natural disasters and are in so much danger in what we are losing. The IPBES warns that the global decline of nature is occurring at a rate unprecedented in human history. More than one million species globally are threatened with global extinction, many within a few decades. Australia is in the top seven countries responsible for 60% of global biodiversity loss.
It could be different but what we will do in the next ten years will determine this but being held to national politics and moving from one energy-sapping crisis to another is going to be a rough decade ahead and giving us all a very hard time in a resolve to make essential changes to our lives.
We need to invest significantly, and our world is going to go through some life-changing events. How many national catastrophes will make us realize we need to radically address the issues of our planet. Welcome to 2020.
**** Primary sources for this post have been the current news drawn from the BBC over the past weeks that have been focusing on Australia on the bushfires and the different effects and issues these are exposing. There are many others to draw down from. A brief update on climate issues was made on 3rd January 2020 by me.