While Australia burns the climate debate reappears

By Anders Lorenzen

As Australia battles forest fires and new temperature records as a result of extreme hot weather, the topical question is, yet again, whether this extreme weather is being caused by climate change or natural trends?

Over 350,000 hectares of land have so far been destroyed and lost to the fires, which this year are a lot more powerful that ordinary bushfires and swing from territory to territory depending on the direction of the wind. Australia’s all time highest temperature was broken when a sweltering + 50 degrees C was recorded on the 7th of January with the nationwide average at 40.33 C. Eight of Australia’s 20 all time hottest days have been recorded this year.

Climate scientists working on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on which the first section will be published later this year are linking the Australian weather extremes to climate change, a position that PM Julia Gilliard and her Labour-run government agrees with. The Conservative opposition party, led by Tony Abbott a well known climate denier, keeps rebuffing this, and Mr Abbott has proclaimed that if he wins the upcoming election at the end of the year, he will overturn the newly established Carbon Tax Scheme and close down the current government’s Climate Department.

In what could be seen as a direct rebuff to Tony Abbott’s position, Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery, was quoted as saying that… “When you start breaking records, and you do it consistently, and you see it over and over again, that is a good indication there’s a shift underway—this is not just within the normal variation of things.” And in a recent article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, he backs this up, warning that immediate action is needed before it’s too late.

Australia is a very divided nation on climate change; their powerful coal industry and the Conservative Party are against further carbon regulation, firmly believing it will be harm the economy. According to a report by the Internal Energy Agency (IEA), previously referenced by this blog, Australia has ambitions to triple it’s coal export in the coming years. According to a separate 2011 report by Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology however, an increasing number of Australians are becoming worried about climate change, as extreme weather begins to have a personal impact on them and the coal industry continues to affect on their biodiversity and much loved coral reefs.

This January Greenpeace Australia launched an attack on the domestic coal industry and asked the following pertinent question via a blog post on their website: ‘’Will Australia’s own Prime Minister offer condolence for the extreme weather her country men and women are suffering, but continue expanding coal exports, the biggest contribution our country is making to climate change?’’

Sub edited by Kirstie Wielandt

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6 responses to “While Australia burns the climate debate reappears

  1. It's on the increase, public and victims are not ok with the greens defensivness about their red tape around backburns, they can't get permits and are over this religious fervor.

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  2. Thanks for the comment. Not quite sure when you mean referring to victims? What about farmers that loose their crops due to extreme weather, people who loose their lives to bush fires and the local economy and biodiversity that suffers due to coal expansion? But Australia could create a real economic boost by investing in the booming green economy.

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  3. Victims I mean bushfire victims, sounds like you think we can fight fires with carbon taxes and windmills that don't work – not fire breaks.. Ever considered many don't want to invest in the green economy as it is a lemon?

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  4. Fuel free energy is not only the future, but is here today. Renewable energy is a fast growing business. Australia is lucky to have enormous opportunities here, both solar and wind power are low hanging fruit, and in the future as technology have matured also for wave and tidal power.

    The time to let go of old-fasioned dirty coal has come.

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  5. I could not have put it better myself Per. Yes Australia has all the possibilities to be a superpower in renewable energy, just sad that they're not relishing it more. If you travel to Europe, the US and China you would realise renewables are becoming big business. And I do thing the public attitude to climate change is shifting. Last year droughts and an increase in both droughts, bushfires and even flooding are hitting local people and framers hard.

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