Aust floods: Climate link can’t be denied

February 1, 2011 at 3:11 am 1 comment

Climate change was a big factor in the devastating floods that swept through Queensland and other states in January. For decades, scientists have warned that carbon pollution will lead to more frequent weather disasters.

The floods are yet more evidence that we must quickly phase out fossil fuels and embrace 100% renewable energy.

As the flood crisis began to emerge, University of Melbourne climate scientist David Karoly told ABC News on December 31 that the extreme weather was not so unexpected.

He said: “What we are seeing over the last 50 years and over the last 100 years is a change in this pattern of extremes with more hot and more wet extremes in northern Australia and more hot and more dry extremes in southern Australia and that pattern is exactly what we would expect from climate change due to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Professor Matthew England, joint director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of NSW, told AAP on January 13: “Climate change has seen a warming of waters globally, and the waters north of Australia are an important part of the climate system for Australia’s monsoon rains.

“They are at their warmest ever measured and we cannot exclude climate change from contributing to this warmth.”

Despite this, mainstream politicians and media outlets have sought to deny or downplay the connection.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh launched a commission of inquiry into the floods on January 17. She promised: “We are not going to sweep anything under the carpet.”

However, the commission’s terms of reference exclude a study of the link between the floods and climate change. Bligh has been careful to not mention climate change at all since the flood disaster began.

In part, Bligh wants to shift the public discussion away from her government’s craven support for the state’s big fossil fuel corporations.

Queensland is one of the world’s biggest coal exporters, and coalmining and coal burning is the biggest single source of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Greens leader Bob Brown is right to demand the coal industry be taxed to “help pay the cost of the predicted more severe and more frequent floods, droughts and bushfires in coming decades”.

Like the tobacco companies before them, big coal should be made to pay compensation to Australians for the damage it has wreaked and the lives it has destroyed.

State and federal government subsidies to the coal industry, which amount to billions of dollars, should instead be spent on flood recovery and reconstruction. It could also help fund a transition away from coal towards renewable energy.

Unfortunately the government is taking the opposite approach to fund post-flood reconstruction. “I am abolishing, deferring and capping access to a number of carbon abatement programs,” Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the National Press Club on January 27.

While the programs were not remotely sufficient to actually reduce emissions, by cutting them and rejecting Brown’s call for the coal industry to be taxed, Gillard indicated her government still prioritises coal industry profits over stopping climate change.

Tragically, this will mean more floods and more bushfires, which make the prime minister’s words of solidarity and compassion for the victims of the latest catastrophe ring rather hollow.

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Entry filed under: Floods.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Australia Weather  |  February 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    […] landfall, just after high tide, meant. The National Disaster Management Centre has warned that moreAustralia Weather – Massive cyclone bears down on NE Australian coast – AP – msnbc.com The timing of Yasi's […]

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