Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why Australia must be pushed to aim for zero emissions

Today’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, using a technique that I had never heard of, has clearly shown that the increase in carbon dioxide levels from a pre-industrial value to a current level not seen since the Pliocene.

This data shows via isotopic tracking that the source of excess carbon dioxide can only be cars and coal. Australia, which ought with its fragile, pre-Oligocene ecology to have distinctly the lowest per capita greenhouse emissions and the most advanced renewable energy and mass transit in the world, actually had the highest per capita emissions in the world and exceedingly bad public transport.

It is so unlikely that Australia’s apolitical masses can make anything approaching the necessary demands. Thus, foreign nations have an immediate responsibility to demand Australia achieve a zero emissions target that should have been set for it in 1997 or before – and set for it without any reductions abroad whatsoever, for the simple reason that reductions already achieved in Europe may actually impede reductions in Australia by encouraging immigration when Australia needs net emigration to counter overpopulation. Whilst overpopulation may seem strange for a country that is one of the most sparsely populated in the world (Botswana and Mongolia are the only ones more so outside of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets), Tim Flannery and other researchers have shown that the very large ecological footprint of Australians is much greater than can be sustained on extremely old soils that are without exception very deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus and trace chalcophile or siderophile elements zinc, copper, cobalt and selenium, besides being often highly toxic in aluminum and manganese in wetter areas, or sodium and boron in drier ones.

Man-made global warming is likely to make this much worse by:
  1. eliminating the snow cover that provides the only reliable runoff source in all of Australia
  2. eliminating the winter Ferrel cell that produces most of southern Australia’s precipitation
  3. increasing the frequency and intensity of heavy summer rains that will leach out lime, which makes aluminum and manganese toxicity problems worse
The most basic need now for the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology is to educate about the scientific knowledge recently found those who are not aware of the problems global warming may cause:
  1. the apolitical population of suburban Australia
  2. non-scientists overseas who do not understand how different Australia is ecologically
If these people could be aware that zero emissions is an urgently required goal for Australia, then the public both at home and abroad may be less passive about the need for pressure to achieve an end to support for private transport and fossil fuel-based power.

Data compiled years ago by the Public Transport Users’ Association suggest to me that even in Australia’s low-density cities public transit could be economic if the people who owned Australia’s land understood that roads were, in a way untrue for Eurasia, the Americas or New Zealand, incompatible with the very survival of the continent’s ecology. Such knowledge would cause a private owner to outlaw their construction, which would provide hope for Australia to become the leader it needs to be in sustainability.

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