Monday, 23 July 2012

A dreadful move to save money

As Perth’s July rainfall is almost certain to reach a record low after 45 years of steady decline, comes news that the very minor potential gains in greenhouse gas emissions and land conservation during the last decade are likely to be lost in a very short time.

Robyn Parker, the New South Wales Environment Minister, has stated in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that large numbers of unspecified national parks will now go unstaffed, and that amateurs will now be allowed to hunt kangaroos. Whilst hunting of feral animals is a definite and possibly profitable necessity there is no certainty that it will be limited to feral animals and there is the dangerous possibility that with inadequate policing native animals, including endangered species, could be poached.

Still worse is that with the likelihood that the Liberal Party will be able to phase out the inadequate carbon tax in 2013, leaving Australia with no plan to reduce greenhouse emissions that remain the highest per capita in the world. Without a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions and extremely limited government regulation compared to countries generally considered major threats, it is possible that Australia will become not only the highest per capita emitter but, with its high immigration and fertility, the highest overall emitter.

More than that, there is a lot of evidence many endangered species in the cooler regions of Australia are likely to decline rapidly as the climate warms. In the case of the rufous scrub-bird, there has already been a raising from Vulnerable to Endangered, as there has been for that species’ only close relative the Noisy Scrub-Bird. Although this has been denied by IUCN, there is genuine danger of all species from the southwestern karri and tingle forests becoming extinct very soon. Present rates of rainfall decline are around a linear 1 percent per year - maybe a little more given that Mount Pinatubo’s eruption temporarily improved southwestern Australian rainfall between 1991 and 1996.

If we assume such a linear decline continuing, by 2050 southwestern Australia would receive less than 20 percent of the wet season rainfall expected before anthropogenic global warming took hold. Perth would receive only around 30 millimetres per month, and even historically rainy Northcliffe no more than 40 millimetres. This would correspond to an annual rainfall of no more than 350 millimetres in the far southwest, inadequate even for many kinds of heathland! Species such as the Noisy Scrub Bird and Baudin’s Black Cockatoo, which are already endangered and depend on these wetter habitats, could logically be premeditatively uplisted to Critically Endangered on such grounds. Contrary to what the IUCN told me in a recent email, climate change data are too convincing to reject such moves, and they are a threat even to forest species holding their own for now.

Australia must find other ways to deal with its financial problems, and face the hard truth that its government policies remain one cause of its extremely poor record of species extinctions and land degradation. Cuts need to be made to funding the vested interests - fossil fuel, car, aluminum and aviation industries - responsible for the problem.

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