Monday, 8 April 2013

Target Australia - but only where it will hurt

Although this could have been done as early as the 1974 Lake Eyre floods, it is finally being admitted that Australia’s radically changing climate, with rainfall having declined by 1 percent per year during the rainy season in southwestern Australia since 1968 and increased at the same rate in northwestern and central-western Australia, is almost certainly a totally man-made occurrence.

A Climate Commission, formed very recently in response to the very hot summer in Melbourne and the severe floods on coastal Queensland rivers such as the Burnett are clearly related to anthropogenic global warming. The Age, in its analysis, says:
The report argues that, as the world’s 15th biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, Australia should move towards cutting greenhouse emissions “to nearly zero” over the next forty years.
Calling Australia only “the fifteenth biggest emitter” is misleading for the following reasons:
  1. Australia’s per capita emissions have been the highest in the world ever since reliable statistics became available
  2. A substantial proportion of greenhouse emissions from newly industrialising Asian nations comes from Australian fossil fuels and light metal ores
  3. Australia has exceptionally high biodiversity because its exceedingly low primary productivity, as Tim Flannery and Michael Huston note, prevents the competitive exclusion that reduces species diversity and endemism in the Enriched World.
    • In fact, as Jason T. Weir and Dolph Schulter in ‘The Latitudinal Gradient in Recent Speciation and Extinction Rates of Birds and Mammals’ demonstrate, speciation rates in the tropics are much lower than in the Enriched World
    • Given the extreme geological stability of Australia it would logically be expected that speciation rates in Australia (and Southern Africa) would be much slower than anywhere in the Western Hemisphere where Weir and Schulter’s study was done
    • The high species diversity and endemism of Australia and South Africa reflects extremely low extinction rates compared to the northern and western hemispheres.
    • Thus, conservation standards of 5 percent which are probably greater than necessary for the heavily glaciated areas of Europe and North America are completely inadequate to prevent species extinction in Australia. This is especially true when species may have to defend territories up to 100 times as large as in the Enriched World
  4. Because of Australia’s low and variable primary productivity, the effect on its ecosystems is potentially much greater than the Enriched World
Under this scenario, governments of the Enriched World who need to transfer resources from their own greenhouse gas emissions to serious sanctions against Australia.

In many ways, sanctions against Australia are analogous to those against apartheid South Africa. After all, we are in both cases dealing with a mineral-rich nation on an ancient land surface with politics far to the right of other ethnic European populations. In both cases the Enriched World  depends on these Unenriched lands for essential minerals, and seek unity despite the fact that in the long term neither ruling nor working classes share common interests. If you read Southern Cross University’s ‘Current issues in environmental management in Australia: what do people think?’, you will see that the majority of Australians believe the climate is changing but do not believe their own greenhouse-intensive lifestyles in a naturally exceedingly low-energy land to be the cause, despite a great deal of scientific evidence.

What we can recognise is that sanctions against Australia must be specific – aimed at demolishing the structures that cause severe environmental degradation, most especially farming on a large scale of soils (unlike almost all Enriched World soils) never naturally designed for that purpose. They must not be as indiscriminate as against apartheid South Africa since such sanctions can serve to isolate a community in an unhelpful manner – besides isolating the world from places of greater importance in many ways than even the population and economic centres of the Enriched World.

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