Crime against the environment

You know it’s going to be a long hot summer. We’ve been warned. While we shivered through the most dismally cold winter in memory, the Northern Hemisphere baked in record high temperatures. Berlin went past the old century mark. Japan and Hong Kong broke records, while in Egypt the mercury hit 46C. People died from the heat.

Now it’s our turn to swelter and you can’t have missed the fact that the bushfire season has begun unseasonable early, with disastrous fires north of Adelaide in the past couple of weeks. The green of our beautiful Hills has been seared already to its summer yellow and brown. When you read this summer is a couple of days old. So what’s your plan?

Will you crank up the air conditioner and venture out only for essentials? Real heat outside drives us indoors. It’s fair to conclude that many people you see idling in shopping centres on hot days lack decent cooling systems in their homes. In the past there was often a mass exodus to the coast. The luckier veterans of those days are deeply tanned. The less fortunate are dead or suffer from skin cancer.

There was no sun block of any consequence in the fifties or sixties. But there was no El Nino either. Average global surface temperatures have risen steadily as a result of continued increases in non-sustainable energy usage. Increased carbon emissions, the consequence of intensifying industrial activity, hold heat in the atmosphere. Global warming has been blamed for the increased length and severity of heat waves.

As greenhouse gasses rise, the temperature will also rise. Research shows that man-made global warming is very likely to be intensifying and even setting off patterns of extreme heat. In the past generation, the areas of extreme heat have risen tenfold. Activate your bushfire plan, we are told. Stay out of direct sunlight. Slip, slop, slap if you are outdoors.

You’ll do all that. But it’s hard to ignore the irony of the air conditioner. As they crank up in record numbers to protect us from relentless heat, they will also contribute to carbon emissions. All over Australia this summer, those avoiding the heat will contribute to there being more of it in the future. Governments urge us to go solar. Don’t you think they could be doing even more to make that work?

We have a generation left to fix the global carbon emission dilemma. Perhaps you already have a few solar panels. Shouldn’t we be subsidised? Shouldn’t the Federal Government take a big picture view for a change and drive a nationwide push to make every household solar?

In Paris for the climate change summit, PM Malcolm Turnbull has promised $800 million to Pacific countries to combat climate change. However, he has refused to sign an international agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. How influential are the energy company stakeholders, anyway? Carbon emissions are appalling now.

In a generation they might well be an indictable crime against the environment.

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