62 Wray Ave
PO Box 1224
Ms Parke (10:14 pm) — I agree with the constituent quoted by the member for Hasluck that her very existence is in danger, but not for the reasons stated—rather, because of dangerous climate change. Next week we come to a juncture where we will for the first time put a price on carbon and, in so doing, move Australia along the path of innovation and sustainability and away from the old road of fossil fuel dependence and degeneration. The driving imperative for the carbon price has been clear for some time: it is the need to reduce Australia's carbon emissions as part of a shared international commitment to global emission reductions. It is aimed at limiting the increase in average global temperatures by the end of this century to two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that level of global temperature increase we know that the consequences will be grave and extremely difficult to mitigate.
This is not an unlikely hypothetical scenario; current commitments, including Australia's, are putting us on track to global warming of at least four degrees. Consider the impacts of the 0.8 degree temperature rise that we are already seeing in Australia. Extreme weather events are at the forefront of our national consciousness. Residents of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are still picking up the pieces after large-scale flooding and cyclones. In WA, extended periods of hot, dry weather and low rainfall have led to out-of-control bushfires. We are also seeing coral bleaching on our reefs, species migrations and so on. If this is the effect of a 0.8 degree temperature rise, you do not have to be NASA's head climate scientist to see that the effect of a fivefold increase in temperatures by the end of the century will be catastrophic.
In March, the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology released the State of the climate 2012 report, confirming the global warming trend based on ground, ocean and satellite based observations. In late 2011, leading international climate scientists attended the Four Degrees or More? conference at Monash University. The final report from that conference documents projected and expected devastating impacts of an average temperature increase of four degrees by 2100 on the economy, on terrestrial species and ecosystems, on marine and coastal environments, on agriculture and food security, on human health, on cities and towns and on regional security, where it is expected that drought and food shortages, sea level rise and storms will dislocate hundreds of millions of people already referred to by some as 'climate change refugees'. Across Asia and the Pacific, in such a situation there will be no stopping the boats.
Earth and palaeoclimate scientist Dr Andrew Glikson of ANU has noted that what is significant is the pace at which the climate is changing. It is changing so fast species will not be able to adapt. He has written that the rate of greenhouse gas rise of about plus-two parts per million CO2 per year is the fastest rate identified in the geological records of the last 65 million years. This is underlined too by the 2011 UN Environment Program report, which states:
There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed.
The irresistible rationale for introducing a price on carbon is that carbon has a cost. The urgency is founded on the fact that climate change is occurring and will deliver environmental, social, health and economic impacts that must be avoided.
The exhaustive social and economic analysis in this country and elsewhere shows that it will be both more effective and cheaper if we act to interdict as much of the consequences of global warming as early as we possibly can. That view is shared by 89 developed and developing countries, which together make up more than 80 per cent of global emissions, and that also make up approximately 90 per cent of the global economy. The Australian government accepts our part of the challenge. With approximately 1.5 per cent of global emissions, there are only 10 countries contributing more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere than Australia and, of course, we contribute the most on a per capita basis.
It is absolutely right that a country like Australia, with a strong and well-developed high-carbon economy, and with a tradition of making key contributions to efforts that require international cooperation, now play its part in the urgent global effort to address climate change. But it is also urgent that we put Australia in a position to participate in the burgeoning renewable energy and energy efficiency economy. Total global investment in renewable power and fuels reached $211 billion in 2010, a 32 per cent increase on 2009 and approximately 5½ times the investment made in 2004. While the steep climb in global renewable investment is very welcome, it is also a clear reminder that the world is moving very fast in this area, and we would be kidding ourselves if we thought Australia was leading the charge or even going out on a limb here.
I think it is vitally important to emphasise that both the economics and the science are guiding the government's actions on the carbon price. Recently American scientist Daniel Nocera noted that every year our burning fossil fuels will release a million years of photosynthesis. By putting a price on carbon we are making that step across the line that divides a wasteful, irresponsible and dangerous past from a forward-looking, inventive and sustainable future, and 1 July is an important milestone in that regard.