Category Archives: Climate change

Carbon tax shows Australia in a bad light

ON JULY 1, Australia introduced a price on carbon emissions. As a result of this, around 300 companies will have to pay the tax, based on a price of $23 per tonne of carbon emissions. After three years, the price will be dependent on the market.

The type of reactions from the public at large paint a disturbing picture of the country, showing that people are largely ignorant of environmental issues and are yet to accept the reality that people have to change their lifestyles if subsequent generations are not to suffer.

The effects of climate change can be seen in many countries around the world, but Australians, cosseted and living in a rich country where the government panders to their prejudices in order to buy votes, are seemingly unwilling to realise that changing the energy production cycle will cost a lot and someone has to pick up the tab.

If changes are not made, and people keep burning fossil fuels, then there will be a very sorry day of reckoning. Alternatives have to be found as the world’s stocks of oil keep dwindling and producing energy by burning brown coal aggravates the problem of climate change.

Businesses that are trying to take advantage of the fear generated around the carbon tax and charge customers more – like the bakery chain, Brumbies – are acting like uneducated yokels. Politicians cannot, or refuse to, understand that the change is needed in order that future generations can build on it and make meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gases.

It is common to see some redneck or the other being interviewed on TV with his grandchild on his knee, and cursing the carbon tax, whinging away that it is going to hit him in the hip-pocket. The man does not seem to realise that the child on his knee may have no future unless painful steps like the carbon tax are brought in, to make a start towards thinking differently about energy and pollution.

And that redneck should also consider that while the 21.5 million Australians, who are among the biggest polluters in the world, produce 1.5 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases, a country like Britain, with nearly thrice that number, only produces 1.7 per cent.

Melbourne’s climate: erratic and nice

YESTERDAY it was 39 degrees Celsius and fans and air-conditioners were in overdrive. That equates to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Today the mercury is sitting at 25 Celsius, a drop of 14 which is not remarkable when you consider that this is Melbourne.

This kind of swing can happen in a single day; there have been summer days when it has been 40 Celsius during some part of the day and half that by evening. By bedtime, it can even time to pull out a blanket.

A famous saying about this city is that you can experience all four seasons in the space of a single day – and it’s not an exaggeration.

Summer brings its share of hot days – the highest I’ve seen in the last 12 years is 42 Celsius which works out to 108 Fahrenheit – but the mean works out 20 Celsius for the highs and 10 for the lows. Overall it is more than bearable. I love it.

Some people find the wild swings unmanageable, especially when it gets cold. Many retired people move to warmer climes as the cold has its attendant health issues. Arthritis is common.

Melbourne’s weather is particularly welcome for anyone who comes here from the Persian Gulf. There the temperatures stay constant for days on end; there are just two seasons the hot and the cool.

Seven months of the year in the Gulf are bearable only when one lives in air-conditioned dwellings. There are two distinct types of heat – some months the mercury rises to as much as 44 degrees and the humidity stays relatively low. And by low I mean something around the 60 percent mark.

August and September sees lower temperatures but the humidity more than makes up for, residing in the 90s all the time. And there is no change, it goes on day after day after day.

It’s a peculiar kind of heat and one has to experience it to understand what it feels like. The heat in Asian countries is an entirely different kind of beast. Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Thailand are all different from the Gulf region, though the heat is always unpleasant.

But no region is as bad as the Gulf region. And yet people work outdoors even in those climes.

The entire Gulf region was built on the back of cheap labour from the Indian subcontinent and much of it was done in the summer.

Australia: where the climate does not change

THERE are two kinds of people in the opposition party in Australia these days – one set believes that the earth is not warming, the other set believes that there may be some warming but man has nothing to do with it. Yes, those six billion-odd souls dwelling on this planet do not in any way contribute any kind of heat to the atmosphere.

That this kind of thinking is even present in a so-called Western developed country in 2009 is a matter that should cause surprise anywhere else. But it is so, and we have an opposition that is now trying to manage the changes in climate without any kind of carbon trading scheme.

Many everyday occurrences tend to drive home the message that humans generate heat. Simply packing four people into a car when it is cold outside and driving a few miles is enough to demonstrate to anyone, except the totally blind, that humans can raise the temperature. And our planet isn’t in some open-ended system – Earth has its limits set as well.

But that does not appear to be apparent to politicians in the opposition in Australia.

There is one politician, a gent named Steve Fielding, who wanted to set up a royal commission to determine whether climate change is real or not. I kid you not. He is from a party called Family First and claims to be an engineer.

Excess heat can affect weather patterns in dramatic ways. I saw this firsthand in the Persian Gulf after the US and its so-called coalition staged a war in 1991 to evict Iraq from Kuwait. Iraq had invaded and occupied the emirate in August 1900.

Before the war, Dubai used to get just three or four days of rain, sometime in December. I remember my chief sub-editor, a jocular Pakistani, telling me on December 27, 1997, “have a good look, my dear, you won’t see much of this in Dubai.” That day it had rained for the first time after I had reached the emirate the previous month.

The amount of heat generated by all the activity in the Gulf area by the war had a dramatic effect on the rainfall pattern in Dubai. In April 1991, there was so much rain in Dubai that the government had to quickly put in place a plan to build a drainage system. Until that point such a system wasn’t needed because there was very little water to be drained.

Climate change sceptics point to the occasional cool years over a period – 1998 was the hottest year for some time, after that it has been cooler – and try to scoff at the science. But then if all of us 6 billion-plus humans are sitting around breathing and occasionally breaking wind, that has to be doing something to the atmosphere. Commonsense tells us that.

One could quote scientific study by chapter and verse, but it isn’t needed when a little use of the grey matter suffices. This is not a question of belief as in religion – this is commonsense. But that seems to be in short supply.

There are many who say that nature will fix itself. But they forget that we are not giving nature a break to effect such healing. It is not possible for any system, no matter how flexible, to heal itself while one is continuing to load up more and more of the substances that bring about the need for healing in the first place.

The Christian fundamentalists who tell us that God will fix it all are entitled to their belief. But they should note that the Bible speaks a lot about climate change Time to have a look before speaking.

I guess the human race will only realise the seriousness of an issue when it actually hits them. Pleas from people in the Maldives, who fear that the sea will inundate their own country, will have no effect. Neither will bizarre everyday occurrences that lead to just one conclusion – the earth is heating and we had better try and save it while we can.

It may already be too late. But when most of those in decision-making positions are middle-aged and do not expect to live to see the dramatic effects that are predicted, why bother?