Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Climate Change and Australia

By Tony Innes


It is now well documented that humans are causing climate change by adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide (C02) and other greenhouse polluting gases into the atmosphere. Despite its relatively low population total of approximately 22 million, Australia is not only a significant contributor to the current carbon problem it will suffer major impacts if the trend of increasing temperatures continues. The main reasons for this claim are as follows:

Australia is a major contributor to Climate Change

Australia is a major contributor to the current climate change situation for two main reasons. Firstly, Australia has large amounts of coal reserves and has been a leading exporter of coal to Japan and Europe for many years. The biggest source of greenhouse pollution is burning fossil fuels such as coal for energy. As a result, Australia has provided the resource for many countries to emit large quantities of carbon and as such has a moral obligation to tackle climate change.

However there are many factions within Australia who are opposed to fighting climate change. The Australian Coal Industry sees action against climate change as a direct threat to their livelihood and will threaten the job security of its employees. They fear that as the rest of the world moves to renewable energy sources in order to meet their carbon reduction commitments, the demand for Australian coal will reduce. Rather than allowing a drop in the demand for coal to impact their business, forward thinking Australian coal producers should be looking to develop alternative energy sources. There is a great opportunity for Australian energy producing organizations, located in the sun blessed country, to become world leaders in renewable energy such as solar power, creating thousands of jobs and providing new export opportunities.

Secondly, statistics show that per head of population, Australia is at the top of the rankings when it comes to carbon emissions. There are many theories on why this is the case, ranging from the large distance between major cities to the high availability of cheap coal fire energy. In any event it is a statistic that Australia cannot ignore and the countries politicians must show leadership to nearby developing nations by taking a stance on climate change.

Unfortunately some sections of Australian politics are taking the opposite approach by deliberately stalling any serious action on climate change for fear of the impact on the economy. These groups fail to see the reality that the impacts of climate change can also result in large scale economic losses. This was the case in 2006 when the combined impact of Cyclone Larry, severe drought and bushfires wiped billions off the Australian economy and impacted on the hip pockets of ordinary Australians through increased food prices and higher insurance premiums.

Australia is vulnerable to continued climate change

Australia is particularly vulnerable to climate change as it is one of the driest inhabited continents on the planet on par with Africa. Australia is currently enduring a record breaking drought and water rationing is now a standard practice in most capital cities during the summer months. The economic and psychological impacts on Australian farmers have been particularly devastating and a number of rural communities have been decimated by the ferocity of this unprecedented drought.

Continued climate change will only make Australia drier and drought conditions will become the norm in many areas. Water shortages in large cities will be commonplace, further forcing up the price of essential food produce. The likely alarming impacts on future generations should be sufficient incentive for any Australian to do everything they can to fight climate change and in fact any behaviour to the contrary could be deemed as criminally irresponsible.

The majority of renowned climate experts and scientists agree that large parts of the Arctic and Antarctica are melting at alarming rates as higher global average temperatures continue to rise. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that as large areas of land base ice continue to melt, the inevitable result is an increase in overall sea levels. As an island continent with the majority of the population living in cities located in coastal areas, Australia is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels. There have been a number of reports of luxury waterfront properties in some areas of New South Wales and Queensland coming under threat of rising tides, forcing home owners to flee their property. This trend has not escaped the notice of insurance Companies who are have sharply increased home insurance premiums in some coastal areas to match the higher risk.


As a major exporter of coal and leading the table on carbon emissions per head of population, Australia has an obligation to take a leadership role in the global fight against climate change. Furthermore, as one of the driest continents Australia will be particularly impacted by increasing temperatures and its coastal regions will be vulnerable to rising sea levels. As a result Australia has many reasons to play a leadership role in the global fight against climate change for the sake of current generations and future generations to come.

These articles are written by Tony Innes who has a unique blend of business experience and environmental knowledge. Tony has over 20 years experience in the finance sector, is a Certified Practicising Accountant and holds an Economics Degree from Adelaide University. Tony has a Post Graduate in Business Sustainability and is a member of the Al Gore Australian Climate Project team. Tony Innes is the Managing Director and co-founder of Sustainable Directions) in Adelaide, South Australia. ( ). He can be contacted on 0416 097 790 or at

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