Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Reading the Climate of the Nation 2012

GLADSTONE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 7: In this handou...
Activists paint the message 'Reef in Danger' on the side of coal ship Chou San on March 7, 2012 in Gladstone, Australia (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
by Dr Graeme Pearman, Adjunct, Senior Research Fellow, School of Geography and Environmental Science at Monash University, The Conversation:

Over the past several decades, scientists have studied the climate of the world and how that is changing.

These studies have built on the recognition, made over 150 years ago by John Tindall, that certain gases in the atmosphere help determine global temperatures and climate.

This work has identified, with high probability, that the climate is changing and will continue to do so through this century in response to the emissions into the atmosphere that result, primarily, from human combustion of carbon-based fossil fuels for energy. It has also shown that there are potential impacts on virtually all sectors of the economy.

Climate change has been perceived by some as an “environmental” issue confined to climate science and potential impacts on human and natural systems.

More recently it has broadened to include the economics and politics of how we sources and use energy, manage the economy, build employment opportunities and well being, transform the economy to a low-carbon future, and adapt to the inevitability of some climate changes. Indeed, it has broadened to encompass the way we view the future of our society.

The involvement of the community thus far in this broader view of climate change has been marginal: a result of the technical and complex nature of the science, the remaining uncertainties, interface of human and natural systems and array of risk management options.

Yet, the climate change issue has resulted from the way we live, as well as our aspirations, our desires and visions for the future of our children. In turn, how we deal with the issue will depend on us, as individuals and as communities and how we embrace these challenges, prepare for change and seize the opportunities that change can create.

The climate change issue is about us.

It is perhaps surprising therefore, that community understanding of the climate-change issue is poor and commitment to support actions to respond to the climate-change issue is varied.

The Climate of the Nation 2012 report, released last week by the Climate Institute, examined - through discussion groups and polling in late May - just how people view this issue.

It found that almost two-thirds of Australians (64%) agree that the climate is changing, with a fifth (19%) unsure. The community is mixed in its views of causes. Almost half (49%) say climate change is due to a mixture of natural variations and human causes, with only a fifth saying that humans are the main cause.

Yet half of the population (54%) is concerned about climate change. People worry about a more polluted Australia and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (79% each); more droughts affecting crop production and food supplies (78%); and plant and animal species becoming extinct (75%).

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