Climate change is a very real and imminent threat to today’s society. Only last week Sir David Attenborough met with President Barack Obama to discuss the matter, attracting over 2.5 million viewers and this year the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Earth Hour grew to its largest level yet.
Attitudes are changing and as Obama recently proclaimed at an energy policy speech, “sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm”. He’s not alone. Other leaders such as David Cameron, Angela Merkel and even Xi Jinping have expressed a concern about global warming.
Efforts towards curbing the rate of global warming are needed now more than ever. Tiger numbers in the wild have declined to a mere 3,200. Widespread floods, as a result of glacial melting, are often followed by long-term water shortages in western China, Nepal and northern India.
The good news is that Britain has made steps in recent years to reduce their carbon footprint. According to the WWF, the UK has reduced its levels of pollution by 18% over the last parliament and the number of wind turbines increased by 12% in 2014 alone.
Even China are pulling their weight. Following conservation efforts, panda populations have risen by 17% in the past decade and this month China pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 65% by 2030.
“The UK has reduced its levels of pollution by 18% over the last parliament”
But not all countries are following in Britain’s path to create a greener society. The WWF recently said that “Australia is lagging behind the international community” in tackling global warming.
Adani – a multinational conglomerate – starts construction on the Carmichael megamine in Central Queensland soon. The Australian government have approved of similar mines in the past, such as the coal mine in the Galilee Basin region of central Queensland.
Not only is the Australian government promoting the use of non-renewable energy resources, the associated environmental cost of offshore dredging is also hard hitting. Joe Pollock from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University said that “at dredging sites, we found more than twice as much coral disease than at our control sites”.
And indeed, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is under threat. The reef is home to 1,500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, 134 species of sharks and rays and six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles. Yet, in the past 30 years, half of the coral has been lost.
“Global warming is a global problem that requires a global effort”
In broader terms, Australia refuses to move in the same direction as the international community. In July 2014, the government repealed the carbon tax, a levy on the biggest polluters. This comes at a time when its citizens have some of the highest CO2 production rates (per person) in the world.
Alexander White recently claimed in The Guardian that “Tony Abbott [the Australian Prime Minister] has actively treated the environment as an enemy”. Following Abbott’s repeal of the carbon price, emissions increased by 1m tonnes in the year to August 2014 compared to June 2014. If this wasn’t enough, the Australian government spends $10bn a year subsidising fossil fuel companies and abolished the Climate Commission in 2013.
“No nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part”
Global warming is a global problem that requires a global effort. It is unfair that some countries pay billions of pounds on creating a sustainable economy, whilst others feel no need.
Obama recently said at the G20 Brisbane Conference that “no nation is immune and every nation has a responsibility to do its part”. But words are not enough to stop the actions (or lack of) of Australia and others not taking global warming seriously.
So what can be done about this? We can look to the European Union for inspiration. Close political unity between European countries has enabled countries to join arms in their race to environmental sustainability.
EU environmental laws address issues such as acid rain, the thinning of the ozone layer, air quality, noise pollution, waste and water pollution. The Union’s environmental laws seek to “minimise adverse environmental impacts of production and consumption, and to protect biodiversity and natural habitats”.
Perhaps closer international political integration could make countries conform to stringent and proper environmental regulation. After all, it is no coincidence that European countries produce a lot less CO2 than their American and Australian counterparts.
Photo by WorldFish & Tom Nugent via Flickr