Abbott govt tries to stick head in sand as storm surge washes beach away

Intro

As New South Wales mops up after a days of destructive, once-in-a-lifetime ‘cyclonic’ storms, talk turns to climate change. While the jury is still out on whether this storm was climate-related, the threat to Australia’s coast from storms is clear: lost beaches and threatened houses along the coast demonstrate just how vulnerable parts of the heavily populated coastline are to sea level rise and storm surges. That Australia is on the front lines of climate change underscores the need for it to do its part in international efforts to reduce carbon emissions, and according to a new report from the Climate Change Authority that part needs to be a 30 per cent reduction by 2025. Another report this week from WWF notes that this can pushed to zero net emissions by 2050, at low cost and while achieving a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy. Such suggestions would help Australia transition away from its soon-to-be-stranded dirty underbelly industries, whose products have to stay in the ground, according to a new Climate Council report. However, such suggestions are likely to, and have already fallen on deaf ears in the Abbott government, which continues to source support for its “feelpinions” from business and places of convenience rather than from experts. This selectiveness is set to continue, with the Prime Minister’s office today admitting it pushed to have climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg’s new think tank put into a position to advise it. While the Abbott government tries to hide behind manufactured doubt, the global community will be keeping a close eye, especially given the ‘direct action’ scheme blew its budget in its inaugural auction.

Tweet

  • RT @OxfamAustralia: The world is questioning Australia’s ambition on #climate action. Want answers too? Ask the PM http://t.co/0djHZ5kyhu

Key Points

  • Wild weather in NSW this week has highlighted how vulnerable coastal communities and infrastructure is to rising sea levels and storm surges. While the remarkable once-in-a-lifetime weather event may not be directly attributable to climate change, if global emissions are allowed to grow unchecked and sea levels rise, a similar event may lead to severe threats to property and life along the coast.

Resources

Coverage

Tools and resources

Images and video

Key quotes

  • “By 2030, the European Union is offering to cut its emissions by 40%, Norway by 40%, Switzerland by 50% – each using their 1990 emissions as a baseline. As Australia’s 2030 target is calculated from a higher emissions baseline (2000), its level of ambition is reduced accordingly.  Australia, despite present budgetary pressures, can afford to make this effort more easily than many of its economic partners, which are nevertheless opting for high targets.” University of Melbourne’s Peter Christoff.
  • “Deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved, at a low cost. With our abundant renewable resources we are one of the best placed countries in the world for moving to a fully renewable electricity supply. Australia can achieve zero net emissions by harnessing energy efficiency, moving to a zero-carbon electricity system, switching from direct use of fossil fuels to decarbonised electricity, and improving industrial processes.” ANU Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Frank Jotzo.
  • “April is quite early in the coastal storm season and it is therefore likely that further storms will arrive over the coming months.Though there are still uncertainties about how these storms’ intensity might be affected by climate change, Australia could end up losing sandy beaches if the storms get stronger. What we may also see is that the sand moves so far offshore during these extreme events that it might not be able to come back onto the dry beach, like it has in the past. In other words, the sand would get ‘lost’ from the beach system.” University of New South Wales coastal erosion expert Mitchell Harley.
  • “I say as far as that storm goes, it’s too early to say. But it’s important to look beyond that storm. I mean, people tend to forget that parts of NSW are still in record drought at the moment as we speak. And the long-term drying trend is now well entrenched. You know, rainfall in April overall compared with, say, 40 years ago or so is about 15 per cent down. Rainfall in May’s 25 per cent down. So there’s a long-term drying trend. That is being strongly influenced by climate change, by these warming conditions. It doesn’t mean we won’t see extreme storms every now and again. Whether those storms themselves are an effect or being influenced by climate change or to what extent, it’s too early to say, but we need to look at that bigger picture.” The Climate Council’s Tim Flannery on Lateline.

Related Tree Alerts

More tweets

  • MT @JadenHarris95: Timely reminder aft #SydneyStorm were not doing enough: CCA recommend 40-60% cut by 2030 #Auspol http://t.co/DAN65MDohF
  • MT @AussiePeteC: If #climate  predictions correct what we’ve seen Sydney – Newcastle will happen more frequently & occ stronger #SydneyStorm
  • RT @P_Hannam: #SydneyStorm: Of record waves, heavy rain and fierce winds – a statistical recap: http://t.co/PQis4H2dOl #climate
  • RT @AndrewbradleyHC: But climate change is no biggie right? #Climate Change Authority #targets too big a burden, says #government – http://t.co/tHL2qm0C55