Climate change

Colour-coded world map produced by NASA showing where solar energy has maximum effect.
Colour-coded world map produced by NASA showing where solar energy has maximum effect. Photo: Reuters

Climate change is now acknowledged by science as a serious issue resulting from increases in the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In order to avoid dangerous climate change and protect our quality of life, the world’s scientific community advises we cannot let temperatures increase by 2 degrees or more by the end of this century.

The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent as north polar ice cap melting exceeds even the worst case scientific predictions.

We can take action as individuals can take action to reduce carbon emissions, but the role of Governments as regulators and policy setters is also vitally important.

Government policies to address climate change

Government policies to address climate change should include:

Set emission reduction targets

Industrialised countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 with a long-term target of at 100% by 2050.

A renewable energy target

We need to transition to clean zero emissions energy. A legislated renewable energy target (MRET) of 100% by 2020 would fast-track the shift to a clean energy economy.

Smarter energy use

We must reduce our energy consumption. Up to 30% reductions are achievable without much difficulty. This can be achieved through a package of measures that includes world’s best energy efficiency standards for appliances, buildings, vehicles and industrial equipment. Australia should set a legislated target to stabilise our total energy consumption (using the above measures) by 2010 – i.e. 2010 will be the first year that our electricity use does not increase. Australia should also achieve reductions of 1.5% on our total electricity use every year to 2020.

Smarter transport

Transport is a major source of greenhouse pollution – and this is exacerbated by the inefficiencies and tax incentives within Australia’s transport system. The fringe benefit tax concessions for car use should be abolished, and $1 billion of additional Federal funding is required annually for our public transport systems.

Smarter land use

An important contributor to climate change is our land use. We must end broad-scale land clearing and logging of high conservation value native forests by 2008, to address the greenhouse emissions from these practices.

Making polluters pay and shifting away from fossil fuels

We need to place a price on carbon pollution, either through a tax or an emissions trading scheme. Additionally, Australia’s biggest contributor to climate change is our use of the fossil fuel coal. Australia should not build any new coal fired power stations, and should responsibly phase out our involvement in the coal industry.

Ratify Kyoto – completed

Climate change is a global problem, and it needs a global solution. Immediately after the 2007 Australian federal election, the Rudd Labor government ratified the Kyoto Protocol and become a constructive part of this international process.

Smarter international aid

The world’s poorest people will be the worst hit under climate change, with impacts for the developing world predicted to be far more devastating than in industrialised nations. Our biggest responsibility is to reduce our own emissions, but we can also assist our neighbours in other ways.

Australia should integrate climate change risk factors into all relevant parts of our Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) program planning and evaluation. The majority of Australia’s ODA energy sector spending should be on renewable energy, demand management and energy efficiency.

Nuclear power

Nuclear power is dangerous. Many people think that Australia should not be involved in the global nuclear cycle – uranium mining, nuclear waste dumps, and thast nuclear power stations are not needed or desirable. Considered in a climate change context however, the questions that arise are ‘is it more dangerous than existing sources?’ and ‘can we do without it in a transition to renewable sources?’. There are no easy answers to these questions.

See also


  • Brave New Climate, by Professor Barry Brook, Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and Director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide. Barry believes that presenting hard-won technical scientific evidence to a broad audience in an intelligible way is the surest path to provoking meaningful societal change towards long-term sustainability.
  • Climate Dilemma, by Peter Wood, on climate change, mathematics, environmental issues, Australian politics and stuff.

External links


  • Diesendorf M (2007), Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy, UNSW Press
  • Pittock A. B. (2005), Climate Change, CSIRO Publishing
  • Hamilton, C (2007), Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, Black Inc.
  • Pearse, G (2007), High and Dry: John Howard, climate change and the selling of Australia’s future.

This article is part of Greenprint that identifies strategies, actions and approaches for moving us towards a sustainable future.