Can we have a sustainable Lockyer Valley without addressing climate change?

There’s plenty of time to get on top of climate change, right?

If we look at the priority the population gives to electing a government truly committed to doing something about climate change then it comes in at around 4th or 5th in their priorities.  On the other hand, observation of the political parties, both historically and in relation to their election promises, real action on climate change, likely to have significant effects within the necessary time frame, is hardly on the agenda.

I’m always heartened driving through the suburbs (whether in the capital cities or in small country towns) by the view of solar panels on roofs.  The proportion of houses with solar PV or solar hot water continues to increase, and this seems to me to be, at least in part, a visible statement of a commitment to do something concrete about reducing global warming.

However when I look at the generality of lifestyle and buying patterns of the average person, I don’t see any real recognition of the urgency for action, or of the scale of the action required.

Do we really understand the enormity of the changes that are happening?  Happening now, not some time in the future when climate change happens?  Yes, I know, climate change is happening now and has been happening for the last 50 years at least, but behaviour and the language used in talking about climate change suggests that it is still a way off in the future.

Well, here’s the reality:

The planet is building up heat at the equivalent of four Hiroshima bombs worth of energy every second. And 90% of that heat is going into the oceans.  Right now.  Not in ten years, or fifty years.  It’s happening now.

Scary stuff, and I would guess that some readers are going, “yeah, yeah, you’re just trying to scare us into taking action and it isn’t true”.  Read on (the following is extracted from an article by David Holmes in today’s issue of The Conversation):

“John Cook, a climate scientist based at University of Queensland teamed up with oceanographer John Church and several overseas scientists to make an astonishing calculation, which unfolds like this:

Ninety percent of the excess heat trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gases is actually absorbed by our oceans and ice. Without the oceans, that heat would be in our atmosphere. But because of the oceans, we can underestimate climate change.

Wikimedia/National Archives

The Cook team measured the amount of heat the oceans have absorbed in Joules. In terms of visualising warming, Joules are not very meaningful. So the team chose to convert ocean warming into a release of energy etched into the collective memory of the 20th century – the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

And the maths of this is quite disturbing. The equivalent of the heat released by 345,600 Hiroshima bombs is absorbed by the earth every day, or four bombs every second. Ninety per cent of the heat released by those bombs is going into the ocean.”

The full article is available here.

Back to the question in the title of this blog – can we have a sustainable Lockyer Valley without addressing climate change?  “Sustainable” that doesn’t include realistic and necessary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not sustainable at all, but rather a short-term fix to make us feel more comfortable about the way we live.

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