Water Stewardship

Climate Change - time to pull our heads out of the sand

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For how long more are we going to keep denying climate change? You don’t have to be a climate scientist to know that climate change is happening and the climate is changing at an ever-increasing rate.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its latest assessment report released in March 2014, has categorically confirmed that climate change is happening. It is irreversible and the adverse impacts inflicted on world will be severe.

The other rather frightening fact is that climate change is not something that will happen in the distant future – it is happening right now and during our life time.

It is important that we distinguish between climate variability and climate change. Climate variability refers to the short term changes to the weather patterns, such as the seasons changing from summer to winter.

Climate change refers to long term changes to the weather, and it is not reversible. A simple analysis of weather data shows an ever-increasing trend in global temperatures despite the fluctuations due to climate variability, and also an increase in natural disasters.

As a result, we are going to witness an increasing number of climate-related natural disasters – droughts, floods and bushfires as well as food and water scarcities in some parts of the world. In other words, some of these so called “natural disasters” are going to be human induced.

As human beings we have a moral responsibility to leave this planet a better place for the next generations than when we arrived. This is most unlikely given the current scenario. Some of our leaders are refusing to accept reality for short term gain. A few extra votes, and thinking dominated by election cycles is the rule. This is the sad fact in Australia as well as most countries around the world.

Australians are also guilty of complacency - the “we’ll be alright mate”, attitude. The sad fact is we will not be all right.

The people who are going to be most severely affected are those living in poorer countries who will experience food and water shortages, and island nations due to the predicted sea level rise. In other words, people who are already vulnerable are going to be made even more vulnerable. Do we have the moral right to ignore their plight?

With increasing climate-related natural disasters, some parts of the world are going to become increasingly hostile to human habitation. The net result will be large scale migration of people, the advent of climate change refugees and civil conflict over land and water resources. Australia is going to be affected either directly or indirectly.

We need to realise that the planet is a “closed system” and what happens in one corner of the world is going to affect the entire planet eventually. Without action we are not going to be “alright mate”.

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Professor Ashantha Goonetilleke is a multi-award-winning researcher, consultant and presenter with a passion for improving the conservation, management and quality of water. He is a Professor in Water/Environmental Engineering at Queensland University of Technology. He has an established track record for undertaking research in relation to the sustainability of the water environment and climate change adaptation.

To read his other world class publication visit here. This article was originally published here by the author. 

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