Climate Change - Western Australia’s High Emissions Profile

I rise tonight to touch on some fairly alarming statistics that have arisen over the last few weeks in relation to the impacts of climate change. In July 2012, NASA’s climate change department identified that measurements from three satellites showed that on 8 July, about 40 per cent of Greenland’s ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated, and by 12 July, an estimated 97 per cent of the ice sheet had thawed. What is really amazing is that in no time in any of the 30 years in which records have been kept has this level of ice melt been seen.

This was subsequently followed up by the United States’ National Snow and Ice Data Centre, which has also announced a record decline in Arctic ice cover. The centre said that after five years that saw less ice than previously documented in the 34-year satellite record, this year’s record loss has scientists questioning their models. They also striving to understand the complex cascade of effects, from shifting weather patterns to displaced marine species, that the accelerating retreat could trigger.

This was followed up by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Fisheries Research and Development Corporation when they released the “Marine Climate Change in Australia” 2012 report card. That report talks about significant and widespread physical changes, including rapid warming of the south-east and increased flow of the east Australia current. Biological impacts include reduced calcification in southern ocean plankton and Great Barrier Reef corals from both warming and acidification.

The CSIRO’s climate adaptation flagship report, dated September 2012 and titled “Implications for policymakers: Climate change, biodiversity conservation and the National Reserve System”, shows that the climate change impacts on biodiversity will be significant by 2030, and that by 2070, the impacts will be widespread and extreme. That has come from our own CSIRO this very month.

The consequences of extreme weather events are only too evident in our own backyard. Perth has had tornado damage, and we have had one-in-ten-year storms this year, two days apart. We had a record number of heat waves last summer, and two consecutive years of Perth’s highest ever average temperatures.

In our regional neighbourhood, we are obviously bearing witness to the rising sea-level threat to the daily existence of hundreds of millions of people in Bangladesh and Polynesia, and to the food bowl of South East Asia in the Mekong Delta. Yet knowing these things, and having access to this research and data from around the world, it seems to prompt little, if any, action from this state government to protect our community and ecosystems from the impacts of climate change. This government seems to be abrogating any responsibility for these impacts and is saying it is the federal government’s responsibility. But unfortunately, in my view, it is everybody’s responsibility. We cannot shirk our mutual responsibility for the expanding and alarming increase in the impacts of climate change that I have just outlined.

As members know, my office has undertaken research that shows that Western Australia is now producing in the region of 85 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. This makes Western Australia’s emissions profiles one of the highest per capita footprints of any developed country. That is not a positive position to be in and one that we should not be proud of. This data is freely available—congratulations!—on my website. The most worrying finding of this research is that although we have almost doubled our CO2 emissions to date, in talking to industry and getting their data, we can see that we will double, if not triple, that data into the future. Projections are that we will emit between 83 million tonnes and 124 million tonnes of CO2 within the next few years on top of our already doubled figures. The issues are that when many of our developments come on stream—Pluto, Gorgon, Wheatstone and Browse, and the redevelopments of Muja A and B—our emissions profile will go through the roof. It would appear to me that this government intends to do absolutely nothing to ensure that the emissions of Western Australian industry do not contribute disproportionately to climate change.

Climate change is real. It is here, and it is now. The rest of the world seems to be able to put these sorts of reports—our own reports—on the front page of their national newspapers. Yet in Western Australia, we do not see that. Indeed, we seem to be almost oblivious—blind—of the reality that is going on in the world around us. I would urge this government—I seriously would urge this government—to take a long, hard look at its role and its responsibility in this area. The government cannot say it is a federal responsibility. It is all of humanity’s responsibility. As members of that humanity, we must take action.

Go to top