Legislative Council: Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Climate Change

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:27): I rise today to admit that I was wrong. I believe it is important that individuals recognise their failings as well as their achievements, and on the subject of climate change I have been very wrong. The issue of climate change has emerged over the past few decades to the point where it has become a particular focus for the community in the last few years. There have been worldwide protests, which have been backed globally by scientists, all urging our leaders to do something about climate change before it is too late.

The matter has been widely debated, with evidence plainly demonstrating that the human impact on the earth is unsustainable. However, notwithstanding all of this, I remained a sceptic. In my 82 years on the planet I have experienced extreme weather conditions and natural disasters, including droughts, floods, bushfires and earthquakes. I experienced the 1948 hurricane that destroyed the Glenelg jetty and washed away the frigate HMAS Barcoo in 1954. I experienced South Australia's worst earthquake in 1954; I experienced Black Sunday in 1955; and I experienced both Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1980 and 1983 respectively.

These types of events had been occurring since I was a boy, and I did not see the difference in these and the more recent extreme weather conditions that were being experienced globally. In recent years the issue of climate change has been widely debated and, based on my own experiences, I believed the sceptics. I had experienced the changes in the climate and I did not believe that anything abnormal was occurring.

However, on 17 June this year the ABC's Q&A program aired a science special. The show featured five scientists from a wide range of disciplines; from astrophysicists, marine ecologists and particle physicists to geologists and climate scientists. Without a doubt, each member of the panel came to the same undeniable conclusion: that climate change is a real threat and that serious action must be taken immediately.

One might ask why the information provided in this program was so different to all the other information I had been exposed to on the subject before. Previously, I had paid too much attention to climate sceptics who presented their opinions as fact; however, the information given by the ABC on this program was based on scientific research presented by experts in a manner that was easy to consume. They did not shy away from the criticisms but instead addressed them, using arguments based on actual facts, not opinion.

I now understand that, whilst it is true that our earth's climate has always been changing, it is the rate of change that is particularly concerning. The changes are so rapid that it is untenable for our planet. It threatens our very existence, and we face extinction as a result of political inaction on climate change.

In 2016, Australia signed the Paris Agreement. Signatories pledged to strengthen the global response to climate change by maintaining this century's global temperature rise to 2º, with a stretch target of 1.5º. Australia's target was to reduce 2005 emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent by 2030. Unfortunately, we are not only failing to be on track with this target but our emissions have been increasing since 2015. If global emissions continue to rise at their current rate our global temperature will rise by 1.5º in just 15 years. This will have a devastating and irreversible consequence for our planet.

Naysayers often state that Australia is only responsible for contributing 1.3 per cent of global emissions; however, considering that we only make up 0.3 per cent of the global population, our emissions are alarmingly high. Australia needs to take urgent action and commit to a target of 0 per cent emissions by 2050, as the UK has done.

I am not afraid to admit that I was a climate change sceptic. However, I was wrong. I hope my admission will inspire other political leaders to challenge their views by turning to science instead of opinion.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter interjecting:

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Hon. D.G.E. Hood): Order!