The people of this planet, rather than the governments claiming to represent them, have a right to demand that the 25 largest emitters of greenhouse gases reach an agreement on:
- meaningful and timely reduction of their emissions;
- mandatory inspection and monitoring of their action; and
- enforcement measures ensuring reduction targets are met.
The five countries with the largest greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for more than half of total global emissions, while the 25 largest emitters are responsible for 81 per cent. The remaining 185 countries, being responsible for only 19 per cent of those emissions, should not be required to set binding targets but should undertake to do what they can to reduce their emissions.
Governments of the 25 largest emitting countries will be on trial at Copenhagen, probably by most of their own people and certainly by the rest of the world. Why? Because they are responsible for the deteriorating state of the global environment and ability of the human species not just to live in it, but to survive. They have prime responsibility for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to levels which ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2C above the pre-industrial level.
Climate scientists broadly agree that to achieve this primary target, concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere must not be permitted to exceed 450ppm. Desirably CO2 should be kept below 400ppm. However, CO2 has been steadily increasing over the past 50 years and doing so with increasing speed, as have anthropomorphic emissions. Its concentration is now at about 390ppm. At levels of 450ppm or more, there is a very real risk of temperatures rising by more than 2C and continuing to rise.
If that happens, land-based ice will melt much faster and sea levels will rise more rapidly and to higher levels. Extremes of climate would become more pronounced and frequent. The effects would be disastrous and result in massive loss of human habitat and life on a scale never seen before. Ability of the human species to survive could be put at great risk. In short, the world as we now know it could come to an end.
Despite undertakings given at Kyoto, none of the 25 major greenhouse gas emitters, have reduced their emissions. In fact, all have increased them and continue to do so. Most, like Australia, have done so on the pretext that action to reduce emissions would harm economic growth, commercial advantage or cause unemployment. Jobs must be protected! Sound familiar? It should, since it is the top priority of our political leaders.
Most of those leaders suffer from political myopia, a condition limiting their vision to the short term, preventing adoption of policies and practices which would realistically avoid or mitigate the effects of climate change. Those changes have already begun to affect us, so far only in a relatively small way. This is evidenced by:
The Murray-Darling river basin continues to be drought stricken. River flows have stopped, scarcity of water prevents or limits crop irrigation and food production is falling. In some areas, towns dependent on river water for human consumption are beginning to face the very real prospect of having water strictly rationed or trucked-in. Major cities such as Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane-Gold Coast are forced to increasingly rely on desalination to meet human needs for potable water.
If temperatures rise more than 2C this dependence will increase, irrigated agriculture and its productivity will continue to contract, food prices will rise and exports will fall. The possibility of major grain crop failure increases the prospect of Australia becoming a net importer of food. Many towns in regional Australia will cease to remain viable communities.
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