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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 December 2008) . . Page.. 159 ..

The major reason I stood for the Greens at this election was climate change. Earlier this year I went to a seminar at the ANU. It included some of the scientists that contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and what I learnt there was very scary. The world’s temperature has already risen by 0.7 of a degree over the last 100 years. We can see it in Canberra now. I picked my first ripe tomato a couple of weeks ago, just before the end of November. And I do not have a greenhouse; that was out in the open. The rule used to be to plant your tomatoes after Melbourne Cup Day and hope to get a ripe tomato by Christmas. Also it seems to have given up raining in Canberra, which is really great for me as a bike rider but lousy for almost anything else.

Even if no greenhouse gases were emitted from now onwards, which is not very likely, the earth is committed to more than two degrees of warming according to the IPCC. Two degrees of warming will lead to the weather getting more extreme with floods and droughts. This will have many impacts, including immediate loss of human life, property and environmental damage. Many species will no doubt become extinct. Many low-lying countries or parts of countries will be inundated and the world will have millions of climate refugees.

For human beings, possibly the most significant issue is that food will become a lot scarcer because agricultural conditions will be changing so quickly. If we continue business as usual, by the end of the century the earth is expected to be a lot hotter, perhaps seven or eight degrees hotter. If I were a climate scientist, I would spend this time telling you what climate change is going to do to the planet if we do not change direction. The consequences for human beings and other species are so bad that I am sure that everyone who understands them would want to avoid them if at all possible. But I am not a climate scientist, so I will not.

The positive thing is that, while we cannot stop some significant impacts of climate change, it is still possible to avert the worst. We can change our direction, and in some cases it is very easy. The first day I was here at the Assembly I thought there was a boiler room next to the toilet; the opaque glass on the wall was just too hot to touch. I subsequently discovered that in fact the toilet faces west, and the opaque glass is in fact external unshaded western windows. It does not cost much to shade western windows. It costs a lot of money and fossil fuels to air-condition buildings in the summer. This is but one small example of the many places where saving energy would probably be cost effective rather than a financial cost.

Climate change is caused almost entirely by burning fossil fuels for energy, and the wonderful thing is that there is actually no need to burn fossil fuels for energy. Fossil fuels are merely a stored form of solar energy. All Australia’s electricity needs could be met by a 35-square-kilometre area with high levels of sunlight using solar thermal technology. We should also remember that even today with our high fossil fuel use the energy needed to keep our major biological support systems such as a breathable atmosphere and a habitable temperature come from an offsite nuclear reactor, the sun. Using renewable energy rather than fossil fuel energy therefore is a big part of the solution to climate change. We have wind, solar and ocean-based technologies that work. As a simple example, solar hot water systems save their owners money in most parts of Australia, but they are still not the standard choice.

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