Page 4005 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 15 Sept 2009

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The conference also canvassed the latest science. We were very lucky to have Professor Will Steffen from the ANU Climate Change Institute. The theme of his presentation was climate change 2009—faster change and more serious risks. Professor Steffen went on to demonstrate the latest science in which he observed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, reported just a couple of years ago, and what the latest science is showing is that the observed measurements, the observed changes that we have already seen by 2009, are in fact at the top end, the worst-case scenarios, of what the IPCC were predicting for the future in just 2006. So his point simply was that the IPCC were probably—many of us know this already—being conservative. It is a consensus document, but what we are seeing is that their worst-case scenarios are the changes we are already seeing. He went on to provide a series of other quite detailed graphs which illustrated that.

The other very interesting presentation was from Dr Helen Berry from the ANU centre for epidemiology, in which she talked about the health risks associated with climate change. I worked on climate change for a number of years and understand the issues of vector-borne diseases, the spread of tropical diseases, the direct impact on loss of life from health stress and a range of other matters. But what Dr Berry particularly talked about was the impact on mental health resulting from climate change, the way that people and communities will react to significant and ongoing disasters—the mental health impacts of the various stressors that will arise from climate change.

This was one of those light bulb moments for me. In a way it is quite an obvious observation, but I had not really thought about it before, so that was a very interesting new element, to think about the potential impacts.

The last comment I will make is about the atmosphere of the last half-hour or so of the conference, which was one of palpable frustration. After two days nearly of hearing the latest science, hearing all these very practical and positive ideas of how we can act, there was this palpable frustration that we are just not progressing as quickly as we can or as quickly as we must. That remains the challenge for all of us in this place, and Mr Corbell touched on this matter this morning. We have a responsibility to act—and a responsibility to act quickly—to try to avoid at least some of the worst-case scenarios that the scientists are telling us may arise from climate change.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

The Assembly adjourned at 4.53 pm.

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