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White Christmas will be a thing of the past

Newcastle Herald 30/12/08

New years resolutions should relate to the condition of the planet, writes Zane Alcorn.


It is poignant at this time of year- having celebrated Christmas, and preparing to make new years resolutions- to consider the legacy we are leaving.

Perhaps whether atheist, agnostic, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist we should collectively spend part of the new year ensuring future generations of this planet are able to make use of this place in centuries to come.

Over the last few years we have started seeing warning signs that the planet is ill.

The warmest 11 years on record have all occurred in the last 13 years.

Glaciers are retreating and disappearing.

The Massive Antarctic ice sheet Larsen B broke off into the sea and melted. Its larger cousin Wilson is also breaking up.

In the northern summer of 2007, 38% of the north pole melted.

Another warning is melting permafrost in parts of siberia, northern Russia, Canada and on the arctic sea floor. If these continue melting the methane released will be equivalent to thousands of coal fired power stations running flat chat.

Now, humour this clumsy climate metaphor if you will.

Imagine the planet is a slightly dodgy early 90's model station wagon and you are about to drive it across the Nullabor to Perth.

Howard's way was to propose that the oil not be changed and the car not be serviced as this was an unnecessary expense. Rudd's 'balanced' ethos is to change five per cent of the oil and buy a pair of novelty dice.

Once you are half way across the Nullabor and the car starts blowing black smoke and dropping oil and pieces of metal on the road, it is way too late to change the oil and get the car serviced.

Similarly, by the time Newcastle starts experiencing an annual monsoon and Stockton is swallowed by the sea, it will be way too late to do anything about climate change.

Climatologists including James Hansen from the NASA Goddard institute and Sea Ice specialists such as Mark Serreze from the US National snow and ice data center, have warned that global warming is happening at a faster rate than projected.

Climate Code Red author David Spratt argues that the arctic is melting "100 years ahead of projections".

Many climatologists agree that once the north pole melts it will not be possible to stop the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which over the decades it takes to thaw will cause a 6-8m sea level rise.

I believe that it is foolhardy and irresponsible to ignore the concerns of climatologists like Hansen, who has warned we have 'less than ten years' to massively reduce emissions if runaway climate change is to be prevented.

The climate action movement in the Hunter is unanimous in its support of green jobs for workers in the coal industry (both in mining and energy generation) and related industries like Aluminium production. We call for a just transition to 'green collar' jobs for these workers; the Socialist Alliance believes workers in emissions intensive industries should be retrained on full pay. We will be reiterating this perspective (which is already widely agreed upon nationally) to the national Climate action summit in Canberra from Jan 31- Feb 3.
Plenty of countries around the world have strong economies without coal.

Alternative industries may not generate as much raw profit as coal- but this does not mean they could not generate equivalent wages and social revenue.

But of course the inertia of vested mining interests is massive, as is their influence on Governments. I believe grassroots climate action groups (including political parties and unions) are the only force that can pressure governments to move beyond business as usual. More people will need to join and establish these groups if meaningful change is to be achieved.

To defer action on global warming because of the economic crisis would be a grave mistake. The transition to a renewable, green jobs rich, low emissions economy should be 'the' economic stimulus project that the federal government invests in to rebuild our part of a failing global economy.

After all, there can be no jobs -or economy- on a dead planet.

Zane Alcorn is a climate campaigner with the Socialist Alliance.

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