Australia's Climate Change Challenge


Published on Reuters

Australia, the world's driest continent, is in danger of drying beyond its ability to sustain its agriculture. So says economist Ross Garnaut, who has warned that, should global warming go unchecked, Australia could see a 50% reduction in irrigated agriculture by 2050.
THE weight of scientific evidence tells us that Australians are facing risks of damaging climate change. The risk can be substantially reduced by strong and early action by all major economies.

Without that action, it is probable that Australians, over the 21st century and beyond, will experience disruption in their prosperity and enjoyment of life, and to longstanding patterns in their lives.
Garnaut went on to write that "effective international action is necessary if the risks of dangerous climate change are to be held to acceptable levels, but deeply problematic." He cites the fact that international cooperation is the minimum requirement for the resolution to a global crisis. He refers to it as a "prisoners' dilemma" where each individual country benefits from self-interest, trying to do less of the mitigation itself, while others do more.

"If all countries act on this basis, without forethought and cooperation, there will be no resolution of the dilemma. We will all judge the outcome, in the fullness of time, to be insufficient and unsatisfactory."

Garnaut is calling for one of the most ambitious carbon trading schemes yet proposed, set to start by 2010. He says that Australia's heartland cannot be preserved without this action. He wants the trading regime to be broad-based, to include both energy and transport, earning complaints from business groups who say the scheme could put them at a disadvantage to the rest of the world (ergo: prisoners' dilemma) and have warned of blackouts and bankruptcies.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's government campaigned on the commitment to mitigate climate change and, as such, are expected to institute some form of carbon trading, the scope of which is to be determined. The Garnaut report is expected to be part of that review.

The Rudd government has several other considerations; political, economic, scientific, environmental...

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