Hottest year on record for Australia
- Hottest year on record for Australia
January 4, 2006 - 9:44AM
The Howard government is facing a king tide of pressure to commit to
greenhouse gas cuts after figures showed the nation has sweltered
through its hottest year on record.
The government, which refuses to sign the Kyoto Protocol on reducing
emissions, has been accused of neglect and an over-reliance on new
clean energy technologies to solve the global warming crisis.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology's annual climate summary,
released on Wednesday, shows 2005 was more than one degree warmer
than the average temperature between 1961 and 1990, the standard
timeframe used to track temperature change around the world.
A one degree increase means many southern towns are now experiencing
temperatures equivalent to those seen in communities located 100km
By the government's own admission, most of Australia's highland
animal species will disappear if the average temperature rises by
between one and five degrees.
Wednesday's figures showed the average temperature last year was
22.89 degrees - the highest average in Australia since comprehensive
record keeping began in 1910.
Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell on Wednesday acknowledged
climate change was the biggest modern-day environmental challenge.
"I regard climate change as the number one environmental challenge,"
But he defended the government's refusal - along with the United
States - not to sign Kyoto saying it was not the solution and
"If we don't bring forward the technologies that allow us to produce
energy, but do so with much, much lower greenhouse gas emissions,
then we won't solve the problem," he said.
The federal government has signed Australia up to a regional
partnership designed to address global warming with improved
The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, which
includes the US, Japan, China, India and South Korea, is due to meet
for the first time in Sydney later this month.
The new figures saw green groups and opposition parties lining up on
Wednesday to attack the government for what they said was its failure
to take direct action on climate change.
"The data released today by the Bureau of Meteorology adds to a huge
body of scientific research that shows we no longer live in a natural
climate," Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Erwin Jackson
"While Australia gets hotter, our greenhouse pollution is spiralling
out of control."
Labor's environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said Australia's
greenhouse gas emissions had risen by 23.3 per cent between 1990 and
"The heat is on the Howard government to start taking direct action
to avoid dangerous climate change," Mr Albanese said.
"We need a little less conversation and a lot more action."
Greens senator Christine Milne said the government should commit to
real targets for reducing emissions at the Sydney meeting next week.
"Technology is critical to addressing climate change ... but my
criticism is directed at the Australian government because it is
putting all its eggs in the technology basket," she said.
"The Howard government is putting most of its money for technology
into corporate welfare for the coal industry."
Conservation group WWF echoed her call, saying developed countries
taking part in the Sydney meeting must agree on binding and absolute
greenhouse gas emission reductions.
WWF-Australia chief executive Greg Bourne also said developing
countries, such as India and China, must pledge to grow their
economies in a way that minimises their increases in emissions
through the use of clean energy technologies.
"Australia's natural icons, the water supplies of our cities and our
agricultural production and biodiversity are at risk - continuing to
add to that risk can not work alongside trying to adapt to its
effects," he said.
WWF released a report last month revealing that fish stocks are
increasingly threatened by the effects of climate change.
A separate report by the group has found at least 90 Australian
species are at risk from climate change, including koalas, wombats,
birds, reptiles, frogs and fish.
Greenpeace energy campaigner Catherine Fitzpatrick said 2005 gave
Australia a taste of what life would be like if we failed to tackle
"The extreme heat and bushfires of New Year's Day 2006 showed that it
isn't going to be fun," she said.
"If action isn't taken soon to avoid catastrophic climate change,
Australians will have John Howard to blame for failing to act when he
had the chance."