Thursday, 18 October 2018
What we just heard exemplifies the type of problem that we have and one of the challenges that are facing us. That is that we have a situation where the challenge itself has been specified—it has been outlined, researched and looked at a number of times—and yet we still manage, in spite of all that and in spite of the ways in which we can deal with the issue of climate change and the ways in which we generate power, to ignore it. We argue ourselves to a standstill.
I've been here now for just over eight years, and I'll point out two things. During that space of time, I experienced for the first time ever in my part of Western Sydney a summer temperature of nearly 50 degrees Celsius. I grew up in Western Sydney. It's always been hotter than the CBD of Sydney, but it never got to 50. A few years ago, it got to 47½ at Penrith. We've never experienced that. People out in the general public know something is happening. And so we had that event.
I mentioned my election eight years ago because in that time we tried to start the process of dealing with this issue. Back in 2010, my side of politics did a number of things to start addressing it—and I'll come back to those. The reason why I mentioned that this was eight years ago is that in the day in, day out of this place we tend to lose track of time because of the day-to-day skirmishes that we have and the fights that go on. So it's worth noting that it's eight years since we started trying to deal with this issue of climate change, because 10 days ago, on 8 October, a massive report was released that says we've only got 10 years left before we get to a point of irreversible climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had nearly 100 scientists from nearly 200 countries saying that we have to be fair dinkum and serious about slowing the growth of temperature rise on the planet. In fact, it says that it looks like we're going to increase to or exceed a 1.5-degree temperature rise by 2040.
If temperatures rise globally by 1½ degrees, then these are the types of things that will happen: the world's warm coral reefs, on top of everything that we've experienced to date, will experience at least 70 to up to 90 per cent loss. Putting aside all the debates that we've had so far in this area about the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's funding, we look set to lose not just a tourism asset but one of the biggest environmental assets for the country and for the world. At 1½ degrees, we will see the consequences of climate-related risks to health: older people who will drop dead because they are unable to cope with the type of heat that we'll see. There will be the impact on our livelihoods, our food security and our water supply, and on human security between countries. There will be the movement of people because they cannot live in their countries anymore because of climate change. And, obviously, there will be the impact on economic growth.
The onus is on us to find a way to limit that temperature growth. We are going through a period where it doesn't make economic sense anymore to have coal-fired power. We can now generate power much more cleanly and much more cheaply than before. Those who argue on one side of their mouths that we shouldn't subsidise renewables, because they think that subsidies are impure, but who on the other side of their mouths—like we just had with the previous speaker—argue that we should subsidise farmers because of the increase in power prices just beggar belief. I can't understand why that's the case.
On top of that, the coalition have tried a number of times to do something other than what has been argued. They tried Direct Action—it's gone; they don't talk about it anymore. They're not talking about subsidising renewables, but they'll talk about subsidising coal when no-one else will do that. They're even talking about the possibility of nuclear power—ignoring the fact that it'll take 15 years or so to get nuclear power up and running here anyway. It makes no sense. And we are all being judged, as lawmakers, for our inability to get this right.
We can generate power better—more efficiently and cleanly. We have got to do what it takes to make sure that, when we look at our own kids, we can answer their questions and say: 'We did everything we could to slow down the growth and to make sure you had as good a life as we enjoyed back in our time.'