HON ROBIN CHAPPLE(Mining and Pastoral)[10.01 pm]: I rise tonight to briefly talk about the Climate Adaptation in Action Conference in Melbourne, which is jointly hosted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. About 700 delegates from around the world and the nation are at that conference. I want to make two points that have arisen from that conference today.

The director of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Jean Palutikof, said that mankind has a lot of work to do to ensure it copes with the turbulence of a shifting climate. She identified Queensland’s floods, cyclone Yasi, the ongoing droughts in the south west corner of Australia, and the urgent need to adapt to climate change. CSIRO chairman Simon McKeon lamented mankind’s love affair with fossil fuels and said that without it, the conference likely would not be needed in the first place.

Hon Simon O’Brien: There’s no way people would’ve been able to get there probably, either.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Absolutely. He also was concerned that the endless debate in the media over the plausibility of climate change had hampered action. He said —

“Change is hard enough, but when science isn’t given a fair go in the media it’s doubly hard,” …

I now turn to two reports that were released in America at the beginning of the week. The first is a report from the National Academy of Sciences and the other is a National Research Council study jointly sponsored by the states of California, Washington and Oregon, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Geological Survey. What is astounding about both these reports is that, although slightly different, they have now found that the ice melt has just about doubled in the polar regions. The estimates, according to one report—I will refer to the other study also, because they vary, but they are both significant—is that sea level rise could be up to 140 centimetres by 2100, which is three times higher than was previously expected and significantly higher than the current United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s predictions of 18 to 59 centimetres. That was from the NRC study. The other study, by the National Academy of Sciences, found that the impacts of melting ice, and warming, expanding oceans, would hit California hardest. It is really quite interesting that, in fact, it is not uniform. Ocean levels south of Humboldt County will rise by about one foot in the next 20 years, two feet by 2050 and up to five feet by 2100. San Francisco Bay, which I was not aware of, has also already seen a sea level rise of seven inches in the past number of years. The director of the Coastal Geology Group in the United States, Gary Griggs, said that we should not be debating this anymore; we should start thinking realistically about the future and have a plan so we can minimise our losses.

I want to quickly touch on the role of the WA state government as the primary regulator of industry in our state. It is my belief that with all these scientific, well-researched organisations that are representative of not only our nation but also other nations, we should be taking a role as well. We should really be working to transition from a carbon-intensive economy to a low-carbon, clean economy. Unfortunately, the current state government has no policy on how we will support the commonwealth meeting, the Kyoto and our national targets and has set no articulated target itself. While major carbon emitters must report to the commonwealth government, our state government does not have full access to these records and does not consider the cumulative impact of greenhouse gas emissions when considering industry proposals. To ensure that realistic data on Western Australia’s current and future greenhouse emissions is available to the public, agencies in the state should be getting that information together.

Using a librarian—a researcher—over the past year my office has gone through the national greenhouse and energy reporting figures and all the reports done by the WA Environmental Protection Authority and sourced information directly from companies by writing to them. It has been surprising how forthright many of the companies have been in responding to our inquiries. We have put together a picture of where we are at in the state of Western Australia. Western Australia’s emissions in 1990, the benchmark year for the Kyoto agreements, was 52 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. By 2010, this had grown to 74.3 million tonnes. I must point out that we have not been able to access all the data, so this is a very conservative estimate. We believe that we are about 10 per cent shy of the real figure. Our research shows that current emissions are now in the region of 85 million tonnes of CO2 per annum. The most worrying finding of this research is that pending industrial development that is already in train, we are set to emit a further 83 million to 128 million tonnes per annum in this state. These new projects would see emissions more than double during the coming decade and triple that of our baseline reporting year of 1990. I hope that the Climate Adaptation in Action Conference in Melbourne will find a way forward, but I hope that that message will come back to the state of Western Australia, to the government, so it can start playing its meaningful part in reducing our carbon footprint and taking action to inhibit what is now being presented as almost a fait accompli—that many of our coastal regions will be inundated.

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