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  • Nation's economy to be hard hit in global warming struggle

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    The effects of global warming on Australia are well documented, and some are already being seen in the form of dry winters, unusual summer heat and early spring bushfires.

    In the longer term, according to the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and universities, we can anticipate damaging sea level rises, changes in local weather that disrupt agriculture, and ocean acidification expected to severely deplete the Great Barrier Reef.

    But the most immediate effects on Australia are likely to be financial.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is explicit: human greenhouse gas emissions are the dominant force in recent temperature rises.

    The world has used up 54 per cent of its total carbon budget, the amount of C02 it can put in the air if climate change is to be held at safer levels. At the current rate that mark will be passed in the next 30 years.

    This budget crisis has serious implications for Australia's coal and gas industries, both of which are planning for expansion. Essentially, the nation's resources industry is on a collision course with climate change, and most of the known fossil fuel reserves will have to be left in the ground if Australia is to play even a very modest part in preparing to tackle the worst effects of climate change.

    As Professor Lesley Hughes of Australia's Climate Commission, since abolished, said: ''How people react to this is up to the policymakers and governments, as well as investors. It isn't our job to reconcile the politics of this with the science. We are simply presenting the facts as best we know them.''

    The price of tackling emissions - whether by an emissions trading scheme, a ''direct action'' payment plan for polluters, or a carbon tax - will be expensive. And the longer the nation waits, the more the cuts are likely to cost, according to the Garnaut Review of Climate Change - still the most comprehensive analysis of the economics of cutting carbon.

    Professor Neville Nicholls, of Monash University's School of Geography and Environmental Science, said the IPCC report left little room for doubt about the need to address the problem, because of real-world signals.

    ''We have just seen the hottest 12 months for Australia on record,'' he told the Australian Science Media Centre. ''As well, over the last decade or so, thousands of people have died in unprecedented heat waves and bushfires around the world. And the best tools we have for projecting climate tell us to expect more warming, more defrosting, more sea level rise, and more heat waves in the future. We can hope that these projections are wrong. But planning for a warmer future seems the safer, more conservative option.''

    An IPCC contributing author, Professor Colin Butler of the University of Canberra's Faculty of Health, said there was no real alternative to emissions cuts. ''We have an ethical responsibility to act on climate change. This is also in our long-term self-interest,'' he said.

    Related Article: Nation's economy to be hard hit in global warming struggle on IREPORT.CNN Nation's economy to be hard hit in global warming struggle on GOODREADS

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