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Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Page: 8278


Senator LUNDY (6:45 PM) —Climate change is a global problem caused by carbon pollution. The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will build a low-pollution economy for the future of Australia. Under the scheme, Australia’s biggest polluters will pay for the pollution they generate and there will be a limit placed on the number of Australian carbon pollution permits issued each year. The sale of permits will raise $11.5 billion for the Australian government in 2010-11, and every cent will be used to help households and businesses adjust to the scheme. The scheme will result in changes to a wide range of prices, but the overall increase in the cost of living will be modest.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] and related bills give effect to Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto protocol. For too long we have poured greenhouse pollution into the atmosphere and we are continuing to do so at an alarming rate. The science tells us that this pollution is causing climate change. We are already starting to feel the effects of this pollution, and projections show that if we do not act it will only get worse, with changing temperatures and rainfall patterns, more droughts, floods and water shortages, rising sea levels and extreme weather. Australia, already the driest inhabited continent on earth, is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The longer we wait to act on climate change, the more it will cost and the worse the effects will be.

Around 340,000 people live in the ACT, and this of course is the home of Canberra, the nation’s capital. It is located in the south-east region of New South Wales and is part of the Murray-Darling Basin. I would like to work through the following examples of the potential impacts and costs to the ACT’s industries, infrastructure, environment and people. The ACT is likely to experience rising temperatures and increases in extreme weather events like high-intensity rainfall, flood, drought and bushfire risk. There is a likelihood of more weather related natural disasters. By 2070 the annual average number of days over 35 degrees Celsius in the ACT could grow from the current five to up to 25 days.

Water supply in the ACT is threatened by reduced rainfall and run-off, increased evaporation and the increased occurrence of drought associated with climate change. Inflows into catchment areas decreased by 63 per cent during the 2001 to 2008 period. By 2030, a five per cent increase in water demand is projected, but with a 20 per cent decrease in run-off into ACT dams. Increasing water storage capacity will necessitate increases in the price of water for domestic and industrial uses. The ACT’s electricity and water provider, ACTEW, is enlarging the local Cotter Dam to provide an additional 78 gigalitres of water, at significant cost. The enlarged Cotter Dam and increased water extraction from the Murrumbidgee River will provide better water security under the reduced rainfall conditions predicted as a result of climate change.

Increased temperatures and increased evaporation due to climate change will also increase the risk of bushfires. By 2020, the number of days with very high or extreme fire danger could increase from 23 days to between 26 and 29 days, but by 2050 may increase by up to 50 per cent. The Canberra bushfires of 2003 make this a very real and serious projection for the people of Canberra, and I think that the recent Victorian bushfires serve as a reminder to us all of the human tragedy associated with such events.

Drought is likely to become more frequent and persistent as a result of climate change and it has the potential to disrupt electricity generation capacity and affect the reliability of electricity suppliers. An increase in average and peak temperatures, particularly in the summer months, will increase energy demand as people switch on fans and coolers and commercial buildings rev up their air-conditioning services.

As the number of very hot days—as I mentioned earlier, above 35 degrees Celsius—increases, it could more than double the number of illnesses and heat related deaths in the ACT, with the elderly particularly vulnerable. Currently, 14 people aged 65 and over die annually in the ACT from heat related deaths. This could jump to between 37 and 41 per year, using that average temperature increase as a guide, and to between 62 and 92 by 2050. Warmer conditions may also spread vector borne, waterborne and food borne disease further south, and these health issues could increase pressure on medical and hospital services.

Debate interrupted.