Opinion

Somebody has to save the planet. Maybe you.

SMOKING TIME: Steam and smoke rises from a coal power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
SMOKING TIME: Steam and smoke rises from a coal power station in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. AP

AMID the passionate claims of debaters in the argument over climate change, there's an inescapable fact.

The steps we take as individuals to reduce our carbon footprint are going to benefit our own lives as well as the planet.

Whether you're a climate change believer or a sceptic, the decisions we make to reduce waste, cut fossil fuel consumption, car-pool, recycle, etc, will ultimately save us money and probably make us far more sociable and healthier.

If I had more of a scientific brain, I could make sense of all this climate change jargon. As it is, I'm flummoxed.

I don't need a PhD, however, to work out that over-population, deforestation and air pollution are quite serious problems in this fragile world of ours.

South-east Queensland is said to be particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its growing population and coastal location. In times to come, if predictions of ocean-rising prove true, coastal property owners could have more of a sea view than they bargained for.

I've had a look at the list of things we can do to lessen our "carbon footprint" and it makes sense to me.

Top of the list is reducing car emissions and we all know how to do that - walk or cycle for short trips, use public transport and car-pool with workmates.

We're urged to turn off lights and appliances when not in use, insulate our homes, take shorter showers and dry clothes outside on the line.

We should buy local and seasonal food, choose goods with minimal packaging and buy second-hand rather than new.

If we want to get really keen, we can recycle waste, compost vegetable scraps, and install a solar-powered hot water system and rainwater tanks.

That's pretty straightforward, isn't it? Carbon footprint stamped out in a flash, without really trying.

Anyone feeling anxious about the ravages of climate change and the future in general is not alone.

The Better Health Channel assures us that it's easy to get disheartened or fearful about climate change.

It has to be said, we brought it on ourselves - Australia having one of the highest rates of greenhouse gas emissions per person compared with other industrialised nations.

But that's not the point, is it? What's done is done.

What we really have to figure out is how to fix the problem and learn enough to not make it worse.

"If we continue as we are now, the effects of global warming around the world could be catastrophic," Better Health warns.

"Changing our lifestyle and our behaviour will help reduce the human impact on the environment. We can all make a difference to climate change."

Critics of the Federal Government say its policies will not be effective in reducing carbon emissions.

"The fact that we can't sell our iron ore and coal fast enough to make the big but short-term bucks shows just how short-sighted we are," says a commentator.

"We are one of the world's biggest coal exporters to China, India and other Third World countries where they then burn it in their low-tech, coal-fired power stations and create more pollution in a day than Australia does in a year, yet all we hear is how we must tax ourselves out of existence to supposedly save the world.

"If the same amount of money was spent on finding ways to use coal without the pollution and also to come up with a way to slow population growth, the world might last a little longer."

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fifth Assessment Report released last week provides details that stamp out the myths and distortions of those trying to discredit climate science, writes Professor Will Steffen, executive director of the ANU Climate Change Institute.

"The Earth has warmed significantly over the last century, and particularly strongly since 1970 up to the present," he says.

"The global average air temperature has risen by 0.89 degrees Celsius over the 1901-2012 period, and the decade 2001-2010 was the warmest on record.

"The ice cover over the Arctic Ocean is decreasing rapidly, at a rate of about four per cent per decade since 1979. Such rapid ice loss is unprecedented in the last 2000 years."

One of the key messages from the IPCC report is that scientists are more certain than ever that most of the warming since 1950 has been caused by human activities, primarily the emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion.

Our mission in this critical decade to come is to quickly get on with the job of reducing emissions.

I reckon a report from more than 600 scientists and researchers that took seven years to complete deserves more than a passing interest.

Our Federal Government may have slowed down its response to "climate change" and the health of the planet, but it doesn't give all Australians an excuse to do the same.

 

My hubby's a bin-raiding daredevil

I'M one of those shoppers who rigorously check out the use-by dates on food.

Anything that's passed its use-by date in the fridge is history and confined to the rubbish bin or the compost heap.

My frugal mate is disgusted every time I throw something out, insisting that there's nothing wrong with it and promptly retrieving and usually eating anything I consider inedible.

I'm not alone in this aversion to outdated perishables.

A consumer group in Britain called Which? has warned that a third of the "hard-up" population over there are putting their health at risk by ignoring use-by dates on groceries to save money.

Ignoring date stamps on products like fish, meat and pre-prepared salads is almost an invitation to food poisoning.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Britain warns: "Don't use any food or drink after the end of the use-by date on the label, even if it looks and smells fine.

"This is because using it after this date could put your health at risk."

I have to concede, my frugal mate shows no ill-effects from the over-consumption of out-of-date products.

He likes to live dangerously.

Topics:  climate change, opinion, vonnie's view



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