Sunday 10 February 2008

We can make a difference

Division 3 council candidate, Robert Pyne writes in Connect that we need to think about what we are all doing to make this a better place.

There is currently great concern about the prospect of global warming and the impact this will have on our region. The most obvious results are predicted to be sea-level rises and an increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones. While there has been much discussion regarding the policies of the Australian government, what has disappointed many, is the extent to which our local Council has failed to take a leadership role, and appears oblivious to these issues.

In a time when, until recently, our national government has failed to take a lead on global warming, city leaders had a great opportunity to adopt the old truism and think global but act local. Unfortunately Kevin Byrne with the support of his Unity team has acted as a modern day Nero, approving almost anything put before council. Of great concern has been the Cairns City Council’s approval of developments in several low-lying areas, including a number on the northern beaches. When more beachfront land is exposed by erosion this I wonder who will be slugged for the restoration costs? No prizes for answering this question!

As we approach our local government election on March 15 Council election, it is important people are aware that councils can take a leadership role in many areas that are vital to combating climate change, including not only Planning Approvals, but Traffic Movement, Renewable Energy, Waste Management, Water Management and Street and Traffic Lighting. In all of these areas we do not have a failure of information or technology, but a failure of political will. This is quickly evidenced by observing the way in which these issues are currently being addressed in many other jurisdictions.

Making buildings themselves more energy efficient is an area that must be examined more closely by our community. Urban areas are responsible for around 75 per cent of all energy use, and buildings account for up to 70 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Improving energy efficiency is a vital part of addressing global warming as there is a quick financial payoff. Retrofitting buildings is also important, as the majority of existing buildings will still be standing in 25 years. Building refits reduce energy use by 20 to 50 per cent in existing buildings, paying back the initial outlay in as little as three years.

Toronto in Canada has reduced emissions by 40 per cent since the 1990s. This was achieved through a number of common sense ensures, including making existing public buildings more efficient and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This work could include energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting, with intelligent sensors to keep them on only when needed. The Sydney Council has introduced an Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program, which enables commercial office owners and tenants to introduce energy efficient measures during office refits to reduce their impact on the environment and save money.

In relation to economic factors, banks are committed to providing funds to help owners get over the initial financial hurdle, with these loans paid back through savings. Renovations and clean technology boosts employment, and increases the market for skills in new environmental technologies. These initiatives will help us more quickly produce change on the ground, demonstrating that a planet-saving move away from fossil fuels and a reduction of green house gases need not be an economic risk. With all this happening our Mayor’s only recent contribution is to oppose moves to stop whaling and the introduction of water tanks.

Good grief. It is certainly time for a change!


Anonymous said...

Time for a change? It sure is Rob - and you're part of it. Good luck getting elected!

Sea level rise is a real wildcard. The problem may well be much worse than we've generally been led to believe. Even the IPPC talked down the problem in its latest (2008) report.

Under plausible scenarios, Cairns simply ceases to exist by the end of the century. Significant glacial melt at the polar regions would raise the sea level many, many metres. Has it already begun? Should the timescale for a multi-metre rise be measured in decades, not centuries? Some scientists are concerned that may be so.

I plan to write an article about this later on in CairnsBlog - and why the IPCC 2008 report did us a disservice by its caution. Of course, I also hope this pessimistic possibility does not eventuate.

But if every part of the world continues to be as profligate with greenhouse gas emissions as FNQ has been in recent decades, the odds increase that this grim future will come to pass - if not within our lifetime, in the lifetime of of children and grandchildren..

There are various sources of more info. on this. The big melt: lessons from the Arctic summer of 2007 is a recent example that will may give folk pause for thought.

Building new suburbs on the coast at this time is an act of major stupidity, IMO - unless they rest on floats!

Of course, the danger is that one-track-thinkers will interpret this statement as a green light to build new unsustainable settlements on the tablelands.

Some folk, just don't seem to get it.

Anonymous said...

And how about coming up with a PROPER plan for evacuation, rather than leaving residents to their own devices. When I think how the Cairns City Council Mayor and Councillors have not done anything at organising the evacuation of the elderly, and those without cars, out of the area in the event of a tidal surge, I feel my blood boil. In fact, there is NO EVACUATION plan!!!

Anonymous said...

Mayor Kevin Byrne was heard on Easy 846 talk back saying climate change was a farce dreamt up by the same people who pedaled the Y2K bug.
I have heard him say this on more than one occasion.
John McKenzie called the climate change scientists "ratbags" & "scaremongers".
It scares me that the mayor of one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of Australia thinks like this, even more scary is that people will vote for this idiot.

Anonymous said...

It is even more scarey to think of the thousands of people who will be still paying off mortgages on the over-priced tiny little concrete chicken coops they will have to spend their lives in, when the first storm surges flood the area and destroy their homes.
More and more scientists are now saying that the consequences of global warming will be here much sooner than expected.

Anonymous said...

The mayors views on this are recorded, in print as a Cairns Post Letter to the Editor, March 6th, 2007. I apologise I don't have a copy of it anymore, perhaps someone else may have it. Its true, he does not believe in it. As a student studying Climatology as my major, I studied it from a factual point of view, looking at evidence, not being persuaded by people with outside interests, and believe me, the jury has gone home. It is case closed. The evidence is now overwhelming. Those who do not believe it simply have not read into it enough.

Our mayor is a disgrace, and this is just another reason why he does not deserve to be the leader in one of the most ecologically sensitive areas on the planet. He simply must be voted out.