Australia threatened by climate change and biodiversity loss

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The Great Barrier Reef is suffering from coral bleaching (screenshot via YouTube).

Professor Paul Ehrlich, one of the world’s leading ecologists, is visiting Australia in November.

With speaking engagements in NSW and South Australia, Professor Ehrlich, no stranger to the country, will be focusing on the catastrophic biodiversity loss and climate disruption impacts.

He has said:

Australia is now the centre of biodiversity loss and climate change. Two issues intimately hooked together.


Your country is a huge desert continent with wonderful plants and animals like the koala. It’s hard to believe that as a result of government inaction, you’re likely to lose the koala. Koalas may not be vital to people but their habitat, coastal forest ecosystems, among other things help supply Australia with water. Australia can also claim a championship in mammal loss.

The loss of ecosystems and deforestation are issues of major focus for the former Stanford expert:

Deforestation makes a country less and less habitable because of a lack of rain. It also removes the values one gets from forests, not just climatically but in terms of services that animals and plants provide. 


These losses are an example of how a huge proportion of our life support systems are disappearing around the world at a horrendous rate. Yet Australia seems determined to become a third world country by exporting biological and geological riches even if it’s destroying the world.


Australia is still a huge coal exporter and coal is turning the planet into a hot cinder.


The country is slowly manoeuvring itself into a position where its commodities are now not as valuable, so the economy is going downhill. Every country will have to give up burning coal, that’s not going to do much for the Australian coal industry.  


On Adani, Ehrlich has said:

I thought the approval of the Adani coal mine and efforts to open up the Galilee Basin are a plot to destroy the Great Barrier Reef. It’s typical of the thugs than run both our countries by refusing to protect the really valuable resources when they should be a model for world by reducing populations so people can have security of water and food.


If the coal industry doesn’t give up, there will be a 3-4 degree Celsius rise in the average Australian temperature by the end of the century or sooner and the country will become uninhabitable.

Ehrlich points to many countries already short of water with the temperature too high to work outside:

Qatar, one of the hottest places on earth is installing air conditioning in the open air in streets and shopping malls powered by fossil fuels which are in turn creating more heat. It’s ridiculous, picture an entire country trying to air condition the outside areas making more heat and less water available.

Paul Ehrlich is deeply concerned by the loss of insects:

In North America, a third of butterflies have disappeared. If insects disappear, in many respects they’re the basis of our terrestrial food chains. That’s grim. We did some work in Costa Rica on coffee plantations.


We found that if you left your coffee farm partly in the forest instead of planting the entire piece of land, you actually made more money because pollinators produce more coffee and the berries are worth more than if there’s no pollination.

Prior to his trip, Ehrlich has been keeping up with the exponentially growing water crises as more and more Australian regional towns in NSW and Queensland are running out of water.

He had the following to say:

Water is going to be a paramount issue around the world. In your country, the Murray Darling Basin is an issue the governments have been screwing up for decades. Why would a desert country grow cotton? It’s a crop that requires a lot of water, when there are many things you can grow which don’t take that amount of water.

Australia’s ecological carrying capacity is in his sights as well:

Australia has all the symptoms of what happens when you go beyond the country’s carrying capacity. It’s not unlike a dying man. The loss of a water supply is incredibly worrying, add over-crowded cities and transport problems which are horrendous.


In 1965, when I lived in Sydney, I used to drive, I wouldn’t think about doing that today. It’s bad enough now trying to get a taxi, the whole place is an overcrowded mess.

As southwest Sydney is the NSW government’s focus for massive growth, IA asked Professor Ehrlich to comment on the ongoing Chinese acquisition of rural areas for major development similar to the Menangle Park buy-up by a Chinese developer envisaging 2,300 homes. 

According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, NSW taxpayers will be forced to subsidise the developer $219 million in infrastructure costs. The developer, according to the newspaper is seeking to add another 1850 dwellings.

Paul reflects on his experience in a Chinese mid-sized city a few years ago:

There are 15 million people living in 21 high rise skyscrapers, all apartment buildings with no facilities, no cross ventilation, low ceilings, all air-conditioned. No traffic designs for what would happen at the base of them.

The Chinese government has many dictatorial aspects but with an IQ above room temperature. They’re buying up land in Africa to grow food, not for Africans but for Chinese. They’re also buying up land in Australia where its possible to grow food for the Chinese population not Australians.  


That’s what you get with really dumb politicians.


We have a vastly overpopulated planet. The world should be having an international conversation about how to control where people live, where the resources are, what will happen when there’s so many people that the resources will be destroyed.


Immigration is a huge issue, it’s extremely difficult to deal with the ethical questions which arise. 

As California burns, Professor Ehrlich reflects on a similar situation which could arise in Australia:

Here I am in the richest state in the union in terms of all of its resources and environment, and its burning from end to end. The power company is shutting off power to two million to avoid, so they hope, the fires they haven’t managed to avoid.


The Government just planned on growth but they didn’t plan on or how people will live in growth and how their resources are going to be used and how the environment is going to survive the over-population and over-exploitation.


People need to start taking to the streets. People in Australia are being run by a criminal gang, you have to get rid of them. Like most of my colleagues we’re seeing democracy being torpedoed in every direction in both our countries.


The pseudo-news channels have kept people from doing anything sensible tied to over-population. Giving up one fewer child is equivalent to persuading 23 families to give up driving.

Population size is a huge factor.


It’s very sad. All my friends and colleagues feel desperate.

You can follow Sue Arnold on Twitter @koalacrisis and Koala Crisis on Facebook here.

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