Budget 2018: Climate change denial and conservation jobs slashed

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(Image via @FoEAustralia.)

Climate change did not even rate a mention in Treasurer Scott Morrison's 2018 Budget announcement last night (Tuesday, 8 May).

The writing is on the wall for Australia’s unique environment as the Turnbull Government demonstrates its real agenda.

With revelations that one-third of the staff in the Department of Environment and Energy’s conservation and biodiversity division will be slashed, Australia is a sure bet to take up the dishonour of holding the global record of extinction.

These words are the substance of a major petition by Avaaz, which is circulating around the world:

'By 2020, two-thirds of the worl'd wild animals will be gone. Life is being extinguished as fast as when the dinosaurs disappeared — and it’s happening because humanity is taking a chainsaw to the tree of life.'

Should anyone believe these predictions have no validity, an article in The Guardian newspaper quotes renowned biologist, E. O. Wilson who wants to set aside half of the planet as protected areas for nature and says:

'If we don't change our ways, we will witness a mass extinction event that will not only leave our world a far more boring and lonely place but will undercut the very survival of our species.'

As the Avaaz petition states:

We’re testing the boundaries of our planet’s ability to sustain us and all life, but the biodiversity crisis still isn’t high on the political agenda! If enough of us engage now, we could change that.

Scientists say our best chance to save our ecosystems and 80-90% of all species is giving them enough safe space to thrive, then nature uses its wisdom to regenerate. The 50% plan sounds ambitious but in fact it’s totally viable and likely the best way to sustain our intricate web of life. 

Many scientists are predicting the sixth mass extinction. A “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is underway and is more severe than previously feared, according to recent scientific analysis.

Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost. They blame human overpopulation and overconsumption for the crisis and warn that it threatens the survival of human civilisation, with just a short window of time in which to act.

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences', eschews the normally sober tone of scientific papers and calls the massive loss of wildlife a “biological annihilation” that represents a 'frightening assault on the foundations of human civilisation'. 

Professor Gerardo Ceballos, of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, who led the work, said:

“The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical not to use strong language.”

Unfortunately, the Turnbull Government is deaf to the message. 

Given Australia styles itself as a Western nation with an educated population, the Zen koan we must all ask is, how did we end up with a Prime Minister and a Government hell-bent on destroying Australia’s unique and irreplaceable species? 

What must be done to ensure the environment becomes a critical primary policy of not only the Turnbull Government but the equally environmentally destructive Berejiklian Government?

Let’s not forget, Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate in the world: 

A recent national review of threatened species monitoring found about one-third of 548 species were not being tracked at all. 

According to Professor John Woinarski, Deputy Director of the Threatened Species Hub from Charles Darwin University:

Ten Australian birds and seven mammals are likely to become extinct over the next 20 years, if we continue with current management, according to new research.

Most of these extinctions could be prevented if conservation managers and our community are more aware of the risk these species face, and managers are able to respond effectively and rapidly.

Identifying the species at greatest risk of extinction is a crucial first step in avoiding their extinctions.

The fate of these species depends upon support from governments and communities, and public interest, awareness and involvement. 

Some of our other research recently published has compiled case studies of successful conservation for almost 50 Australian threatened species, so we know it can be done when the commitment is there. 

Last month, the Turnbull Government announced it would deliver half a billion dollars for the Great Barrier Reef 'to protect the Reef from climate change and pollution'. Oops! Does that mean that Adani's coal mine will be rejected given the massive carbon emissions it will deliver to the world’s environment if the mine goes ahead? Unlikely.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald:

' ... the Coalition tries to balance environmental concerns with its pro-mining focus through the Adani coal mine.'  

Exactly how half a billion dollars will protect the Reef from climate change amid Adani's destruction is not explained.

A new report by the Climate Council looked into Indian resources giant Adani's proposed Carmichael Coal Mine in Queensland's Galilee Basin.

If built, Carmichael would be Australia's largest ever coal mine. It would have six open cut pits as well as numerous underground mines. Coal would be transported 200 kilometres to a terminal at Abbot Point, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. And it would only be the beginning. The report states that the development of the Carmichael mine would likely pave the way for other coal mines to go ahead in Queensland's Galilee Basin. The basin has around 250,000 square kilometres of thermal coal. If it were developed, Australia's carbon emissions would more than double.

At a dinner at Sydney Opera House, French President Emmanuel Macron challenged Turnbull to lift his game when it comes to tackling climate change.

However, our PM is as disinterested in climate change as President Trump in spite of overwhelming evidence of catastrophic consequences. As a former banker and a wealthy developer, one would expect that a balance sheet which covers the costs and benefits of a healthy environment would be the foundation of policy.

What is life on earth worth? Is there a price that can be attributed to species and ecosystems? What about our children and grandchildren? What price does the Turnbull Government put on their future?

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of all will be a silent world. A world without birdsong and the wonder of nature. This will be the legacy of the Turnbull Government and all anti-environmental governments.

It’s up to us to change the paradigm.

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

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