Back to All News

Janet reflects on recent hurricanes and climate change

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 12 Oct 2017

I want to start my contribution by remembering and grieving for the 1,200 or more people killed by the floods in South Asia and well over 100 by hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the Caribbean and in the US. We have to remember that this debate is about people. We have to remember we are talking about and legislating for people—their lives and wellbeing—and the health and wellbeing of our planet and all of the species that we share our planet with.

That said, can I just share some facts with you—some real facts. The floods in South Asia are the region's worst floods for 40 years, with a metre of rain falling over some areas in the space of days. There are 40 million people affected in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. Hurricane Harvey was a one-in-25,000-year storm. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are going to cost in clean-up about $100 billion each.

The next fact is that there is absolutely no doubt that the intensity of these storms and the frequency of intense storms are a clear signal of global warming. The science is crystal clear. This is what we experience with 1.3 degrees of warming, and we are on track to four degrees of warming. As Bill McKibben said so eloquently in The Guardian yesterday:

Maybe it was too much to expect that scientists' warnings would really move people. ... Maybe it's like all the health warnings that you should eat fewer chips and drink less soda, which, to judge by belt-size, not many of us pay much mind. Until, maybe, you go to the doctor and he says: "Whoa, you're in trouble." Not "keep eating junk and some day you'll be in trouble", but: "You're in trouble right now, today. As in, it looks to me like you've already had a small stroke or two."

We are in trouble. These hurricanes and storms tell us so, let alone in Australia the death of the Great Barrier Reef and that the climate of Australia's wheat-growing areas is heating to the climate of the central deserts. We ignore this climate catastrophe at our peril.

But our government has no plan. They just want to prop up the clunker of a coalmine—they are falling over themselves to subsidise the Adani coalmine, because the private sector won't touch it because coalmining is an outdated, destructive, dying industry. Then they belittle and ridicule anybody who dares to call out the truth.

Labor, on climate-destroying coal, are sitting on the fence. They need to rule out support for the Adani coalmine. They can't have it both ways. They can't be concerned about global warming on the one hand and wave through the development of the biggest coalmine in Australia's history on the other.

I remain optimistic. We're going to kick this science-denying government out of office and we can swiftly move to a clean future for us all.

Back to All News