Anyone who has turned on their TV or opened a newspaper in the past few months would have seen the catastrophic damage inflicted by the Queensland floods. As it now stands the floods have affected more than 200,000 people. 35 people have lost their lives and at least 70 towns across the state have been devastated.
While the media has covered the effects of the floods widely little has been said about the causes of the intensity of the storms. Behind the scenes scientists across the country have been pointing to an international trend of increased extreme weather and natural disasters.
In Brazil almost 800 have perished after freak storms swept across the country’s south east. In Asia over a million people have been affected by flooding in both the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
Last year as many as 295,000 people were killed by natural disasters and extreme weather. It is becoming clear that the world around us is changing and people are increasingly looking to global warming as the culprit.
In the case of the Queensland floods the evidence is clear global warming has contributed to these floods. The weather in Australia is greatly affected by the El Niño/La Niña cycle which brings periods of rain and drought to the country. Put simply the cycle involves the shifting of warmer waters across the Pacific Ocean. As these warmer waters hit Australia heavier rains and flooding naturally occur.
But global warming has added a new factor to the event. Last year was one of the hottest years on record. The increase in average global temperature is leading to increased humidity across the world. As more moisture is added to the air the intensity of storm events increases.
Many scientists agree that the strength of these recent floods in Queensland has been exacerbated by global warming. Disappointingly most politicians and the vast bulk of the mainstream press have stayed quite on the issue.
The truth is that linking the floods and other natural disasters to global warming raises questions and begs solutions. Why are the major parties propping up the highly polluting coal industry? Why is there such little investment into solar, wind and tidal power?
A recent report from Beyond Zero Emissions has stated that there are very few places in the world that benefit from so much natural sunlight. The “sunshine state” would be a perfect location for large scale solar energy production.
The problem is that energy production in Australia and worldwide is overwhelmingly in the hands of big business. An overwhelming majority of Australians support renewable energy, yet dirty energy such as coal and oil continues to be produced for profit.
As long as these energy giants are controlled by profiteers change is unattainable. We need the major energy companies to be brought into public ownership and to be democratically run in the interests of the community and the environment.
We need a system that is not based on the profits of a select few but one that puts the needs of ordinary people and the environment first. This is the only way to ensure that natural disasters are not contributed to by big business induced climate change.
By SP reporters