Climate change

Will Australia heed the climate warning from Typhoon Mangkhut in Hong Kong, and other Pacific and South China Sea mega storms?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 4:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 4:01am

The day Typhoon Mangkhut struck was meant to be our last day in Hong Kong but, at the urging of relatives and friends, we procured an earlier flight back to Australia. This was fortuitous, for our original departure date will be remembered for decades to come. As the storm drew closer, many flights were cancelled, affecting 96,000 passengers. Our 11pm departure on September 15 was a miracle.

At Mangkhut’s closest approach on September 16, the Observatory raised the No 10 typhoon signal. The streets were abandoned. Modern high-rise offices and multi-storey residential buildings swayed in the 175km/h (109mph) wind. Windows were shattered, the streets covered with broken glass, hundreds of trees were felled and low-lying areas were flooded.

However, Mangkhut was not the only destructive typhoon in 2018. Jelawat, Maria and Jebi also reached super typhoon intensity over the north Pacific and South China Sea. Such mega storms are expected to become much more common as global warming intensifies.

In 2017, conservative former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, a staunch climate change denier, suggested that higher temperatures “might even be beneficial” because “far more people die in cold snaps”. Not all conservative Australian politicians are such deniers. However, the recent removal of the moderate prime minister Malcolm Turnbull does not bode well for decisive action on climate change. For daring to call for moderate action on climate change, Turnbull was replaced by Scott Morrison.

Scott Morrison named new Australian Prime Minister

Next, a possible flood of climate-change refugees threatens

Climate change deniers misguidedly link rising electricity prices to renewable energy. Their success is summed up by the agriculture minister stating that he doesn’t “give a rats” whether climate change is man-made.

Scientists are warning of more frequent droughts and irreversible damage to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and more destructive typhoons in East Asia.

For the Morrison government to turn away from decisive climate change action might look like a short-term vote winner, but it completely fails to address the reality of superstorms like Mangkhut and increasing drought frequency. The former represents a severe cost to our Asian trading partners and the latter a severe curtailment of Australia’s agriculture export. Both will affect Australia’s long-term economic outlook.

More importantly, Australia’s abundant sunshine can one day be used by solar farms to generate hydrogen that can be exported to energy-hungry Asia. Mr Morrison, renewable energy is Australia’s future and is not a political albatross.

Anthony Lee, Brisbane