Last week I attended the parliamentary enquiry into the Climate Change Bill, aware of the huge responsibility I carried with me.
Would I find the right words to convince the committee that accepting this Bill, with its mandate to set a zero emissions target and a comprehensive strategy to reach that target, is the moral duty of the Australian Government?
I have been a farm vet all my life, and am now retired to a property in northern Tasmania. It is a farm of the future, where the soil is valued and nurtured by methods known collectively as regenerative agriculture; no ploughing, minimal application of chemicals and rotational grazing that allows long periods of rest for the soil and pasture to recover and grow.
The improvement in the quantity and quality of the soil results in better pasture, healthier cattle and, in the long term, more nutrient-dense food for consumers. It also results in greater sequestration of carbon-dioxide in the soil which delivers a huge potential to offset fossil fuel emissions.
But the general farming community is far too busy to pay much attention to climate change or the advantages of regenerative agriculture. When business is good, why change your farming practice? They need a zero-emissions target and leadership to drive change.
Electricity in Tasmania is now generated entirely from renewable resources. But the Commonwealth Government continues to support fossil fuels, gas extraction in particular, and there is even talk of a new coal fired power station. They refer to their policy as a transition to renewable energy, but it requires a zero-emissions target and a strategic policy to get there.
Many people have solar panels on their roofs. I would like to drive an electric car – I’ve heard they are fast and efficient which sounds like a good reason to get one! But the move away from petrol and diesel engines to electric vehicles also lacks leadership and support from governments.
I am a volunteer with Veterinarians for Climate Action, a growing group of vets and vet nurses who are advocating for change.
Whether talking to distressed farmers suffering through droughts, or treating animals badly burned in bushfires, vets are eyewitnesses to the devastating impacts climate change is already having on this country.
Vets rely on scientific research and, through continuing professional development, keep up to date with scientific findings. It is our moral duty to be informed and pass on advances in medicines or disease control practices to farmers and pet owners.
The enigma is, why aren’t our governments and politicians alert to the mountain of science that tells us global gas emissions are rising, the air temperature at the Earth’s surface has warmed by over 1 °C (1.44 °C in Australia) and sea levels have risen by around 25 cm since reliable records began. It’s clear and alarmingly simple to understand.
If our political leaders act now, pay attention to science, vote for the Climate Change Bill, set a zero-emissions target, develop a comprehensive strategy to reach that target and drive the development of carbon neutral industries, there is still time to create a safe and sustainable world for future generations. They will have fulfilled their moral duty to the people of Australia.
This is a climate crisis and it is here now.
Dr Janet Truslove is a veterinarian, has worked in Scotland and Queensland and now lives on a farm in Tasmania where regenerative agriculture is practised. She is a volunteer with Veterinarians for Climate Action, helping to put pressure on governments to act on climate change.