Top scientist urges industry to act now on climate change

A leading climate expert says sharp rises in water and energy prices will hurt providers unless they act now.

A national climate change expert has warned that the aged care sector could bear the brunt of rising water and energy prices, as global temperatures rise over the next century.

Speaking at the Aged Care Association Australia National Congress in Hobart, Dr Graeme Pearman from Monash University said average temperatures are expected to rise by up to three degrees Celsius before 2100.

“This may seem very small,” said Dr Pearman, “but small changes produce big effects.”

Research suggests that even a two-degree increase in average temperatures would make Australian water supplies vulnerable, leading to higher prices.

Dr Pearman predicts that this would have a big impact on nursing homes which use large amounts of water for bathing and laundry operations.

He also said that climate change would have a big impact on the way facilities source and use energy.

The impacts of rising energy prices will start to be felt in less than two years with the introduction of a Commonwealth carbon trading scheme in 2010.

Dr Pearman said the industry’s high use of air conditioning and transportation meant it would have to take action now.

“Much of this will be manageable but it will come at a cost,” he said.

“It isn’t about waiting for scientists to tell us what is going to happen.

“You can’t wait. You have to take action because there is a risk here that has to be managed.”

As a first response, Dr Pearman urged aged care providers to make clear inventories of their water and energy consumption.

“It is very empowering to know where your costs are going,” he said. “And when you do, you need to set targets for reducing your usage and reward your people for meeting them.”

And according to Dr Pearman, improved energy efficiency makes good economic sense.

As an example, he pointed to modern electric motors which emit fewer harmful gases and would save their owners $400 for every tonne of carbon dioxide produced under a carbon saving scheme.

“It’s a win-win outcome to use one of these, say, to run your air conditioning,” said Dr Pearman. “They save you money and they save emissions.”

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