Climate action advocate Neil Westcott speaks at Parkes School Strike 4 Climate

HAVING A SAY: Alectown farmer and Parkes councillor Neil Westcott was one of four speakers at the strike on Friday. Photo: Christine Little
HAVING A SAY: Alectown farmer and Parkes councillor Neil Westcott was one of four speakers at the strike on Friday. Photo: Christine Little

"Will somebody please tell me what is the downside of pursuing a greener, healthier and more sustainable world?"

Neil Westcott from Alectown is a farmer's son and a Parkes Shire councillor who put this question to an applauding group of protesters at Friday's School Strike 4 Climate in Cooke Park.

He was one of four to speak at the local event but made it clear that because he is a councillor, he was not speaking on behalf of Parkes Shire Council nor was he speaking for all farmers because he is a farmer.

"Laid bare I am an individual 61 times around the sun that shares your frustration at the lack of urgency in solving the climate crisis that is unfolding and the lack of empathy for a generation of young people who will eventually do all the heavy lifting in the years ahead," he said.

"All this by those who have the power to make a difference right now."

It's not the first time Cr Westcott has spoken publicly about the world's changing climate - he's been an advocate for a cleaner future for some time and is a member of the Farmers for Climate Action.

"I turned 60 on the 21st of December 2019, it was a hot day - 45.6 degrees in fact - so hot it beat the previous Parkes December record set only 12 months earlier by the jaw dropping amount of 3.6 degrees," he said.

"That same day Orange beat its previous December record by 4.2 degrees.

"2019 was Australia's first taste of what it feels like to have 1.5 degrees above the average. And most experts agree that we're absolutely locked into that as being the new normal.

"Thankfully the wet La Nina last year was almost a pleasant reprieve but then again it still turned out to be the fourth hottest year."

Cr Westcott spoke about carbon dioxide (CO2), and based on data from a purpose-built research station on the Mauna Loa extinct volcano in Hawaii, he said the first air to enter his lungs when he was born in 1959 had 318 parts per million of CO2 in it.

"Right now as you take your next breath you have 414 parts per million," he told the gathering.

"At the current rate of increase of 3.5 parts per million a year we're on track to hit 450 parts per million by 2030.

"Scientists say that 450 parts per million things will really get out of control as tipping points are reached, I believe breaking heat records by three or four degrees sounds a lot like a tipping point to me.

"So as individuals, communities and local councils we need to be realistic about what we're up against and doing nothing should not be our way now. And should not be our future."

Cr Westcott said the world is confronting and adapting to a new normal.

He praised what he described as the progressive and united work of council in preparing for this new normal through a new sewerage and water recycling treatment plant, adopting renewable energy and environmental initiatives and "a mayor who understands and supports climate change action".

"Recently the federal government said it has a target of net zero emissions that would be preferable by 2050... We all breathe the same air and I truly detest the politicisation of climate change action," he said.

"This is a war and the spin doctors need to leave the room. 2050? I was under the understanding that we had to fix this thing in this decade and we're already 18 months into it."

The Morrison Government forking out $600 million to build a new gas-fired power plant in the Hunter Valley despite a major report calling for an end to investment in fossil fuel technology, Cr Westcott said, was another set back and "not a good look".

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