THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE climate report for almost a decade shows we can navigate a narrow path and avoid climate catastrophe, but only through immediate and deep cuts to our greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 200 experts worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, reviewing 14,000 scientific papers.
“There is no other global effort like this because there is no other global challenge like climate change. This report has been years in the making and draws from a new generation of highly advanced climate models and scenarios,” said Climate Council spokeswoman and former IPCC report author, Professor Lesley Hughes.
“The report finds that climate change and its impacts are accelerating. Heatwaves, droughts, floods, heavy downpours and other extreme weather events are getting worse, driven by the burning of coal, oil and gas,” she said.
“In Australia, we have seen repeated bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as well as record-breaking heatwaves and the Black Summer bushfires. Right now, huge swathes of Europe and North America are burning and these worsening events are being driven by climate change,” said Professor Hughes.
Climate Council spokesman Professor Will Steffen, who is also a former IPCC report author, says “no political leader or decision maker reading this landmark report will be able to claim they were unaware of the profound threat we face.”
“The report finds that our decisions this decade will be the difference between a liveable future for today’s young people, and a future that is incompatible with well-functioning human societies,” said Professor Steffen.
“The decisions we make now will resonate for centuries or millennia. The right choices will be measured in lives, livelihoods, species and ecosystems saved. The benefits of stronger action will be particularly important for our children and grandchildren,” he said.
“Some long-term impacts cannot be avoided, particularly rises in ocean temperature and sea level. Importantly, however, strong and sustained emission reductions this decade can slow these trends, stave off much worse, and protect so much of what we cherish,” said Professor Steffen.
The IPCC report makes it clear that methane is a powerful and dangerous greenhouse gas that plays a major role in driving climate change. Rapid reductions in methane emissions can have an important short-term effect in slowing temperature rise.
“Methane emissions from Australia’s gas industry are a contributor to the recent rise in global methane concentrations. To do our fair share to meet the Paris climate goals, it is critical that no new gas fields are opened and that our existing gas industry is phased out as quickly as possible,” said Professor Steffen.
Based on the latest science, the Climate Council is recommending that Australia reduce its emissions by 75% (below 2005 levels) by 2030. We need to achieve net zero emissions by 2035.
The latest report is from Working Group I and is the first instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report. It covers the physical science of climate change. The Climate Council has produced a short document highlighting key take-outs, which can be accessed here.
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