In case you haven’t noticed from the devastating flooding engulfing one side of Australia, climate change is only going to get worse, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned once again. The world’s climate scientists and governments have declared in the latest IPCC report that climate change is now a threat to human wellbeing and warned we are about to miss a window to secure a “liveable and sustainable future for all.”
What do the findings of the IPCC report say?
The new report found the scale of climate change’s impact threatens to overwhelm the world’s ability to adapt in the coming decades. Some countries will require rapid transformations in how they live, alongside immediate cuts to greenhouse gas emissions.
The immediate actions recommended are aimed at stopping warming at 1.5C, as this could reduce many of the most severe impacts to ecosystems. But, this won’t stop all of them. As it stands, global policies have the world on track to warm by at least 2.1C by 2100, potentially as great as 3.9C.
What does the IPCC report mean for the Australia?
Despite any action taken now, the assessment by the IPCC says we face irreversible changes, across both regional and urban areas. These changes include:
- Rising sea levels, destroying homes and infrastructure
- Extreme heat resulting in more deaths every year
- Weather patterns lowering crop farming and livestock productivity
Extreme events heightened by emissions – like flooding, storms and heatwaves – are causing death, injury and fiscal stress as their impacts are “cascading and compounding” across nature and the economy. The report’s consensus explained some natural systems in Australia have already experienced irreversible change attributable to climate change, including coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef and the extinction of the Bramble Cay Melomys, a mammal that has lost its habitat due to rising sea levels and storm surges.
What is the Australian government doing to combat the climate emergency?
A capital question, and once for which we would like an adequate answer. As of now, it’s not a fantastic approach.
Under the guidelines of international climate talks, governments from across the globe committed to assembling an official National Adaptation Plan (NAP), designed to explore strategies for responding to threats posed by climate change, and how they can reduce the impact on communities, the environment and economy. More than 100 countries have published their NAP’s. Australia is yet to submit its official plan to UN climate talks.
The Morrison government has devised its own plan, titled the National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy. However, it lacks formal targets or significant adaptation policies to adequately combat the ongoing environmental crisis. The strategy was ranked last in an assessment of adaptation plans devised by governments of more than 50 counties, with the assessment finding we are amongst the most susceptible nations vulnerable to climate change, yet our plan is not aligned with the Paris Agreement.
The government has also forgone its responsibilities at UN climate talks, not committing to stronger 2030 emissions reduction targets and won’t address calls to phase out the use of coal and methane emissions at the COP26 summit held in 2021.The lack of action doesn’t address the risks posed to Australian ecological systems and the safety of people in vulnerable communities.
Morrison’s government has been advised of this on several fronts, including from think tank The Australia Institute who told the government its lack of action places the burden of climate adaptation onto Australians themselves. As this piece is published, Australians are forced to climb to the roofs of their homes in Queensland and New South Wales to escape rising floodwaters; others took to dinghy’s in the ocean to escape Victoria’s bushfires in late 2019. People are dying and lives are uprooted because of climate change and the lack of a long-term response – rather than band aid fixes – is repugnant.
The IPCC report released early this week is the second part of its latest assessment of climate change, based off of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers. Part one focused on the physical science of climate change, and the second on the impact of the crisis and how we can adapt. A third part is slated for release in April. You can read the report here.