Conversation points

In July 2019 when UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an Emergency Climate Summit to be held on 23 September, he blasted world leaders for not doing enough to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Accord goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees C by the end of the century.  He said ‘We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption‘.

He called for targets of 45% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050.

Even 1.5 degrees C is not a good outcome.  At 1 degree C warming Australia is already feeling the brunt of climate change, with costs of drought, bushfires and cyclones into billions of dollars.

After hearing the result of Australia’s federal election in May 2019, international climate impact specialist Stefan Ramstorf said, ‘A country so vulnerable to drought and wildfire, to floods and tropical storms and sheer heat, voting for coal: that’s turkeys voting for Christmas’.

The U.K. Government has announced a new target of zero emissions by 2050 and created a Net Zero Taskforce to help businesses meet this goal.  Australia’s extreme weather conditions were given as among the reasons the government decided to take this action.

The Morrison government will not even admit that Australia has a climate crisis.  The target it will take to the Emergency Climate Summit on 23 September, 26%–28% reduction below our 2005 emission levels by 2030, has been described by the Climate Council of Australia as woefully inadequate, and the government has no credible policies to meet even that, despite the Prime Minister’s claims to the contrary.

The Climate Council of Australia’s latest report states:

‘The government’s lack of climate change action is the defining leadership failure of the last decade.  Delaying action has shortened the time we have left to reduce emissions and made it more challenging to do.’

Emissions have risen year after year.

Numerous climate programs have been abolished and evidence-based science programs cut, censored or ignored.

Deep funding cuts and job losses at CSIRO have weakened Australia’s climate science capability.  As a result, Australia is unprepared to cope with the impacts of climate change.

The federal government has covered up poor performance with misleading claims, dubious accounting and censorship.

In Australia, we have had two decades of climate denial and predatory delay as the issue was used as a political football.  Neither party was prepared to do anything about the economic advantage that relatively cheap energy from our immense coal deposits gave us domestically – even today, 75% of our energy comes from coal, not renewables.  And of course we are among the world’s largest exporters of coal. 

So climate change was a very inconvenient truth for Australian governments, federal and state.  They’ve coped with it by adopting a denialist attitude that it’s a non-problem and, if anything is to be done at all, it should be just to wait and adapt, so as to prolong the life of our high-carbon economy as long as possible for short-term financial gain to the vested interests of the fossil fuel industries and political parties, irrespective of the damage it may do.

There are no serious technical impediments to dealing with climate change – the problem is a lack of political will.

Since the last federal election in May, there seems to have been a realisation that no government is coming to save us, and there has been a massive public uprising of outrage, and a determination to make the government accept that its first priority must be to protect the Australian people from the greatest security threat this country has ever faced.  The Student Strike on 20 September is just the beginning.

Read what the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has to say about the need for a tax on carbon.