We are in a Climate Emergency Part 1 by Tony Peck

This table indicates the different impact of 1.5ºC of warming compared to 2ºC. With current actions we cannot stay below 1.5ºC but 2ºC is possible if we treat the threat as an emergency and act now.

We have reached the point where even conservative journals such as Scientific American have come out with the statement ‘Given the circumstances, Scientific American has agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start using the term “climate emergency” in its coverage of climate change.’ (April 2021)

Since the industrial revolution carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have increased as a direct result of burning oil, gas and coal. With an increase in CO2 from 280ppm to the current 420ppm the global average temperature has already risen by more than 1ºC. These greenhouse gases are effectively creating a blanket around the planet that retains heat that would otherwise dissipate into space. As a consequence there is a rapid increase in global land, air and ocean temperatures. There have been previous warming events that have taken place over many thousands or even millions of years. The warming we are now experiencing is different. It has been triggered by human actions and is happening many times more quickly than ever in the planet’s history.

There has been an amazing amount of research done over many decades and scientists are now in agreement that we are clearly causing this warming. They are also in agreement that we can stop it and eventually may even be able to reverse some of the warming. The consensus on what is happening and why is overwhelming with more than 97% of climate scientists agreeing on the cause and key actions to halt more dangerous warming. The scientific consensus on what will happen if we do nothing is also overwhelming. The predictions include a planet with regions that are uninhabitable, rising severity of storms and floods and more severe heat events with longer, deeper droughts and regular major fire events.

An emergency? Decisive and dramatic actions in response to any life threatening situation is the best option – experts are giving the clear message that avoiding climate change’s most catastrophic impacts is essential and urgent. Time to take heed!

During the terrible, unprecedented fires that ravaged Australia’s East Coast and most of East Gippsland in 2019-20, 33 lives were lost directly from the fires. During this disaster smoke caused a further 417 deaths (MJA Vol 213 Issue 6) due to smoke from the fires. Projections suggest hundreds more died from these heat events across Australia over this same period. Extreme heat events and extreme fires will be more frequent and more severe with even a 2ºC increase in temperatures.

During the COVID pandemic we have seen countries that used the best available science were able avoid the worst outcomes. Australia and New Zealand are in this successful group. Countries where action was not immediately based on science have had a very different trajectory. America, Brazil, India are some examples among the many where best scientific advice was ignored and hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths have resulted.

We can see a glimmer of light on the horizon with some recent attention to global warming. Biden’s election in the US has added a sense of urgency and increase in global ambition. The USA, Japan, England, most European and many other countries are committing to far more realistic targets than originally proposed in Paris. (to be continued)

*The Author is a member of EGCAN, Bairnsdale XR and a contributor to this blog.