/ 10 August 2021

Climate report set to sizzle

detail of white smoke polluted sky
detail of white smoke polluted sky

It took 234 authors to get across 14,000 studies to deliver what’s being called a landmark report on what’s already here and what’s coming at us vis-à-vis climate change. And it took 4,000 pages from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be clear about 2 points. First, humans are fueling climate change at an “unprecedented” rate. And second, there is a narrowing window to prevent the “profound consequences” that global warming will bring. UN Secretary-General António Guterres last night said the findings are “a code red for humanity”.

Spoiler alert: it’s not great…

• The world has about 10 years at the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions until the world warms 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. That’s a lot sooner than the 2050 horizon that had been hoped for. Australia has already warmed by 1.4C, and above 2C, things get real

• “Each bit of warming will intensify the impacts we are likely to see,” said IPCC vice-chair Ko Barrett. For Australia, that looks like more serious and frequent fires, droughts, floods, cyclones and coral-damaging warm oceans.

• And emissions are climbing despite commitments from nations great and small to cut them. Across the world, the rhetoric about reducing emissions isn’t matching reality, commentators and experts say.

It’s all building up to a big get-together later this year. The report will be required reading for global leaders, including PM Scott Morrison, who will gather in Glasgow in November (maybe virtually at this rate…) for the UN’s COP26 Climate Change Conference. At that meeting, nations are being asked to set “ambitious” targets to reduce emissions in the coming decade. And they’re being asked to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 – the point where no human-made emissions are going into the atmosphere at all. For Australia’s part, Morrison yesterday said the government is “seeking to achieve net zero emissions as soon as possible.” That response has seen him cop local and international criticism, and the pressure is set to build. Labor says the minimum the government can do is set a firm timeline for reaching net zero. “We need a strong roadmap to get there,” climate change spokesman Chris Bowen said yesterday.

Image source: Getty Images

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