Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth. That means our ecosystems and communities are particularly vulnerable to changes in temperature and precipitation.
Since the industrial revolution we've been getting hotter and drier and have now reached a point where the frequency and severity of droughts, wild fires, floods, cyclones and heat waves have been clearly identified as increasing due to human driven climate change. These changes are threatening our communities, ecosystems and wildlife now.
A climate emergency is happening now
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report Global Warming of 1.5°C states that urgent and unprecedented changes are needed now to prevent catastrophic climate change that will significantly worsen drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
On 6 May 2019, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Global Assessment reported that nature is in a dangerous decline with unprecedented rates of extinction forecast. Around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction within decades. Climate change is a primary cause.
The World Health Organisation has declared climate change the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century.
Australia's CSIRO National Outlook 2019 details a bleak future of economic, social and environmental decline if we do not tackle major problems including climate change and biodiversity loss head on. Further studies forecast that climate change threatens water supplies in Melbourne and Sydney. A dozen towns in NSW are on the verge of running out of water.
What the world is doing
A climate emergency has been declared by 901 government bodies around the world representing 209 million people.
Following two weeks of mass civil disobedience initiated by UK's Extinction Rebellion that disrupted London's CBD, the UK became the first country to declare a climate emergency, followed by France, Canada and Ireland.
A growing list of countries are committing to reaching zero emissions and the EU is pushing for bloc-wide zero emissions by 2050.
Started by 350.org the Fossil Free divestment movement is the fastest growing movement in history with 1,000 institutions and 58,000 people representing $8 trillion in assets divested from the fossil fuel industry as of 2018.
Renewable energy is now cheaper than coal and is expected to completely out-compete the fossil fuel industry by 2025.
Countries are implementing programs of mass revegetation. New Zealand will plant one billion trees by 2028. The Philippines have made it law that every student must plant 10 trees before graduating from elementary, high school and college as a prerequisite for graduation.
UN Chief António Guterres’ has called on every head of state to bring concrete plans to strengthen emission reductions to the Climate Summit in Sept 2019, and called on counties to go carbon neutral by 2050 and ban new coal plants from 2020.
What Australia is doing
Following pressure after the election of the Australian Liberal government, Queensland has fast tracked the approval of the Adani coal mine that will add 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere and pave the way for more mining in the Galilee Basin.
In South Australia, one of the world's most pristine ocean ecosystems, the Great Australian Bight, has been opened to off-shore oil exploration.
At the same time, the ACT has declared a climate emergency, will hit 100% renewable energy in 2020 and has set a goal of zero net emissions by 2045 at the latest. At least 30 local councils have declared a climate emergency including Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Hobart. South Australia will be 100% renewable by 2025.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, brings a lump of coal into Parliament and tells us "don't be scared".
In August 2019 at the Pacific Forum, Australia refused to sign an agreement with Pacific nations declaring a climate crisis and agreeing to halt the use of coal. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that Australia's emissions are small and reducing them wouldn't solve climate change. Australia is the world's third largest exporter of fossil fuels, has the world's second highest emissions per person.
What Australia could do
Australia has the resources and conditions to become a world leader in renewable energy and the zero carbon economy. Instead we are squandering this opportunity, failing to plan for a the radical economic shift that is underway, causing immeasurable harm to our environment, disgracing ourselves on the world stage and failing to play our part in averting catastrophic climate change.
This inaction is criminal when the solutions so readily exist.
Beyond Zero Emissions’ Stationary Energy Plan (2010) shows – with rigorous, peer-reviewed research – that powering Australia with clean renewable energy is technically feasible and affordable, will improve reliability and can be completed within a decade. A decade! We could have done it already.
An international study has identified Australia as one of six countries where mass revegetation could play a significant role in mitigating climate change, with 58 million hectares of appropriate land available.
Project Draw Down details an extensive list of highly effective readily available measures that could reduce global emissions to zero and draw carbon out of the atmosphere. At the top of the list are wind turbines, reducing food waste and encouraging a plant-rich diet. As a country that has vast wind resources, wastes more food and eats more meat that almost every other country, the opportunities are huge.
The pathway is clear. Australia must declare a climate emergency, transition to zero emissions as soon as possible (including a just transition to 100% renewable energy and transformation of the agriculture industry), stop logging forests and clearing land, embark on a massive program of land rehabilitation and revegetation and encourage and legislate for corporate and individual actions that reduce emissions.
What you can do
But we can't wait for governments to get it together. Here's what you can do to become part of the new zero carbon emissions world now:
Top 6 climate actions this month
- Join hundreds of people who are travelling to Central Queensland to peacefully blockade landlcearing operations that have begun for the Adani coal mine. Sign up with Frontline Action on Coal to find out more and read about the #redalert they have put out.
- Support the global movement of students demanding emergency action for climate change by signing up to their action alerts and join them in the streets on 20 September at the Global Climate Strike.
- Join the campaign to Stop Adani by signing up to their action alerts and getting involved however you can from sharing their posts on social media to creating a local group.
- Bookmark the Eco-shout national calendar for climate actions, events and forums around the country.
- Have conversations at work, with your friends and family, on social media, with your MP and through letters to local media about climate change and use appropriate language such as "climate emergency" "ecological crisis" and "is happening now" to shift our culture of denial and inaction. You don't have to be an expert. Everyone has a right to a safe climate and to share their concerns. The skeptical science website has info for having conversations and busting myths
- Reduce your own carbon footprint in any and all of these ways:
- eat less (or no) meat.
- buy solar panels and hot water systems or switch to Powershop, Australia's greenest energy provider.
- transfer your super and shares out of the carbon economy and into Australian Ethical.
- use recycled paper products, especially copy paper, to avoid buying paper made from old growth and native forests.
- grow your own veggies, reduce the food you waste and compost what you don't use (methane released from food waste in landfills is 34 times more global warmy than CO2)