Images: Climate Council
excerpt from Climate Council communique:
Professor Will Steffen was a brilliant scientist, a gifted communicator, and a kind man.
Globally respected as one of the most influential thinkers on Earth system science, his legacy and impact driving climate action forward was profound. He fearlessly acted as a shining light for so many throughout his life, including all of us in the Climate Council community, and thousands more across Australia and the world.
Before founding the Climate Council, Will was a Commissioner for the Climate Commission until it was dissolved by the then Coalition Government in 2013. He was the executive director of the Australian National University Climate Change Institute, on the panel of experts supporting the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee, has served as the Science Adviser to the Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, and was chair of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee.
Prof. Tim Flannery
Below is his final article from The Conversation April 21 2021
‘Failure is not an option’: after a lost decade on climate action, the 2020s offer one last chance
Emeritus Professor, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University
In May 2011, almost precisely a decade ago, the government-appointed Climate Commission released its inaugural report. Titled The Critical Decade, the report’s final section warned that to keep global temperature rises to 2℃ this century, “the decade between now and 2020 is critical”.
As the report noted, if greenhouse gas emissions peaked around 2011, the world’s emissions-reduction trajectory would have been easily manageable: net-zero by around 2060, and a maximum emissions reduction rate of 3.7% each year. Delaying the emissions peak by only a decade would require a trebling of this task – a maximum 9% reduction each year.
But, of course, the decade to 2020 did not mark the beginning of the world’s emissions-reduction journey. Global emissions accelerated before dropping marginally under COVID-19 restrictions, then quickly rebounding.
Our new report, released today, shows the immense cost of this inaction. It is now virtually certain Earth will pass the critical 1.5℃ temperature rise this century – most likely in the 2030s. Now, without delay, humanity must focus on holding warming to well below 2℃. For Australia, that means tripling its emissions reduction goal this decade to 75%.
Report conclusion: “The pathway we choose now will either put us on track for a much brighter future for our children, or lock in escalating risks of dangerous climate change. The decision is ours to make. Failure is not an option.”
Aim high, go fast
The Climate Council report is titled Aim High: Go Fast: Why Emissions Need To Plummet This Decade. It acknowledges the multiple lines of evidence showing it will be virtually impossible to keep average global temperature rise to 1.5℃ or below this century, without a period of significant overshoot and “drawdown”. (This refers to a hypothetical period in which warming exceeds 1.5℃ then cools back down due to the removal of carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere.)
The increasing rate of climate change, insights from past climates, and a vanishing carbon budget all suggest the 1.5℃ threshold will in fact be crossed very soon, in the 2030s.
There is no safe level of global warming. Already, at a global average temperature rise of 1.1℃, we’re experiencing more powerful storms, destructive marine and land heatwaves, and a new age of megafires.
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned, the consequences of breaching 1.5℃ warming will be stark. Heatwaves, droughts, bushfires and intense rain events will become even more severe. Sea levels will rise, species will become extinct and crop yields will fall. Coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, will decline by up to 90%.
And perhaps most frighteningly, overshooting 1.5℃ runs a greater risk of crossing “tipping points”, such as the collapse of ice sheets and the release of natural carbon stores in forests and permafrost. Crossing those thresholds may set off irreversible changes to the global climate system, and destroy critical ecosystems on which life on Earth depends.
Every fraction of a degree matters
The outlook may be dire, but every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters. Its value will be measured in terms of human lives, species and ecosystems saved.
We can, and must, limit warming to well below 2℃. The goal is very challenging, but still achievable.
The strategies, technologies and pathways needed to tackle the climate challenge are now emerging as fast as the risks are escalating. And in the lead-up to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year, there’s widespread momentum for international cooperation and action.
Read more: Seriously ugly: here’s how Australia will look if the world heats by 3°C this century
Many of Australia’s strategic allies and major trading partners – including the United States, Europe, the United Kingdom and China – are starting to move on climate change. But Australia is standing still. This is despite our nation being one of the most vulnerable to climate change – and despite us having some of the world’s best renewable energy resources.
We must urgently grab these opportunities. We propose Australia radically scale up its emissions-reduction targets – to a 75% cut by 2030 from 2005 levels (up from the current 26-28% target). Australia should also aim to reach net-zero emissions by 2035. Doing so by 2050 – a goal Prime Minister Scott Morrison says is his preference – is too late.
A huge but achievable task
Such dramatic action is clearly daunting. There are political, technical and other challenges ahead because action has been delayed. But a 75% emissions-reduction target is a fair and achievable contribution to the global effort.
Australia’s unrivalled potential for renewable energy means it can transform the electricity sector and beyond. Electric vehicles can lead to carbon-free transport and renewably generated electricity and green hydrogen can decarbonise industry.
The emerging new economy is bringing jobs to regional Australia and building cleaner cities by reducing fossil fuel pollution. There is staggering potential for a massive new industry built on the export to Asia of clean energy and products made from clean hydrogen.
State, territory and local governments are leading the way in this transformation. The federal government must now join the effort.
The transition will no doubt be disruptive at times, and involve hard decisions. Industries such as coal will disappear and others will emerge. This will bring economic and social change which must be managed sensitively and carefully.
But the long-term benefits of achieving a stable climate far outweigh the short-term disruptions. As our report concludes:
The pathway we choose now will either put us on track for a much brighter future for our children, or lock in escalating risks of dangerous climate change. The decision is ours to make. Failure is not an option.
Climate Council researcher Dr Simon Bradshaw also contributed to this article.
And.. published in his obituary in the Guardian today:
“We MUST respect this earth - it is all we have
Claudio Dametto - South Australia
“I will always Vote to Preserve Our World.
Liam McGregor - Western Australia
“A simple message that even a politician can understand
Felicity Crombach - Victoria
“Please show you care about our future generations!!
Phil Harmer - New South Wales
“Save our world , Life & health before profits.
Kerry Lillian - New South Wales
“Close down all coal mines and Do not mine gas . Make these Companies
Daniel Johnson - New South Wales
“We want carbon free energy!
Edan Clarke - New South Wales
“Feels good to be taking a voter action step
Beaver Hudson - New South Wales
“Great Initiative. Let’s Hold elected officials Accountable to their bosses, us!
John Paul Posada - New South Wales
“We need actions not words we need honest democratic govt We need a pm
Bob Pearce - South Australia
“Thank you for this great resource. I was feeling helpless. Even this small step
Silvia Anderson - Victoria
“If political parties continue receiving political donations, we will rarely have politicians working for
Dan Chicos - New South Wales
“I only vote for people who will take urgent action to restore a safe
Susie Burke - Victoria
“Current government is not representing the opinion of the majority of Australian to meet
Neil Price - Tasmania
“We are fighting to rescue our kids' future from those who seek to steal
Vanessa Norimi - Queensland
“No time to waste Now or Never My vote is for NOW
Rosalie White - Victoria
“I am only 9 but I already care
Ava Bell - New South Wales
“From New Lambton Uniting Church - Caring for our world is a moral imperative.
Niall McKay - New South Wales
“Our federal govt is an International climate Embarrassment - its about time they stepped
Oriana Tolo - Victoria
“Vote earth this time!
Sue Cooke - Queensland
“We are in one on the wealthiest countries in the world. we have the
rowan huxtable - New South Wales
“The climate Emergency is the public health opportunity and urgent priority of the 21st
Mike Forrester - Victoria
“If they want my vote they better act now
Barbara McNiff - New South Wales
“We need to act locally now for the earth. Our only home. Vote Earth
Anne Miller - New South Wales
“I often look at the places I've known all my life and see how
Jim Baird - New South Wales
“Strike one For people power!!! Democracy might prevail outside the current cronyism that faces
Lorraine Bridger - New South Wales
“Our federal politicians Are Afraid to make action on climate change a major election
Jennifer Martin - New South Wales
“climate election, let's go!
Fahimah Badrulhisham - New South Wales
“Great to see this website that is a focus on action for climate change
Lynette Sinclair - New South Wales
“Let’s show politicians and the Murdoch media that climate change is by far the
Jane Aitken - Australian Capital Territory
“If you want to stay in power You need to take action to stop
Jane Bulter - New South Wales
“We are all that stands between terminal climate change and the vulnerable. We are
Carol Khan - Queensland
“We need a Government that Believes this is real and not taking money from
Ken Gray - New South Wales
“I'm voting for my childrens future
Anneliese Alexander - New South Wales