Climate action needed now

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

SCIENCE has spoken: Fossil fuels should be phased out by the end of the century.

The agreement on climate between the United States and China is a great leap forward. The US has agreed to a 26-28 per cent emissions reduction target on 2005 levels by 2025, while China has announced its emissions will peak by 2030 at the latest.

While it doesn’t go far enough to ensure we avoid catastrophic climate change, it shows the world’s two largest emitters can cooperate to make real progress on climate change.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released the final instalment of its four-part assessment, published over the past 13 months. The report, which draws on the analysis of 800 scientists, will serve as a guideline for government officials to come up with a global treaty on climate by 2015.

According to the grim conclusion, the planet will face “severe, pervasive and irreversible” damage if we don’t switch to zero and low-carbon sources of electricity by 2100. Humans and ecosystems could suffer unprecedented losses from more severe and frequent weather events.

What can we do? The report suggests that we grow our use of renewable energy from its current 30 per cent share of the power sector to 80 per cent by 2050. Combined with technological and structural change, “behaviour, lifestyle and culture” could have a considerable impact.

According to the ICC Chairman, “We have the means to limit climate change. All we need is the will to change, which we trust will be motivated by knowledge and an understanding of the science of climate change.”

Both of Australia’s major parties have agreed to a minimum national target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 5 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020.

The Emissions Reduction Fund is the current Federal Government’s signature policy to achieve this minimum target.

But, even if this target is met, the far bigger question is how Australia will achieve the fundamental transition to a low carbon economy, which we now know will be required globally and in Australia by the middle of this century.

The Victorian Climate Change Act was enacted in 2010. Of course, this was nullified when the Abbott government repealed the Clean Energy Act. So what’s happening in Victoria now?

And for some reason, our current federal government seems hell-bent on exploiting our reserves of coal while there is still a market, short cutting environmental approvals and put national icons like the Great Barrier Reef at risk along the way.

Not to mention, pushing our nation head-long into the adverse impacts of climate change which will pervade our very way of life from increases in severe weather events (bushfires, floods,heatwaves); to capacity for food production through changing weather patterns and soil moisture loss; water scarcity; ocean acidification; and loss of biodiversity on land and in the oceans.

It’s up to us to take action to tell our government not to mess around with our future.

The decisions they make today will haunt us for years to come.