The Prime Minister could not be more wrong in saying Australia’s 1.3% contribution to greenhouse emissions is inconsequential.
Germany, Indonesia, Canada, Mexico, Iran, South Korea, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UK and South Africa all have emissions in the 1-1.99% band.
Together they are responsible for 15% of global emissions. If you include all countries emitting less than 2%, the total is over 40% of global emissions.
In this group Australia has by far the smallest population – 25 million compared to an average of 83 million – and our per capita emissions are three times higher than the global average.
The emissions from 167 countries with less than 1% add up to 25%. The biggest emitters contribute 58% viz: China 27.5% (cumulative emissions 13%), USA 14.8% (cumulative emissions 25%), India 7.3%, Russia 4.7%, Japan 3.2%. The world’s poorest nations contribute less than 1%
The world is not on track to meet its agreed target of limiting warming to 2 degrees and under current policies expected warming will be in the range 3-3.7 degrees. The catastrophic fires we are now experiencing are the result of a global average temperature rise of just 1.1o.
3o take us into unknown territory that is likely to be irreversible. The current crises could have been avoided if leaders world wide had listened to the warnings 3 decades ago that greenhouse emissions would cause more extreme weather events.
Why should Australia lift its game?
Australia, as the 16th largest emitter out of 195 countries (55th in population size), our emissions have increased every year since 2015, we have no emissions target beyond 2030 and nothing to replace the Renewable Energy Target for 2020 which has now been met.
A faster shift to cleaner, renewable energy could create new jobs, improve national security and have measurable public health benefits but the government’s main policy response – the $4b+ voluntary Emissions Reduction Fund – has shown flat lining in cumulative abatement since 2017 according to this ABC investigation.
Professor Ross Garnaut argues that we should have an emissions trading scheme and a price on carbon, now unlikely. However, Australia, he says, could still be a global superpower in energy, low carbon industry and absorption of carbon in the landscape leader. ‘No other developed country has a comparable opportunity for large-scale, firm, zero emissions power, supplied at low cost.’
The Prime Minister’s assertion that ‘doing something’ on climate change won’t stop the fires is utterly ridiculous. Australia is a significant player in global emissions with a long record of ideological and vested interest-driven inaction. Not-so-future generations will pay heavily for that intransigence.
The Global Climate 2015-2019 Report from the World Meteorological Organisation (Sept 2019)
Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, co-chair of the Science Advisory Group of the UN Climate Summit said that climate change causes and impacts are increasing rather than slowing down.
Sea level rise has accelerated and we are concerned that an abrupt decline in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will exacerbate future rise.
As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and Mozambique, sea level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes.
The challenges are immense. Besides mitigation of climate change, there is a growing need to adapt. According to the recent Global Adaptation Commission report the most powerful way to adapt is to invest in early warning services, and pay special attention to impact-based forecasts..
It is highly important that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions, notably from energy production, industry and transport. This is critical if we are to mitigate climate change and meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
To stop a global temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the level of ambition needs to be tripled. And to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees, it needs to be multiplied by five.