The world’s most authoritative body on climate change, the IPCC, released the first part of its fifth report on September 27.
Whilst the results were consistent with what we already knew about climate change and its effects on the global climate system, the report gives more certainty to those predictions.
No doubt there will be those who stand to gain from us not believing this unequivocal information, or shock-jocks who peddle the trade in denialism, scanning the report to try and undermine it in any way they can and quoting sections out of context.
The truth is that it is beyond reproach, having been compiled by 800 of the world’s top specialists in the subject and peer-reviewed by literally thousands more. For someone such as Curtin University professor Peter Newman to be invited to contribute is a recognition of his academic standing in his chosen field.
And contrary to what is sometimes heard about the place, these people do not get paid nor funded for that work: They do it because they know how important it is.
The Fifth Assessment Report has given more certainty on four key messages for us all:
1. Ocean and air temperatures are rising, resulting in loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets. This is contributing to sea level rise.
2. These rising temperatures are a result of human activities.
3. These temperature rises are increasing the severity and the frequency of extreme weather events, severely impacting on human well-being, the environment and our economy.
4. We need to implement, as a matter of urgency, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, in short we must decarbonise our economy.
The global average air temperature has risen by 0.85 centigrade since the beginning of the 20th century. This may not seem like much, but it is a long way towards the two degrees that is considered a trigger point for runaway tipping points.
Ninety per cent of that excess energy is stored in the oceans, the drivers of our weather patterns. This can result in ocean currents changing, as we have seen in WA with the Leeuwin current, resulting in a sharp falloff in local fish stocks, due to changes in breeding habits.
It can also result in storms increasing in intensity due to warmer water increasing the cyclone effect. The added heat is also causing acidification of the oceans, which reduces their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, and impacts on tiny shellfish at the bottom of the food chain.
The Abbott government’s disbanding of the climate commission coinciding with the release of the fifth assessment report only stands to highlight Australia’s vulnerability to lack of independent climate change assessment.
The only motivation I can see for Abbott axing the commission is to shut down informed debate on climate change, and give climate deniers a free run. Fortunately the commissioners’ commitment to independent scientific advice and social media crowd-funding enabled them to continue working under the banner of the new climate council. Currently, the climate councillors are donating their time for free and they welcome your help in funding. Visit http://www.climatecouncil.org.au to donate. Without Will Steffen and his crew, independent scientific advice on climate change will be missing in Australia.
If Australia is to keep our world class reefs and beaches, if we are to be spared extreme storms and bushfires and if we are to maintain our lifestyles we are so proud of we must abandon the Liberals’ Direct Action Plan. A five per cent reduction target in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 is woefully inadequate. As one of the world’s highest emitters Australians must respond to the fifth assessment report’s wake-up call for real action on emissions.
by JON STRACHAN