The climate this week – 15 Dec 2020

The climate this week – 15 Dec 2020

A weekly report on the politics, economics and science of climate action

By Jenny Goldie, CCL member from the electorate of Eden Monaro, NSW.

Featured image: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. During the Climate Ambition Summit last week, Guterres called for all nations to declare a state of climate emergency. Source: IAEA Imagebank (cc).

A call for greater ambition

Sunday was the Climate Ambition Summit. Australia was denied a speaking spot despite having dumped the idea to use Kyoto carry-over credits to meet its 2030 Paris targets for emissions reduction.  At the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all nations to declare a state of climate emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached. Some campaigners in Australia like Philip Sutton have worked 15 years to get various levels of government to declare a climate emergency, so full credit to them for contributing to this very significant call by Guterres.

Greta Thunberg released a video for the summit, calling leaders to account for failing to reverse rising carbon emissions. “We are still speeding in the wrong direction” she said. The five years following the Paris agreement have been the five hottest years ever recorded and, during that time, the world has emitted more than 200 billion tonnes of CO2.”

An isolated island

At the summit, Australia was awarded international ‘Fossil Award’ by Climate Action Network International for failing to honour its climate commitments under the Paris Accord. In the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow at the end of 2021, Australia will be under increasing international pressure to do something –  either strengthen its 2030 emission reduction targets or adopt the net-zero emissions target by 2050.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister did get to speak at the Pacific Islands Forum, which was held to mark the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement. You can read his somewhat underwhelming address here. He did commit to net-zero emissions, but crucially did not give a target date.

Exasperation is the only response to Federal Government inaction. It is nice that they will fund a new Climate Systems Hub at CSIRO, but what does it de-fund in order to provide for this? A research hub dedicated to Australia’s threatened species! Arghh.

Scientists’ renewed concern

Meanwhile, the UN warns we’re heading for 3.2C degrees warming by the end of the century. Over 200 scientists led by ANU’s Will Steffen, warned in a letter to the Guardian of possible societal collapse this century. They wrote: “Only if policymakers begin to discuss this threat of societal collapse might we begin to reduce its likelihood, speed, severity, harm to the most vulnerable – and to nature.”

Another ANU climate scientist, Dr Andrew Glikson, has caught the attention of renowned climate activist and author Bill McKibben, who has a regular column in the New York Times.  McKibben writes in his latest article: “those dramatic moments obscure the more devastating and silent changes. The Australia-based climatologist Andrew Glikson recently catalogued some of them for Arctic News: over the past four decades, the globe’s tropical zones have expanded by about two degrees latitude. The “shift of climate zones toward the poles,” Glikson writes “is changing the geography of the planet.”

Andrew Glikson, incidentally, is scathing about the world ever achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 while the world travels on its present path. In an email to me, he said that assuming we can achieve the target overlooks the long-term nature of ongoing investments. These incluse new oil fields as in the North Atlantic and the sub-Arctic, new coal mines such as in the Galilee Basin, or fracking for coal seam gas in North America and Australia. Glikson cited other reasons and warned: “The authorities are not listening to what climate science is indicating. Instead they are consulting with economists ignorant of the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere and of the consequences of global heating.”

Our hot spring

In NSW the weather is cooling down a bit now, and the north-east of the state is awash. Nevertheless, Australia had its hottest spring on record with temperatures more than 2C above average. A study by the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub in Melbourne has found that this would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change. Dr David Karoly warned that Australia was almost certain to experience even hotter temperatures and break further records over the coming decades.

If any of you missed “Climate change: the facts” that was on ABC-TV tonight (Sunday), try and see it on i-view. Great stuff.

This is the last bulletin for the year. I’ll be back 17 January. May I wish you all a happy Christmas and a better year than 2020.

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The views and wishes expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and not necessarily of CCL Australia.

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