As summer draws nearer in Australia, it is timely to consider what’s ahead for our sunburnt country. A new report by The Climate Institute (TCI), reveals terrifying consequences of global warming and the social and economic impacts, even if we commit to an ambitious target to limit warming by 1.5°C.
The memory of the 2009 heatwave in southern Australia that fuelled the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, and caused the highest ever loss of life in a bushfire in this country (173 dead), is still etched in our consciousness.
But what is not etched is the fact that particular heat wave was five days long.
More sobering is the claim that heatwaves of the future could be much longer, according to the new TCI report released this week: “Our National Agenda for Climate Action”. Australian heatwaves in the future could last up to 15 days for central and southern parts of Australia and up to about 30-40 days for those of us up north.
My friend and colleague, TCI CEO John Connors, makes the point that climate change is already at dangerous levels in 2016, as we experience around 1 degree of warming. What is really clear from the report, he says, is that even warming of 1.5°C would see current extreme heat waves, droughts and mass coral bleaching events on the Great Barrier Reef becoming the new normal.
The report states that at 2°C, our global climate system would move from the upper end of present day climate variability into uncharted territory, resulting in extreme, costly and dangerous impacts for Australia.
The Institute commissioned the globally recognised science and policy institute, Climate Analytics, to examine the implications of achieving the objective of last December’s Paris Agreement. That agreement seeks to limit global warming to “well below” 2°C above pre-Industrial levels, and to pursue action to limit warming to 1.5°C.
With national economies, energy use and global climate inextricably linked, limiting warming to the more ambitious 1.5°C goal, or even 2°C, is heavily reliant on transforming our energy system. Most of us realise that we need to move from reliance on coal and other fossil fuels to renewables.
The Australian government has committed to review climate policies this year. This is good news as we wait to hear how our leaders plan to integrate climate, energy and economic policy. It represents the first chance for a credible national policy conversation in five years. Bring it on!
**Kieran Moore is the CEO of OgilvyPR Australia, and sits on the Strategy Board of The Climate Institute (TCI). OgilvyPR is a partner of TCI.
If you get a chance, take a look at the report. (link here)