Two climate warnings

Expert panels in Stockholm and Canberra recently issued major statements on climate within a few days of each other. Here are the essentials of both, with links to more detail.

Nobel Laureates Speak Out

Seventeen Nobel laureates who gathered in Stockholm published a remarkable memorandum asking for “fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change”. The Stockholm Memorandum concludes that we have entered a new geological era: the Anthropocene, where humanity has become the main driver of global change. The document states:

Science makes clear that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems. We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial.

The memorandum results from a three-day symposium on the intertwined problems of poverty, development, ecosystem deterioration and the climate crisis. In the memorandum, the Nobel laureates call for immediate emergency measures as well as long-term structural solutions, and they give specific recommendations in eight key priority areas. For example, in climate policy, they recommend that we, “Keep global warming below 2ºC, implying a peak in global CO2 emissions no later than 2015 and recognise that even a warming of 2ºC carries a very high risk of serious impacts and the need for major adaptation efforts.”

The memorandum was handed over to the members of the UN high-level panel on global sustainability, who traveled to Stockholm to discuss it with the Nobel laureates and experts at the symposium.

Source: There’s a robust and sometimes quite funny discussion of the Memorandum under way on that site as I write.

The Stockholm Memorandum:

Window for climate action closing fast

The Federal Government’s Climate Commission has warned the window for limiting costly future climate change is rapidly closing. In its first report, titled The Critical Decade, the commission says the evidence that the planet is warming is now even stronger. It warns global warming could cause global sea levels to rise up to one metre by the end of the century, higher than previously thought. To minimise the risk, the commission says Australia must decarbonise its economy and move to clean energy sources by 2050. That means carbon emissions must peak in the next few years and then strongly decline.

And while the report stresses that the scientific evidence is strong, it acknowledges there are still questions in the public arena. “The public still seems to be confused about a few of these issues and I think that’s partly due to uninformed opinion,” Professor Tim Flannery, Chief Commissioner, said. “You get all sorts of people posing as having some expertise in climate science, whether they be taxi drivers or people in the media who don’t have the expertise. That is clouding the waters and slowing things down.”

The Commission’s Key Messages, slightly condensed:

1. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The evidence is overwhelming and clear.

  • The atmosphere is warming, the ocean is warming, ice is being lost from glaciers and ice caps and sea levels are rising. The biological world is changing in response to a warming world.

2. We are already seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate.

  • In the last 50 years the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled. This has increased the risk of heatwaves and associated deaths, as well as extreme bushfire weather in southern Australia.
  • Sea level has risen by 20 cm globally since the late1800s, impacting many coastal communities. Another 20 cm increase by 2050, which is likely at current projections, would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.
  • The Great Barrier Reef has suffered from nine bleaching events in the past 31 years. This iconic natural ecosystem, and the economy that depends upon it, face serious risks from climate change.

3. Human activities – the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – are triggering the changes we are witnessing in the global climate.

  • A very large body of observations, experiments, analyses, and physical theory points to increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – with carbon dioxide being the most important – as the primary cause of the observed warming.
  • Increasing carbon dioxide emissions are primarily produced by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, as well as deforestation.
  • Natural factors, like changes in the Earth’s orbit or solar activity, cannot explain the world-wide warming trend.

4. This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience.

  • Without strong and rapid action there is a significant risk that climate change will undermine our society’s prosperity, health, stability and way of life.
  • The longer we wait to start reducing carbon emissions, the more difficult and costly those reductions become.
  • This decade is critical. Unless effective action is taken, the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life. The choices we make this decade will shape the climate future for our children and grandchildren


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