As the world heats up, so too does pressure on Australia to move beyond its long-running climate policy wars and do more to help limit global warming.
The planet is poised to be 1.5C warmer, compared with pre-industrial levels, early next decade.
The United Nations’ latest climate report card provides unequivocal proof humans are the cause, with the result being more frequent and ferocious fires, floods, droughts, marine heatwaves, coral bleaching and accelerated sea level rise.
Australia is widely considered to be dragging its heels on the world stage against the long-running backdrop of domestic climate policy wars.
Scott Morrison responded to the UN’s sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment saying the solution lay with technology.
“World history teaches one thing – technology changes everything,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The prime minister said he did not want to burden regional areas and the agricultural sector with the cost of climate action.
He also acknowledged those same people were most affected by the consequences of climate change.
“We need to address those anxieties and assure people in regional parts of the country that the plan we have to achieve these outcomes … is a plan that they can support,” Mr Morrison said.
With other nations expected to lift their ambition on emissions cuts, Mr Morrison faces pressure to bring additional climate commitments to the table at UN talks scheduled for November in Glasgow.
“We will make that very clear about what Australia is achieving and what we intend to achieve. And we’ll make further statements about that between now and that (Glasgow) summit,” he said.
The prime minister reiterated commitments to investing in low-emissions technologies and pointed out Australia was set to achieve a 29 per cent reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030.
This was compared with a cut of between 26 and 28 per cent under Australia’s Paris Agreement commitment.
The government is standing by its current position of wanting to achieve net zero emissions as quickly as possible and preferably by mid-century.
Meanwhile, Australia’s land areas have warmed 1.4C since 1910 and disasters such as the 2019-20 Black Summer are set to become even more familiar as climate change speeds up.
The world is on track to breach 1.5C warming within 20 years and 2C by the end of the century without immediate, drastic and sustained emissions cuts.
The worst-case of five scenarios modelled by the IPCC culminates in a planet that’s likely 4.4C hotter between 2081 and 2100.
However, the upper figure could be as high as 5.7C.
IPCC vice-chair and Australian National University climate change institute director Mark Howden warned society was “heading into a bad place”.
“We’re already in that zone where we’re experiencing extremes pretty much everywhere in Australia and pretty much every year,” he said.
Australia’s reductions to date had been assisted by lower land clearing levels and mechanisms put in place under Labor.
“Looking at the core fossil fuel-based sectors, the emissions from those have actually gone up within that period and at the moment they’re pretty much flatlining,” Professor Howden said.
“There’s no real evidence that our current policy settings are actually working to drive down our emissions.”
Australian Associated Press