Senior Climatologist Dr Lynette Bettio explains that soon we will no longer be considering how we get through a single intense year, such as 2019, but how we can make it through a stretch of years with no respite. The climate has been set on a warming path – the long-lived greenhouse gasses that are in the atmosphere and the extra energy soaked up by oceans have secured the warming trend continuing for the next few decades. So the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO are investing a lot of effort to solve these problems, knowing the sooner we take action, the sooner we will see a divergence from the alarming projections in current climate models and simulations.
A multi-disciplinary panel gathered to discuss what they see as inspirational for scientists, governments and communities to take action in response to COVID-19, devastating bushfires, and systemic racism and social unrest. Before the pandemic we were amongst the unbridled fires, lush landscapes were blistering, and communities came together to offer donations and support to rebuild towns that were destroyed. During the pandemic and in lockdown we feel as if we’re in a snow dome. Gaps in wealth, age, sex, age and disability became highlighted and people marched forcefully with thunder in response to social injustice. Once we emerge, we hope to have better communication with scientists and vigorously carve out a new equilibrium.
Extreme events are becoming more devastating and more frequent. Communities, economies and ecosystems have increasingly less time to bounce back between them. How do we build resilience for the future? This summer’s devastating bushfires and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic have given Australians an alarming insight to the sustained uncertainty we will be facing under a rapidly changing climate. Mike Flattley (Royal Society of Victoria) and Anthony Boxshall (Science Into Action) invited a number of speakers to discuss how we can build resilience into our planning strategies for water, agriculture and biodiversity. Featuring David McKenzie and Claire Flanagan-Smith on the Goulburn Murray Resilience Strategy, Lauren Rickards on Climate Change and Systems Transformation, Brendan Wintle on Decision Making for Biodiversity, Briony Rogers on Preparing the Water Sector for Transition, Richard Eckard on the Transition of the Agricultural Sector, and Sarah Bekessy on Building Community Ownership and Agency in the process.
The UNFCCC Paris Agreement to combat climate change requires commitment and action towards a sustainable, low carbon future. The target set was to limit global warming to 1.5°C – and we are only 0.4°C away. Global carbon emissions peaked in 2019 but have already dropped down this year due to limited air travel and other factors. While the circumstances that brought about these changes are less than ideal, it is a start and hopefully lays the foundation for sustained reductions.
The future climate is in our hands – our actions now will decide that future. Energy production remains the primary driver of greenhouse gas emissions, followed by agriculture, forestry and other land uses, then industry and transport. According to climate scientist Professor David Karoly, countries in the Southern Hemisphere are expected to experience the largest economic impacts of global warming, and it is therefore imperative that Australia takes leadership and responsibility for making change.
The IPCC aims to understand the influences driving the Earth’s climate variability and future climate scenarios. It does not conduct its own research or run models; instead, it provides a meta-analysis of the work of thousands of researchers across the globe to provide a scientific basis for governments to develop climate-related policies. The IPCC warns of risks to food production and security, water availability, species extinction, biodiversity reduction, coastal erosion, floods and droughts, negative impacts on human health, and population displacement. ‘The IPCC has been saying the same thing since the 1990s, but no one is listening,’ said Dr Chloe Mackallah, reading directly from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, which states that the effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions ‘are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.’