News ID: 265654
Published: 0710 GMT February 15, 2020

Climate summit calls for urgent action after Australia's fire-hit summer

Climate summit calls for urgent action after Australia's fire-hit summer

The megafires of Australia’s summer “are a harbinger of life and death on a hotter Earth”, a climate summit has said in a forceful declaration for urgent and dramatic climate action.

The Climate Emergency Summit, held in Melbourne this week and of which Guardian Australia was a partner, released a declaration saying the warming world was a clear threat to Australian society and civilization, reported.

“The climate is already dangerous — in Australia and the Antarctic, in Asia and the Pacific — right around the world. The Earth is unacceptably too hot now,” the declaration said.

“If the climate warms 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the Great Barrier Reef will likely be lost, sea levels could rise meters and massive global carbon stores such as the Amazon and Greenland, will hit tipping points, releasing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere.”

Signatories to the declaration included Ian Dunlop, Carmen Lawrence, John Hewson, Tim Costello and Kerryn Phelps. It warned that even the Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets would put the world on a path to 3.5°C warming by 2100, and 4°C to 5°C warming “when long-term climate-system feedbacks were factored in”.

“National security analysts warn that 3°C may result in “outright social chaos”, and 4°C is considered incompatible with the maintenance of human civilization.

“Climate change must be accepted as an overriding threat to national and human security, with the response being the highest priority at national and global levels.”

The declaration called on governments to commit to rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero, to drawing down carbon concentrations already in the atmosphere, and to integrating adaptation and resilience measures into restructured national and global economies.

The executive director of Micah Australia, Tim Costello, told the Guardian the declaration was a rallying cry to emphasize the critical nature of the climate challenge.

“This summit was people from military, agriculture, from politics, from economics: We’re all frustrated, we want to see action and a breakthrough, we’re all working hard in our areas, but none of us actually know what will be the tipping point, when it will finally be widely realized that this is an emergency and we have to decarbonize,” Costello said.

“Like people understood the emergency of war, there will be a suspension of politics and human rights if we don’t deal with climate.”

He said party politics had failed Australia, and shown itself incapable of dealing with the climate emergency.

And, he argued, climate change as an existential threat had long been a reality for communities across Australia’s region.

“I have seen the poorest communities already losing lives and livelihoods for years from climate change. Now it is our existential challenge after these bushfires, whereas at the Pacific Islands Forum our prime minister was told ‘it is only economic for you, it is existential survival for us’.”

The declaration said Australia’s political leaders were especially culpable, guilty of short-term political expediency, which had left Australians acutely exposed to the impacts of climate change.

“The first duty of a government is to protect the people, their well-being and livelihoods. Instead, Australian governments have left the community largely unprepared for the disasters now unfolding, and for the extensive changes required to maintain a cohesive society as climate change impacts escalate.”

The declaration argued it was in Australia’s self-interest to demand greater global action on climate change, and a continued reliance on fossil fuel resources was unsustainable, both economically and environmentally.

Australia was the world’s fourth largest carbon polluter, exports included, and one of the countries most exposed to climate change, the declaration said.

“It makes no sense to build our economy on fossil fuel resources, practices and technologies which are unsustainable, particularly when Australia has some of the best clean energy resources and opportunities in the world.”

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