Last week, the IPCC released the long version of the sixth synthesis assessment report which is the most reliable source of information on the state of our climate. This report concluded that a global temperature rise of 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels) by 2030 is inevitable due to human activities - primarily through emissions of greenhouse gases. This is alarming as temperature increases result in more frequent and intense extreme weather events, also leading to food and water insecurities, resulting in increases in human mortality and illness. In Australia and New Zealand, we are acutely aware of the personal and ecological impacts of such events including flooding, bushfires and drought. To prevent warming to increase above 1.5°C global greenhouse gas emissions must decline by around 43% by 2030 and around 60% by 2035 which will require stronger mitigation policies and adaptation strategies and financing. Australia and New Zealand need to step up to help our regional neighbours deal with climate injustices including shore erosion, sea level rise, as well as food and water insecurities from climate change. Failure to act now will result in further irreversible ecosystem losses and increased costs for action.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations (UN) body for assessing climate change science. The IPCC prepare comprehensive assessment reports to synthesise the research on climate change science every 5-7 years. The sixth assessment report (AR6) combines six years of work conducted by over 700 scientists in collaboration with representatives from 195 countries.
About the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)
The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) is the most reliable source of information on the state of our climate, the impacts of climate change and the actions required to prevent further climate injustice and the collapse of the ecosystems upon which human existence depends. The Synthesis Report provides a reliable, comprehensive and current analysis of climate change, and demonstrates that the broad and deadly effects of climate change can only be avoided by rapid and sustained greenhouse gas emission reductions in all sectors.
The global temperature has risen by 1.1℃ above pre-industrial (1850-1900) levels due to human activities -primarily through emissions of greenhouse gases. This rise has resulted in more frequent and intense extreme weather events such as flooding and bushfires. In Australia and New Zealand, we are acutely aware of the personal and ecological impacts of such events including flooding, bushfires and drought. Additionally, between 1901 and 2018 sea levels have risen approximately 20cm on average across the globe and this rise will continue. Around the world people are dying from floods, droughts and storms, and being displaced from land no longer able to support them and by rising sea-levels. Alarmingly, death from extreme weather events is 15 times more likely in vulnerable communities – of who almost half of the global population is categorised as. The intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, and their devastating outcomes on the human population, will only continue to worsen as the global temperature increases.
The best we can hope for is to limit warming to 1.5°C. To keep warming to 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels, global greenhouse gas emissions must decline by around 43% by 2030 and around 60% by 2035 (relative to 2019 levels). Keeping warming below 1.5℃ requires even stronger emissions reduction this decade. We can do this by deploying low- and zero-emission technologies, reducing energy demand, socio-cultural and behavioural changes, and protecting and restoring ecosystems. Feasible, effective and low-cost options are already available. Failure to take action now means the costs of action in the future will be far more expensive.
Given the impacts we are already seeing, and the increased impacts that will come with the now unavoidable increase to 1.5°C, adaptation is a critical element of our response. Some future changes are unavoidable and/or irreversible but can be limited by rapid and sustained emission reduction. Progress has been made in the likes of accelerating renewable energy, water management and storage, soil moisture conservation, agricultural diversification, amongst other things. However adaptation has been inadequate and constrained by lack of engagement, finance, political commitment and recognition of the urgency of the situation.
Vulnerable communities, disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change, have historically contributed the least to causing it. Increasing their access to finance is a critical enabler of mitigation and adaptation actions. Australia and New Zealand need to step up to help our regional neighbours deal with climate injustices shore erosion, sea level rise, as well as food and water insecurities from climate change.
The EIANZ calls on its members and all other environmental professionals to advocate for urgent action on climate change within their workplaces, with clients, and throughout their social networks. We implore National, State and Local governments, and the private sector, to implement all feasible mitigation options and adaptation strategies as a matter of urgency. We seek the support of media outlets to communicate this situation and demand responses from our elected representatives.
About EIANZ's Climate Change Special Interest Section
EIANZ’s Climate Change Special Interest Section have reviewed the IPCC’s Synthesis Report and have produced this statement to support the communication of climate change across a range of audiences with varied existing understanding of climate science.
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