Climate change

Australian and global climate change trends, risks and priorities

Prepared by Professor John Wiseman Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute University of Melbourne October 2018

Climate change is already having a significant impact on our world. The environment, communities and the economy are reeling from the impact of the warming planet, extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Tragically, the impacts are often most severe for the most disadvantaged.

Australia’s environment and our population are particularly susceptible to the impact of climate change due to the large expanses of arid and semi-arid areas, water supply pressures, our unique biodiversity and the concentration of the population in coastal areas. Australia is already experiencing the impact of a warmer climate.

Australia is a signatory to the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Scientists agree that the window of opportunity for keeping global warming below 1.5 or 2°C is closing rapidly.

Despite the Federal Government pledge under the Paris agreement, there is strong evidence that the climate change mitigation actions being taken by Australia are not sufficient to meet our fair share of global emissions reductions.

Many Australian local and state governments, communities, business leaders and investors are taking matters into their own hands to address climate change. The mitigation and adaptation action being taken shows enormous potential. There are substantial economic gains to be made if corporations and governments seize opportunities to drive the transition to a just and sustainable zero carbon economy.

Encouragingly, opinion polls and research shows most Australians want to see strong action on climate change and are excited by the economic prospects of shifting to clean, renewable energy.

There are many opportunities for philanthropists to lead or join co-ordinated and decisive action to address climate change and accelerate implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement commitments.

We have been pushing our planet to the brink and the damage is becoming increasingly clear. Biodiversity is being lost at mass-extinction rates, agricultural systems are under strain and pollution of the air and sea has become an increasingly pressing threat to human health. A trend towards nation-state unilateralism may make it more difficult to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses that are required to counter global warming and the degradation of the global environment.

The World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2018

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