It's crunch time.
We've dithered and delayed, and now we are running out of time. On 3rd April, 2021, an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 421.21 parts per million (ppm) was recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii – the first time in human history that a concentration of over 420ppm has been recorded. It has been at least 2.6 million years since atmospheric CO2 concentration has been so high! Global warming must stay below 2°C. If it doesn't, we run the risk of activating a global tipping point which will see the natural world take warming out of our hands, leading to a "Hothouse Earth":
"Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director emeritus and founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, believes if we go much above 2°C we will quickly get to 4°C anyway because of the tipping points and feedbacks, which would spell the end of human civilisation."
To keep warming below 2°C we must significantly reduce our carbon dioxide emissions every year of this decade, and we must plan for it now. While it can be disheartening being in Australia, with a climate laggard government, there are many countries around the world who are pushing for change. And now with the election of Biden in the USA there's renewed international pressure on Australia to get moving.
Now is the time to act. (Actually, 30 years ago was the time to act, but now will have to do.)
A report from the Climate Council released last week titled Aim High, Go Fast: Why Emissions Need to Plummet This Decade advised that we (Australia) need to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 75% on 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2035 if we are to keep warming below 2°C. This is in stark contrast to the current Australian government's pledges of 26-28% reduction of GHG emissions on 2005 levels by 2030 and net-zero "preferably" by 2050 -- neither of which we are on track to achieve.
With ambitions such as these it really does make you wonder if our government, who took an oath to "well and truly serve the people of Australia" understands climate change at all.
Thankfully, in a democracy we choose our leaders and if we have the right leaders in power, we can absolutely do something about this. And we know that the solutions exist, all that is lacking is the political will.
What we need is a Government that will:
- talk about climate change, including what is at risk if we do not act with urgency.
- set a target and a plan to reduce emissions by 75% on 2005 levels by 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2035, ideally sooner;
- set a target and a plan to drawdown Australia's share of CO2 such that we can get to an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 350ppm globally, at which point the climate will stabilise (no more warming)
- influence leaders of other countries to do 1,2 & 3 above. Australia is a small country, but we can have tremendous influence. Prime Minister Bob Hawke demonstrated such leadership in the late 1980s when he worked with other leaders to shift support for a mining convention that would allow drilling in Antarctica. Instead of the mining convention, the Madrid Protocol was signed in 1991, whereby mining was banned for 50 years and the Antarctic was set aside as a "natural reserve devoted to peace and science". It was a huge win, and proves that with the right leadership, anything is possible; and
- Listen to First Nations communities and leaders, centering their voices throughout climate action.
If we want to protect the planet's ability to sustain life, we need a government that will prioritise reducing and drawing down GHG emissions. We simply will not solve climate change without the policies and leadership of the Federal Government. And we have the power to push for change in this area - any influence you can exert to help get a climate MP elected will be time well spent. Arguably, given how little time we have left, there is no better way to spend your time.
Here are some resources to help you get political:
- Here's a blog on How To Write A Letter To Your Elected Representative About Building Back Better
- Here is an example of a letter written by Australian Parents for Climate Action, that can give you some inspiration to get writing. But remember, a letter that is personal to your experience and vision will be all the more powerful.
- Here's a link to the next national school strikes
- Here's a petition to support the #TorresStrait8 as they take their case against the Australian Government to the United Nations for inaction on climate change.
Written by Erin Remblance
Sydney mum-of-three and new climate activist