The Critical Decade: time is tight

Australia’s Climate Commission (established by government, but “not subject to government direction“) today released an overview of the current climate state of play — The Critical Decade: Climate science, risks and responses (key points, full report). It’s important and timely — especially in the Australian political context, but it also has lessons for most of the world’s policymakers. Here are the key findings:

  1. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The evidence is overwhelming and clear
  2. We are already seeing the social, economic and environmental impacts of a changing climate
  3. Human activities – the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation – are triggering the changes we are witnessing in the global climate
  4. This is the critical decade. Decisions we make from now to 2020 will determine the severity of climate change our children and grandchildren experience

The last point is the most important. It underlines much of what we’re learning about the climate system’s response to the pulse of greenhouse gases we’re forcing it to swallow. Here’s one of the bullet points under point four:

This decade is critical. Unless effective action is taken, the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life. The choices we make this decade will shape the long-term climate future for our children and grandchildren.

This is what Jim Hansen was on about in his tour of New Zealand — the duty we owe to our children and our children’s children. Please read his latest draft paper: The case for young people and nature: a path to a healthy, natural prosperous future. And look in particular at the emissions paths therein. We have a limited window in which to prevent unimaginable damage to the planet.

To do that, we need policy that starts where the laws of physics finish, not pretends that they can be bent to economic theory. We need more bodies like the Climate Commission, willing to speak truth to power, and we need politicians who will listen.

[See The Conversation for comments from senior Aussie academics.]

[Booker T and the MGs]

3 thoughts on “The Critical Decade: time is tight”

  1. Yeah just been reading it! It doesn’t pull any punches does it! Well worth downloading and reading in full.

    I’ve been looking for that graph on pg 35 of Inflows to Perth’s dams which I saw in a book I read last month. That speaks volumes of the predicament they are in at the moment and their drought. I note it has been updated to 2010, and a further step change in average inflows since 2006 with inflows per year now totaling only 57.7 GL on ave.
    The latest observations in almost all areas are consistently showing the IPCC projections to be conservative.

    Good choice of music Gareth. Booker T.. were the backing band for the Bob Dylan 30 year Celebration – I had a tape of the concert – which with constant playing rapidly deterioated – It wasn’t reproduced on dvd until recently which I now have but sadly my fav track with Chrissie Hyne’s “I shall be released” is not on it. 🙁

  2. “we will struggle to maintain our present way of life.”


    One small hopeful sign. The Labour Party seems to have woken up to the fact that climate change might be a winning political issue. With each new report of climatic disaster (almost daily now), the idea that farmers be asked to make a modest contribution to addressing the problem is going to be like water dripping on a stone.

    Lets hope that within 12 months, politicians will be tripping over each other to set out their carbon reducing agendas.

  3. I agree that the politics of Goff’s announcement is a small win for Labour – in that when riled-up, Fed Farmers just come across as the antipodean Tea Party, and National will be perceived as unfairly protecting them.

    However, I can see a problem with the mechanics.

    Even with agriculture entering the NZETS in 2013 and being given slightly less free units (90% of 2005 emissions vs 90% of 2015 average output ), the basic NZ ETS design is still:
    1) no cap,
    2) over-allocate units to emissions-intensive trade-exposed industry, agriculture, fishing and forestry
    3) allow unlimited importing of cheap Chinese-sourced Kyoto units
    4) have no auctions of units and therefore no crown revenue.

    So the very small extra carbon price placed on agriculture from 2013 will be likely to end up with net sellers of NZ units and not with the Government. Therefore there would be no crown revenue to fund the R & D tax credits.

    I wonder if Goff and co have really thought this through. It may be good ‘politics’ but it still isn’t an adequate climate change mitigation policy.

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