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Friday, September 24, 2021

IPCC climate science report: code red for humanity says UN Secretary General


"Today’s IPCC Working Group 1 Report is a code red for humanity.  The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable:  greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk. Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible." said Antonio Guiterres, UN Secretary General upon the launch of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th assessment report on the Physical science.

"The internationally agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius is perilously close. We are at imminent risk of hitting 1.5 degrees in the near term. The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold is by urgently stepping up our efforts, and pursuing the most ambitious path. We must act decisively now to keep 1.5 alive." said Guiterres in an official statement.

IPCC reports are done every five years. They do not generate new science but thoroughly review and assess existing peer reviewed science contributions. The first report was done in 1992. 

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) comprises three Working Group contributions: Working Group I (the physical science basis), Working Group II (impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and Working Group III (mitigation) and a Synthesis Report. Working Group II and III and the Synthesis report will be published in early 2022.

The full Working Group 1 report can be read online. From this is distilled a Summary for Policymakers (PDF) which is vetted line by line by a meeting of representatives of all governments. The Summary for Policymakers is 40 pages long which all government representatives have agreed to. From this is generated a Headline statements (PDF) document being a quick summary of the Summary for policymakers and the full expert report.

A quick video summary in 7.5 minutes:

The sixth assessment report for the first time also includes an interactive atlas and regional climate observations and assessment Fact Sheets.

It is the first report to use the term 'unequivocal', that human influence has warmed the ocean and land with widespread and rapid changes. Previous reports always left the smallest margin of uncertainty. It articulates that "Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades."

It warns that "limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO 2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO 2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH 4 emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution and would improve air quality."

Australiasia climate observations and projected impacts

For the Australasian region some of the observed and projected changes include: 
  • Australian land areas have warmed by around 1.4°C and New Zealand land areas by around 1.1°C between ~1910 and 2020 (very high confidence), and annual temperature changes have emerged above natural variability in all land regions (high confidence). 
  • Heat extremes have increased, cold extremes have decreased, and these trends are projected to continue (high confidence). 
  • Relative sea level rose at a rate higher than the global average in recent decades; sandy shorelines have retreated in many locations; relative sea level rise is projected to continue in the 21st century and beyond, contributing to increased coastal flooding and shoreline retreat along sandy coasts throughout Australasia (high confidence). 
  • Snow cover and depth have decreased and are projected to decrease further (high confidence). 
  • Frequency of extreme fire weather days has increased, and the fire season has become longer since 1950 at many locations (medium confidence). The intensity, frequency and duration of fire weather events are projected to increase throughout Australia (high confidence) and New Zealand (medium confidence). 
  • Heavy rainfall and river floods are projected to increase (medium confidence). 
  • An increase in marine heatwaves and ocean acidity is observed and projected (high confidence). 
  • Enhanced warming in the East Australian Current region of the Tasman Sea is observed and projected (very high confidence). • Sand storms and dust storms are projected to increase throughout Australia (medium confidence). 
  • Changes in several climatic impact-drivers (e.g., heatwaves, droughts, floods; see Introduction fact sheet) would be more widespread at 2°C compared to 1.5°C global warming and even more widespread and/or pronounced for higher warming levels.
Dr Simon Bradshaw, Head of Research, Climate Council of Australia, among many statements from the Climate Action Network, called the report: 

“The most important climate science update for almost a decade shows there is a path to avoiding climate catastrophe, but only through immediate, deep and sustained emissions reductions. This may be our final warning.”

“Climate change is already wreaking havoc around the world. Our decisions today will be the difference between a liveable future for today’s young people, and a future that is incompatible with well-functioning human societies.”

“Every choice and every fraction of a degree of avoided warming matters. The right choices will be measured in lives, livelihoods, species and ecosystems saved. Australia, as a major emitter and blessed with unrivalled potential for renewable energy, simply has to step up with a far stronger commitment ahead of COP26.”

There are solutions

Antonio Guiterres highlighted there are solutions, but we need to act quickly:

The viability of our societies depends on leaders from government, business and civil society uniting behind policies, actions and investments that will limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  We owe this to the entire human family, especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities and nations that are the hardest hit despite being least responsible for today’s climate emergency.

The solutions are clear.  Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage.  All nations, especially the G20 and other major emitters, need to join the net zero emissions coalition and reinforce their commitments with credible, concrete and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions and policies before COP26 in Glasgow.

We need immediate action on energy. Without deep carbon pollution cuts now, the 1.5-degree goal will fall quickly out of reach. This report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.  There must be no new coal plants built after 2021.  OECD countries must phase out existing coal by 2030, with all others following suit by 2040.  Countries should also end all new fossil fuel exploration and production, and shift fossil    fuel subsidies into renewable energy.  By 2030, solar and wind capacity should quadruple and renewable energy investments should triple to maintain a net zero trajectory by mid-century. 

Climate impacts will undoubtedly worsen.  There is a clear moral and economic imperative to protect the lives and livelihoods of those on the front lines of the climate crisis.  Adaptation and resilience finance must cease being the neglected half of the climate equation.  Only 21 per cent of climate support is directed towards adaptation.  I again call on donors and the multilateral development   banks to allocate at least 50 per cent of all public climate finance to protecting people, especially women and vulnerable groups.  COVID-19 recovery spending must be aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.  And the decade-old promise to mobilize $100 billion annually to support mitigation and adaptation in developing countries must be met.

The climate crisis poses enormous financial risk to investment managers, asset owners, and businesses.  These risks should be measured, disclosed and mitigated.  I am asking corporate leaders to support a minimum international carbon price and align their portfolios with the Paris Agreement.  The public and private sector must work together to ensure a just and rapid transformation to a net zero global economy.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s climate change program manager, Gavan McFadzean, commented:

“This report reconfirms carbon dioxide as the biggest driver of global warming and says other climate pollutants, such as methane gas, must also be reduced as quickly as possible.

“These projections are a stark warning and must act as a wake-up call to all politicians.

“If the rest of the world follows in Australia’s climate policy footsteps, the planet and all its inhabitants face a catastrophic future.

“In many cases, those least responsible will bear the greatest burden, such as our Pacific Island neighbours, who face an existential threat from sea level rise.

“The Morrison government’s gas led recovery has no place to hide after these findings. It must be replaced by an urgent transition to renewables for our domestic use and exports.

“Scott Morrison’s refusal to commit to a net zero target—and instead just hope for the best— flies in the face of this imminent threat.

“Australia’s fair share means we must cut our climate pollution by more than two-thirds in the next decade and reach zero emissions in 15 years; 2050 is too late.

“Australia can become a global clean energy superpower in the next decade by replacing coal and gas with renewable energy. We mustn’t get distracted by dangerous nuclear and the pipe dream of carbon capture and storage.

“We have abundant clean energy, tools and talent to do the job, but we cannot delay any longer.”

A statement issued by one of the negotiating groups, Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) which represents 39 small island and low-lying coastal developing states in international climate change, sustainable development negotiations and processes.:

“Major emitters must take account for the damages inflicted by the fossil fuel industry, knowing that every single tonne of carbon and every single dollar spent on fossil fuels will have a negative impact,” said Ambassador Diann Black-Layne of Antigua and Barbuda, Lead Climate Negotiator for AOSIS. “Near-term action to assuage the worst of the man-made climate impacts is crucial, and the barriers put in our way are the result of the fossil fuel industry’s fight against losing its power. It’s a sector that’s being paid annual subsidies of over $600 billion to destroy our planet, while the UN Climate Fund gets US $2.4 billion a year to save it."

 “We have to turn this around. The IPCC confirms the experience of Small Island States: that cyclones are getting more intense, and that sea levels are rising, but it also confirms that we can still curb the worst of it.

“The stark fact is that if we keep warming to 1.5˚C we are still facing half a metre of sea level rise. But if we stop warming from reaching 2˚C, we can avoid a long term three metres of sea level rise. That is our very future, right there.”

The Climate Council media response especially drew attention to the IPCC statement on methane and the need to reduce this greenhouse gas quickly.

The IPCC report makes it clear that methane is a powerful and dangerous greenhouse gas that plays a major role in driving climate change. Rapid reductions in methane emissions can have an important short-term effect in slowing temperature rise. 

“Methane emissions from Australia’s gas industry are a contributor to the recent rise in global methane concentrations. To do our fair share to meet the Paris climate goals, it is critical that no new gas fields are opened and that our existing gas industry is phased out as quickly as possible,” said Professor Steffen. 

Based on the latest science, the Climate Council is recommending that Australia reduce its emissions by 75% (below 2005 levels) by 2030.  We need to achieve net zero emissions by 2035.

Australian Government Response

Minister for Emissions Reduction put out a media release saying that Australia is committed to achieving net zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050. So no long term target. And no update to 2030 interim emissions target.

While the UK has stepped up to a 68% emissions reduction target by 2030, the USA to 52% by 2030, Australia still languishes on a laggard 26-28% emissions reduction by 2030. And most of that has been achieved through manipulation of start dates and the Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) emissions reduction. Australia's emissions for all other sectors have actually grown since 2005.

The Minister promotes the Government's Technology Investment Roadmap which funds Blue Hydrogen - making hydrogen from coal and gas and sequestering resulting emissions (when this technology has been developed at scale) and calling this clean hydrogen. Much easier to just build more renewables and the electrolysers to create green hydrogen in the first place. There are no set targets in the roadmap. It is just more delay and obfuscation and a chance to direct more funding to fossil fuel extraction and the deep well of carbon capture and storage that has failed over and over again to be cost effective, energy efficient and scale up to what is required.

There is little direction being done in decarbonisation of transport, particularly our vehicle fleet.

 The Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had mixed messages. He said " We must take action, as we indeed are, and continue to take action, as we will continue to, in developed countries, in advanced economies."

He then went on to deflect the problem is in the developing world, without any mention that Australia has failed its climate finance commitments to help some of these countries to step up emissions reduction and adaptation.  "But, we cannot ignore the fact that the developing world accounts for two thirds of global emissions, and those emissions are rising. That is a stark fact." the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister emphasised "our approach is technology, not taxes, to solving this problem. It's not enough for the technology to work with a tax in an advanced economy." ignoring that the Technology Investment Roadmap would have us invest in blue hydrogen to prolong fossil fuel use and through money down the deep well of Carbon Capture and Storage.

"Unless we can get the change in the developing countries of the world, then what we're seeing in these IPCC reports will occur." is how he framed blaming developing countries for not taking sufficient action.

Morrison said "Our emissions have fallen by 20 per cent since 2005", but that is only possible if you include Land Use emissions which many other countries refuse to include because methodologies for accurate measurement are suspect. Read about Australia's deception about its LULUCF forestry.

He seems more concerned at pointing the finger elewhere, and specifically "in India, in Vietnam, or in Indonesia or in China or in South Africa." Well he is the Prime Minister of Australia and he should stop worrying about the policies of those countries and step up emissions reduction targets here in Australia.

The comments Morrison made on acting on the costs of acting on climate and not willing to write a blank cheque aren't travelling very well considering his Government cancelled the French submarine deal estimated at $90 billion for a US/UK nuclear submarine deal which we have no cost estimates but likely to be even greater blank cheque.

"what I'm saying today is what I've been consistently saying for a very long time. Australia under my Government will have a plan to achieve what we're setting out and we will be transparent with Australians about what it means. I don't make blank cheque commitments. I'll leave that to others. You know, blank cheque commitments you always end up paying for and you always end up paying for it in higher taxes."

Comparing Australia's performance on energy transition

In August 2021 The Australia Institute published an assessment of Australia's energy transition compared to a similar cohort of developed countries - Back of the pack, An assessment of Australia’s energy transition. It found that since 2005 Australia has maintained, if not slipped further behind, its OECD counterparts when it comes to the energy transition.

"when Australia’s emissions reduction and energy transition performance is
assessed across a number of key indicators of decarbonisation, it is not leading the world, its
trailing it. When compared to 22 OECD economies and Russia, selected due to comparable
wealth, population, and development, it becomes clear that Australia is significantly behind
in the energy transition (Table A1)."

Key findings of the report include:
  • Despite prioritising productivity as one of the key policies to help Australia meet its Paris Agreement goal, energy productivity in Australia slipped back four places in the rankings.
  • Australia was one of only three countries in which emissions from energy use actually increased between 2005 and 2019.
  • Despite a growing population and good economic growth, in 2019 Australia ranked second last on energy emissions per capita and per GDP, behind the USA and Russia respectively.
  • Emissions intensity of Australia’s energy system in 2019 was second only to that of Poland, primarily because both countries were, and still are, heavily reliant on coal for electricity generation and also, to some extent, for supplying industrial heat.
  • Australia also performed poorly in terms of transport emissions per capita (22nd out of 24) and have only reduced these emissions by 1% since 2005, placing 17th out of 24 in this regard.
  • By 2019 Australians were consuming more energy per person than 20 (of the 23) other countries. Australia is unique in being the only country of the top energy consuming nations to have exhibited an increase in energy use per person over the period 2005-2019.
"Altogether, Australia’s electrification performance is the worst of the twenty-four countries,
just as its decarbonisation performance has also been amongst the worst. On this basis,
Australia’s overall energy transition performance has been worse than that of any of the
other 23 countries."

On climate policy and climate action the International independant assessment Climate Action Tracker recently rated Australia's climate action performance as highly insufficient.


1 comment:

  1. Considering Australia has been lead by leaders elected who said "Climate change is Crap". or some such rot the leader of the LNP when we had the Debt and Deficit election in 2013 yes they romped in.
    Had a debt of $250 million put it up to over $600 million.
    Reduced the debt by putting it over 100% well they are better evidently.
    In 2019 they had a huge debt now have put it up toward a Trillian dollars.

    I think what is happening is people vote because they get their information from fox or shock jocks
    Poor follow my country indeed.