2 May 2022
Australia will be hit particularly hard by the effects of global warming such as heat-related death, fire, flood and drought, a public forum at St Paul’s Cathedral has been told.
It came with a warning that Australian government policies to tackle the issue were “sorely lacking”.
International climate change expert Professor David Karoly said the world was on track to experience twice the global warming predicted by the 2015 Paris Climate Accords, speaking at St Paul’s on United Nations World Earth Day.
The University of Melbourne Climate Futures senior fellow said that Australia would be particularly affected and suffer loss of coral reefs and widespread heat deaths of people and wildlife.
Professor Karoly said Australia was ranked last in the world for climate policies, according to the independent Climate Change Performance Index.
He warned that it was almost certain there would be a breach in the Paris Climate Accords, which was the 2015 treaty between 195 countries pledging to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Professor Karoly said United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres had given a “succinct and scary” analysis of the current global warming situation in April, when he warned governments and business leaders were saying one thing and doing another – which would cause catastrophic results.
Professor Karoly warned that the sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in 2021 had some sobering conclusions.
He said carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere had increased by more than 40 percent since the pre-industrial period of 1851-1900, a direct result of human activities such as land clearing and burning fossil fuels.
Professor Karoly said the report had concluded that there was no doubt that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases had warmed temperatures across the world, with an average rise of 1.1 degree in global surface temperatures compared to 1850-1900.
But Professor Karoly said land temperatures had increased by more than this, as land heated up faster than oceans – an issue which he said had particular ramifications for Australia. He said these included loss of coral reefs, higher heat-related mortality for people and wildlife, and an increase in fires, floods, droughts and storms.
Professor Karoly also warned that without rapid reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, there would only be greater warming, and that Australian government policy on climate action was sorely lacking.
The independent Climate Change Performance Index, released at the end of 2021, ranked Australia last in the world for climate policies, he said.
He said the index stated that Australia’s government policies were insufficient for decarbonising the economy, inadequate for reducing the use of fossil fuels, inadequate for promoting
renewable energy and setting out how national greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.
The Index went on to say that “the government does not have any policies on phasing out coal or gas”.
Other speakers at the 22 April conference, entitled Fighting the Climate Emergency, included Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp; Dr Catherine Brown, the chief executive of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation; the Reverend Aunty Janet Turpie-Johnstone, an Aboriginal elder, Anglican priest, and lecturer in Aboriginal art and culture at the Australian Catholic University; and Dr Jeff Sparrow, a Walkley Award-winning journalist and lecturer in journalism at Melbourne University.
The event was hosted by the Dean of Melbourne, the Very Reverend Dr Andreas Loewe.