Lower greenhouse gas emissions may not be enough to keep global warming within the internationally-agreed two degree target limit by 2060, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found.
The IPCC report will set the agenda for the international climate conference in Glasgow this November and found Australia is going past global averages in both land warming and sea level rise.
While global temperatures have risen by 1.09C, Australian land areas have warmed by around 1.4C.
Seas are rising an average of 3.7mm per year (more than double the rate observed between 1971 and 2006), whereas the rate in Australia is “higher than the global average in recent decades,” the report states.
IPCC projections show the rate of rising temperatures greatly depends on greenhouse gas* emissions*.
Allowing for very small global increases in greenhouse gases over the next two decades before huge cuts will see the planet 2C hotter around the middle of the century and 2.7C hotter towards the end.
Under that same scenario, sea levels will be around 50cm higher by 2100 and as much as 1.3m higher by 2150.
Dr Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick from the Climate Research Centre at UNSW said Australia will “always be a bit hotter than the global average”.
“We don’t have that much wiggle room in terms of our current annual emissions,” she said. “They can increase it a little bit over the next couple of decades, but then we really need to be drastically reducing our emissions. We need to sort it out now.”
The IPCC report predicts that the Arctic will experience an ice-free summer before 2050 and the follow up, due in February 2022, is expected to look more closely at climate impacts on individual ecosystems such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute Professor Mark Howden said much of the data from the report was not new, but the “strengthened language” and “increasing confidence” around claims was significant.
Responding to the IPCC report, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said Australia had improved its 2030 emissions reduction position by 639 million tonnes, which was equivalent to taking all the country’s 14.7 million cars off the road for 15 years.
“The Government will release updated forecasts ahead of COP26 (the IPCC meeting in Glasgow), which are expected to show a further improvement,” Mr Taylor said.
But others said the report demonstrates the need for more action.
“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,” said Australian Conservation Foundation climate change program manager Gavan McFadzean.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said net zero emissions by 2050 “should be a priority, not a preference”.
“Every action taken to mitigate the likely 1.5 degrees of warming that’s expected over the next decade will make a difference,” he said.
Climate Council spokesperson Professor Will Steffen said the report revealed some impacts of climate change such as sea level rises “cannot be avoided”.
“Importantly, however, strong and sustained emission reductions this decade can slow these trends … and protect so much of what we cherish,” Prof Steffen said.
The Climate Council has advised Australia to reduce emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2035.
Paul Mitchell from Save the Children said global warming was “not theoretical for children”.
Indeed, School Strike 4 Climate campaigner Eva Rodgers, 17, said the report revealed “the crucial need for action”.
“We need this report to be heard, understood and recognised by politicians and people in power with the sense of urgency it desperately deserves,” she said.
- greenhouse gas: various gases, especially carbon dioxide, contributing to the “greenhouse effect” of global warming
- emissions: production and release of gas and radiation
- Australian land temperatures have risen by how much?
- Seas are rising on average by how many millimetres per year?
- By how many million tonnes has Australia improved its 2030 emissions reduction position?
- That emissions reduction is the equivalent of how many cars off roads for how many years?
- How much hotter will be planet be by 2050 allowing for big cuts in greenhouse emissions?
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1. Climate Change Action Card
Have your say about climate change in the Climate Change card below. Think about the effects this may have in your life on your planet.
Climate Change Card: By ……………………
- How old will you be in 2050?
- What stage of life will you be in?
- How might the climate have changed?
- How might the ocean levels have changed?
- How might this affect the planet and the world you are living in?
- What action would you like to see taken by our Government right now?
- How can you advocate for change?
- Why is this an important matter to you and other children of today?
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science
Write a paragraph giving your opinion on why Australia’s temperature and sea levels have increased more than the global average? Is this something we should be worried about?
Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking
Energy Saver Club
As a planet, we need to work together to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But to make a change, we have to start at home – or in this case school – first.
Your job is to design an Energy Saver Club app for your school.
Every student will have access to the app that will have a list of small and big changes they can make in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
They need to check in and log what they have done for the day or week and earn points or rewards.
You will need to come up with a list of changes that individuals, classrooms, or the whole school can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Put the list in order from the smallest task to the biggest and add a points system to each task.
Then you need to write a pitch to your principal convincing him that everyone should download the app and start making changes. You may like to add prizes as an initiative as well.