How does the challenge of climate change confront us? Scientists have warned that global warming could lead to a future that is similar to horror scenarios from a Hollywood movie.
Farmers, gardeners and fire fighters are beginning to take notice of the warning signs. Last month was Australia’s hottest October on record. New record highs have been set for monthly and seasonal average temperatures across Australia at 12 times the rate of new record lows. Heatwaves that used to happen once every three years now happen once every 200 days. Extreme events like bushfires, tornados and floodings have become more frequent and intense.
From 1980 to 2000, our greenhouse gas emissions grew by an average of 1.5 per cent per year. From 2000 to 2012, it has risen by 3 per cent per year. The last three decades, each decade has been warmer than the previous, and 2014 has been the warmest year on Earth since records began measuring in 1880. In 2015, six months – February, March, May, June, July and August – became global heat records.
Global warming is the cause, and according to scientists, we are to blame.
The British professor Stephen Emmott has estimated that today we find ourselves in a situation that is as dangerous as if we had just discovered an asteroid heading towards Earth “with the potential to wipe out 70 percent of all life.”
Levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years. And they keep rising. We spew out around 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere every year. We are collectively in the process of sawing off the branch on which we sit.
A 2°C degree temperature rise is the official pain threshold for what the world can tolerate without degenerating into unmanageable climate disasters. But even that figure is now disputed. Climate scientists are calling an increase of 2°C degrees a ‘disaster scenario’. Time is running out.
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”
Barack Obama, American President
Inadequate action at national level
However, with the current commitments from governments, the goal that the global average temperature should not increase more than a maximum of 2°C degrees in the 21st century compared to pre-industrial times will not be achieved.
On 30 October 2015, the United Nations published a synthesis report on the consequences of the climate plans which 146 countries have recently submitted to the UN. The report shows we are on a potentially catastrophic climate course.
The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution which the federal government submitted to the United Nations on 11 August 2015 states that Austalia will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 per cent from 2005 levels including land-use, land-use change and forestry by 2030.
If we hold land-use, land-use change and forestry out of the picture for a moment, this target is equivalent to a range of around 5 per cent below to 5 per cent above 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2030.
Embarrasingly inadequate, in other words. The climate truth is still as inconvenient as it was when Al Gore started talking about it in 2006.
“The world’s easiest decision”
“If climate change was a threat by a foreign power, with no doubt we would put everything else aside in order to prevent the deadly danger. Everything in our society would be guided by it,” says Mik Aidt, director of Centre for Climate Safety, and the festival’s media coordinator:
“It is paradoxical that the climate crisis does not fill our daily lives with actitivies directed at protecting ourselves from the threat of global warming. After all, even an eight-year old kid is able figure out what we need to do now: to stop polluting the air. Which is not hard at all. Not only would we be reducing the risk of a climate crisis, we would reap heaps of benefits from it economically and in terms our health. On average more than eight Australians die from air pollution every day, according to Environmental Justice Australia’s 2014-report on air quality in Australia. One would have thought that a ban on polluting our atmosphere to take strong action on climate would have been the world’s easiest decision. It is a positive investment in our future.”
The United Nations warn that we will see hundreds of millions of climate refugees unless we stop filling the sky with greenhouse gases very soon.
If the current climate course is not changed dramatically very soon, we risk experiencing rises in sea level of between 0.5 and 2 metres during the 21st century and 10-20 metres in the following centuries.
Sea level rise and extreme weather events will cause food and fresh water shortage that may lead to a tsunami of climate refugees. Among other things, because it is the poorest countries that will be hardest hit by climate change and population growth.
Media plays an important role
The festival organisers are hoping that local media leaders will step in and become that climate action beacon which Geelong has been missing. With great influence follows great responsibility – and the agenda-setting role of the newspapers and magazines in this city is crucial.
This is a matter of getting the priorities right. We stand in a unique critical situation in history. With professor Nicholas Stern’s words, ‘Humanity is at climate crossroads’.
If the present generation does not make some fundamental restructuring of our energy production and way of life, it may eventually lead to the destruction of not only our businesses, our comfort and our livelihood. Civilisation as we know it is at stake here. A devastating future for our own children or grandchildren. We have a key to change these prospects, and we must handle this key with responsibility. We must act on climate.
For all these reasons, we hope to see you helping, promoting and supporting the Act on Climate Festival, and we hope to see you at the events on 20-23 November 2015. More about the festival below, and here
→ Nature – 30 October 2015:
Combined climate pledges of 146 nations fall short of 2°C target
→ New Scientist – 30 October 2015:
The climate fact no one will admit: 2 °C warming is inevitable
→ The Conversation – 29 October 2015:
It’s been Australia’s hottest ever October, and that’s no coincidence
→ Climatesafety.info – 28 October 2015:
Aiming for safety: Restoring the balance in our atmosphere
→ President Obama’s tweet:
PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 3 NOVEMBER 2015
Climate call to the Geelong community
• Inaugural Geelong Climate Change Festival November 20-23rd
• Various activities around Geelong
• Focus on positive solutions for individuals
Climate change. A conversation starter or stopper? Often a lengthy discussion ensues or alternatively, it is ignored completely, because, well, it’s just too BIG. Climate change is an issue of such magnitude that no single person, city or even country has any real influence on it. So why make a festival about it – of all things?
“Let me tell you something surprising about climate change,” says festival coordinator Dan Cowdell. “While the United Nations announced last week that the national commitments of 146 nations won’t be solving the climate problem caused by our uncontrolled air pollution, the good news is that there is no lack of technical solutions lined up to solve the problem. There is only a lack of will. So, instead of waiting around for our politicians to make the right decisions, we really need to start acting at a local level – as individuals, as families, and as businesses.”
This is what Geelong’s first Act on Climate Festival is about. It sets out to provide the answers and create a new, positive path of climate action for the city. “We must enable our community to rise to the climate challenge as it confronts us,” says Dan Cowdell.
The Hon Lisa Neville, Minister for Climate, will open the festival with an evening of keynote speakers and a panel in the Captain’s Room at Simonds Stadium on Friday 20 November. The festival events – in particular a market day and a film night – will showcase positive solutions that encourage people to act on climate and, as the festival’s slogan goes, help “build a better, safer, future for all”.
The Act on Climate Market Day on Saturday 21 November 2015 will be a fun family event with market stalls, information, music, activities, and places to sit and relax. Located on the Geelong waterfront at Steampacket Gardens, the event is ideally located for a family outing.
» For more information, interviews and ideas for stories, see:
Invitation to the Act on Climate festival in Geelong
About Festival Coordinator Dan Cowdell
Dan is the Event Organiser for the Act on Climate Festival. With a background in Electrical Engineering, Business Development and Industrial Automation, Dan brings a unique mix of skills and enthusiasm to the assignment. He joined Geelong Sustainability in late 2013 and is now the group’s President. During the 2014 Victorian election Dan worked as a community organiser for GetUp mobilising the community on the issues of climate change and renewable energy. Most recently he is delivering major projects for a local Geelong solar installer.
Festival flyer (PDF)
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