Australia21 has welcomed today’s warning by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the world must take action in the next two years to avert the disastrous consequences of reaching the point of no return on climate change.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our time — and we are at a defining moment,” Mr Guterres said in an address at UN headquarters in New York.
“If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”
In the hard hitting speech, Mr Guterres said that climate change “is moving faster than we are – and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world.”
He called for leadership by politicians, business, science and the public everywhere, to do what is needed.
“The time for ambitious climate action is now.”
Mr Guterres said we stand at an existential crossroad and need to muster the full force of human ingenuity to avoid catastrophe. He branded claims that tackling climate change is too expensive and could harm economic growth as ‘hogwash’, usually from vested interests.
“In fact, the opposite is true. We are experiencing huge economic losses due to climate change,” he said.
Disastrous failure of political leadership in Australia
Welcoming his comments, Emeritus Professor Bob Douglas, Convenor of the Australia21 Existential Threats project and Humans for Survival, urged all of Australia’s political leaders to read the Secretary General’s speech and act immediately to curb carbon emissions before the 2020 deadline.
“We are witnessing a disastrous failure of political leadership on this issue, one which threatens the very future of human civilisation and which could ruin life expectancy for our own children,” said Professor Douglas.
“It is quite extraordinary that these matters are not engaging our political leaders nor the Australian media in the way that they deserve.”
The remarkable statement from the UN complements statements made recently by the Pope and by many scientific bodies, and Professor Douglas said it should come as a wake up call to all Australians.
“The speech refers to positive activities taking place in a number of countries — and of course fails to mention Australia, which is one of the highest per capita emitting countries in the world. We should be at the leading edge of ambitious mitigating action of the kind referred to in the speech.”
Australia21 has a long history of engagement in the climate change issue and in consideration of other related threats to human existence, and has recently developed a comprehensive website on the topic humansforsurvival.org, in collaboration with science communicator Julian Cribb and a group from the Australian National University Emeritus Faculty. It follows on from an ANU/Australia21 report, Pathways Past the Precipice: flourishing in a mega-threatened world.
‘Direct existential threat’ of climate change nears point of no return, warns UN chief
Dear friends of planet Earth, thank you for coming to the United Nations Headquarters today. I have asked you here to sound the alarm.
Climate change is the defining issue of our time — and we are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are — and its speed has provoked a sonic boom “SOS” across our world. If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us. That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership — from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere. We have the tools to make our actions effective. What we still lack — even after the Paris Agreement — is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.
Let there be no doubt about the urgency of the crisis. We are experiencing record‑breaking temperatures around the world. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since 1850, when records began. This year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest.
Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods are leaving a trail of death and devastation. Last month the state of Kerala in India suffered its worst monsoon flooding in recent history, killing 400 people and driving 1 million more from their homes. We know that Hurricane Maria killed almost 3,000 people in Puerto Rico last year, making it one of the deadliest extreme weather disasters in United States history. Many of those people died in the months after the storm because they lacked a