Australia

11,000 scientists from around the world unite to declare global climate emergency

Flames from a backfire consume a hillside as firefighters battle the Maria Fire in Santa Paula, California, November 1, 2019 Source: AAP

More than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have come together to declare a climate emergency and create a six-step plan to help humanity mitigate the effects of man-made global warming.

A group of 11,000 scientists from over 153 countries have formally declared a 'climate emergency' after analysing over 40 years of global data.

The data showed immediate action needs to be taken to stop global warming or else widespread human suffering is likely to occur, they said.

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The team of scientists, which included Australian Dr Thomas Newsome from the University of Sydney, analysed a range of measures - including surface area, population growth, fertility rates, carbon emissions and energy use - before they came to their declaration.

Dr Newsome is hopeful the report published on Wednesday in the journal BioScience will prompt a global response, particularly from governments who he believes have lacked initiative.

"There has been little movements globally in terms of tackling the issue of climate change and so our major goal was to really come up with a new and broad set of graphical indicators to illustrate both the impacts that the humans are having on the climate and also the negative feedback loops associated with climate change," Dr Newsome said.

Thomas Newsome
Dr Thomas Newsome with dingo
Graeme Finlayson

The declaration not only warns of the dangers of climate change but outlines six areas humanity should immediately act on if they want to mitigate the impacts of global warming. The areas include energy, short-lived pollutants, nature, food, economy and population.

Dr Newsome is confident with the right federal policy, global warming can be combatted.

"[It is] a clear policy that signals to the business community that they are going to act on climate change and a clear policy to the people that they are going to act on climate change in a way that is going to change the trajectory of these graphs both at a country level and a global level," he said.

"I think they could also be encouraging individuals to change their individual behaviour to help meet those goals because lots of small steps will help meet those global goals as well."

Parliament urged to declare climate emergency

The declaration has been welcomed by Australian environmental advocacy groups and politicians.

Co-deputy leader of the Greens Party Adam Bandt is hopeful that federal parliament will follow in the footsteps of the thousands of scientists and finally declare a climate emergency in Australia before it is too late.

"We've got farmers who are suffering through record drought, we've got towns that have been told they might run out of water, we had parts of Australia start burning barely a couple of weeks out of winter, we are in a climate emergency. And the first step towards fixing a problem is admitting you've got a problem," Mr Bandt said.

"If the parliament follows the lead of the scientists and declares a climate emergency then we can refocus the whole of the countries efforts into stopping the climate crisis getting worse," he said.

Adam Bandt
Greens MP Adam Bandt said Mr Morrison missing the climate talks showed "cowardice and contempt".
AAP

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) CEO Kelly O'Shanassay also wants to see the government address the climate emergency as everyday Australians, not only scientists, are calling for immediate climate action.

"Business is speaking up, the head of the defence force, celebrities around the world are speaking up, investors are speaking up, 300,000 students last month in the streets of Australia are speaking up," Ms O’Shanassay said.

"Everyone is now saying that climate change is here: 'I can see it outside my window, I can see the drought, I can see the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef'."

"People are really worried about it and it is now pretty much everyone, from every walk of life is saying to our government please take action, because our lives depend on it," she said.

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'How good is mining for Australia'

It looks unlikely the Coalition will take immediate drastic action with the declaration occurring just days after Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated his government's commitment to supporting Australia's mining industry as he believes it is integral to the nation's economy and future.

"Nothing more clearly defines, I think, a Liberal-Nationals Coalition government than our strong, full-throated support for traditional industries like mining. How good is mining for Australia,," he said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the government is acting on climate change. 

February 2017: The now Prime Minister Scott Morrison seen holding a lump of coal in parliament.
February 2017: The now Prime Minister Scott Morrison seen holding a lump of coal in parliament.
AAP

"The Government has a track record in meeting and beating our targets," he said in a statement.

"As a part of a coordinated global action to address climate change, we have strong targets to reduce our emissions by 2030 by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels. This target is achievable and responsible.

"We have a clear plan to meet and beat our Paris commitment through our fully-funded $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package that has mapped out, to the last tonne, how to meet our 2030 target."

The burning of coal, however, is one of the leading causes of global warming, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

The group's chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassay, warns the government cannot afford to continue to ignore the role of coal.

"Science is very clear on it, they've been told that, yet our Prime Minister as Treasurer goes into parliament [and] holds up a lump of coal and his government are very keen to continue to build new coal mines and new coal plants.

"This is very, very dangerous for our future, especially when we've got the renewable energy that we can build now that is cheaper now, that is reliable now."

"This is not a choice between the environment and jobs - we can actually have electricity, we can have the jobs that they all produce but from renewable sources," she said.

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