25 July, 2024
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We’re running out of time to stop Earth’s climate catastrophe


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The world is facing an existential climate threat.

July will officially become the hottest month in recorded history, after the hottest three-week period ever, with the three hottest days on record and the highest ocean temperatures for this time of year.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the intense heat the world is currently experiencing is human-made and “entirely consistent with predictions and repeat warnings”.

“The consequences are clear and tragic: Children swept away by monsoon rains, families running from the flames, workers collapsing in scorching heat,” he said on Friday.

“For the vast parts of North America, Asia, Africa and Europe, it’s a cruel summer. For the entire planet, it is a disaster.”

Australia hasn’t yet experienced its first cruel summer in the “era of global boiling,” but experts warn of the country’s future on the front line of climate change.

Dr Andrew King, senior lecturer in climate science at the University of Melbourne, said that at some point soon we will inevitably pass the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement.

“We’ve known for a very long time that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will lead to warming and we’ve observed this effect as early as about 90 years ago,” he said.

“Our global greenhouse gas emissions are at roughly record high levels: We are seeing an accelerated global warming and we are seeing extreme heat events in particular.”

The earth is already 1.1°C hotter than it was a century ago, and at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, we will see coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef almost completely die off, storms becoming more common, melting ice leading to increased flooding of cities and global food chains stressed to breaking point.

Between 3.3 billion and 3.6 billion people live in areas that are vulnerable to climate change, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, crops like maize and fisheries off the coast of Australia will both see a 35 per cent reduction in yield in current modelling.

‘The heat is unbearable’

Mr Guterres called for world leaders to do more to combat climate change and said there is still time to limit global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial level.

“The heat is unbearable and the level of fossil fuel profits and climate inaction is unacceptable,” he said.

“Leaders must lead. No more waiting for others to move first, there is simply no time for that.”

In the late 1970s, ExxonMobil scientists correctly forecast the coming disaster, projecting that fossil fuel emissions would lead to 0.2°C of global warming per decade and accurately predicted human-caused global warming would be detectable from the year 2000.

ExxonMobil has been aware of human-caused warming since the 1970s. Photo: AAP

Instead of acting on the knowledge, the fossil fuel industry attacked climate science and downplayed the threat to the planet, with five companies — ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Total Energies — earning $200 billion in profits in 2022.

No more coal by 2030

Mr Guterres said ambitious and new targets from G20 members are needed, and developed countries must hit fast forward on reaching net zero emissions as close as possible to 2040.

“All actors must come together to accelerate a just and equitable transition from fossil fuels to renewable as we stop oil and gas expansion, and the funding and licensing for new coal, oil and gas,” he said.

“Credible plans must also be presented to exit coal by 2030 for OECD countries and 2040 for the rest of the world.”

Today, Australia isn’t on track to meet its own meagre targets for reducing carbon emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, made near impossible by the approval of new coal and gas projects, subsidised by $11.1 billion of taxpayer money each year while the planet burns.

Dr King said Australia has not done enough to address climate change, particularly considering the nation is at a heightened risk of extreme weather events like bushfires, floods and storms.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and the sixth-largest exporter of natural gas, and resource and energy exports are forecast to reach a new record of $459 billion in 2022-23.

Next pandemic is thawing out right now

It isn’t just heat that the world needs to worry about.

Corey Bradshaw, Professor of Global Ecology at Flinders University, said his new research, in collaboration with the European Commission Joint Research Centre, has revealed pathogens under the ice in places like Siberia are now being released as the permafrost thaws.

“We know that pathogens can be retrieved and even revived from the frost and ice cores from glaciers,” he said.

“What we really looked at is the probability that a pathogen like a virus could enter a new ecosystem after having been frozen after such a long time.”

He said using modelling, the research revealed in most cases the bacteria will die out, but occasionally “it becomes dominant in the system”.

Dormant pathogens may be present under the melting permafrost. Photo: Getty

Professor Bradshaw said we are now losing ice at unprecedented rates, unseen for around 2.5 million years.

“The areas of the world where most of the glaciers and ice caps are, those areas are warming on average four times faster than the rest of the planet,” he said.

“Not to say all of those cells are pathogens, but even if it was the tiniest proportion of that huge number, that’s a four with 21 zeros and it can quickly become a non-negligible event.”

The post We’re running out of time to stop Earth’s climate catastrophe appeared first on The New Daily.