"…our actions today to reduce emissions and become climate-friendly can have a positive impact within the lifetime of our children because the average Australian child born today is expected to live until about 2100."
Human health and prosperity has always depended on having a conducive climate. The climate is changing, and it will profoundly affect the way cities and communities around the world live and develop.
Our energy-intensive and fossil fuel dependent lifestyles have led to a dramatic growth in greenhouse gas emissions. This has resulted in global temperatures rising faster than ever recorded in human history. The planet has already warmed by almost 1°C since 1900, most of this in the last 25 years. If action is not taken to cut at least 60% of current global greenhouse gas emissions within 20 years, carbon dioxide concentration levels in the atmosphere will reach 550-600 particles per million, and the planet will warm a further 2-3°C before 2050.
At an average global temperature rise of 2-2.5°C over 1900 levels, the planet’s climate will change to seriously affect our water and food availability. There will also be increased risks of flooding, extreme weather conditions, coastal inundation and heat stress on buildings and infrastructure. Southern and Eastern Australia will not only become drier and warmer, but experience almost total loss of alpine ecosystems, extensive coral bleaching and significant loss of wetlands and rainforests. Higher global temperatures can also create a ‘feedback loop’ – they increase glacial melt, ocean acidity and the release of natural stocks of carbon from soil or permafrost while reducing the natural absorption capacities of our glaciers, soils and oceans. This further increases atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, which in turn intensifies climate change effects.
Since 2007, there has been growing international scientific, economic and political consensus for an urgent global response to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Whilst what we do over the next 20 years will not do much to reduce the climate change that will now almost definitely occur by 2040, it will do a lot to reduce and avoid the worst effects of climate change by 2080-2100.
Responding to climate change is a three-pronged approach –
1. Act now – Your immediate action is a big part of the solution to climate change.
2. Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by 65-90% by 2030 or sooner.
3. Adapt to climate change, to ways of living with less water and more extreme weather conditions; to homes, buildings and infrastructure that cope better with flooding, winds and storms.