We Can't Keep Ignoring Climate Collapse
Updated: Oct 27
Australia must stop sticking its head in the sand. Alarming climate developments on multiple fronts are an urgent reminder that we must take decisive action. Record-breaking global temperatures, news of potential collapse of the South American monsoon which keeps the Amazon alive, and the rapid loss of Antarctic sea ice serve as just three recent reminders that the climate crisis is not a distant threat. It is here, now, and affecting us all.
Record-Breaking Global Temperatures: A Climate Emergency
The starkest alarm comes in the form of record-breaking global temperatures. September 2023 wasn't just the hottest the world ever recorded - it surpassed the previous record for the month by a staggering 0.5 degrees Celsius. When compared to pre-industrial temperatures, we're talking about a 1.8-degree increase. This is not an anomaly; it's a clear indication of a planet in crisis.
Australia is already experiencing the impacts. The Bureau of Meteorology has reported mean temperatures that are 2.43 degrees Celsius above the long-term average experienced between 1961 and 1990. Maximum temperatures, which are particularly concerning as we approach summer, are a daunting 3.38 degrees Celsius higher than the long-term average.
In New South Wales, September temperatures were a shocking 5.07 degrees Celsius warmer than in previous decades. And while some might argue that these are just numbers, the reality is that global heating is having devastating consequences. Bushfires are already burning in three states, including more than 70 in NSW. One of those has destroyed homes on the NSW south coast. We’re not even halfway through spring! Heatwaves, a known silent killer, will be claiming more lives as summer evolves.
The South American Monsoon: A Precarious Balance
Meanwhile, the South American monsoon, a crucial determinant of the global climate, is teetering on the edge of critical destabilisation. The Amazon Rainforest which is intricately linked to regional rainfall and global heating, faces an imminent threat. Degradation of the Amazon due to deforestation, fires, logging, and mining is pushing this system toward a tipping point.
Should that tipping point occur, the consequences will be dire. The Amazon has been a vital carbon sink for the world. It could shift from being a part of the solution to releasing vast amounts of carbon, exacerbating the climate crisis further.
Signs of destabilisation are already apparent. Reduced rainfall, an extended dry season, depleted soil moisture, and increasing droughts are becoming more frequent and intense. The situation is nothing short of shocking. It's a wake-up call for deep and immediate action.
Antarctic Sea Ice: A Dire Warning
The third piece of disconcerting news is unprecedented loss of Antarctic sea ice. Both winter and summer extents of sea ice have shrunk to levels never seen in the 44 years of satellite records. These record lows are so extreme that conventional statistical methods struggle to characterise them. The scale of the loss is staggering, equivalent to seven to ten times the size of New Zealand.
Scientists gathered in Wellington to address this issue described it as "deeply alarming." Warming of the Southern Ocean and the atmosphere is driving this phenomenon. More than 40 researchers have united in a call for urgent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to combat these alarming trends. There is ample reason for alarm.
A Call for Urgent and Deep Climate Action by Australia
In the face of these dire developments, Australia must step up and take immediate action. The extent of our contribution to the climate crisis cannot be overstated. The time for half-measures and incremental change has passed. We need urgent, comprehensive, deep, and transformative climate action now.
First and foremost, Australia must commit to rapid and substantial reductions in fossil fuel mining and exports. This commitment should align with the latest science and international agreements, such as the Paris Agreement's goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this, a swift transition away from fossil fuel subsidies and exports is non-negotiable. We can't obfuscate on emissions. The climate doesn't care. The International Energy Agency has said there is no justification for Australia to approve new oil and gas developments
And we must address deforestation and land degradation, which are contributing to the destabilisation of vital climate systems across the world, including the Amazon. Protecting and restoring Australia's natural ecosystems, including forests, is essential to sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change.
At individual levels, each of us can also make a difference. Reducing our carbon footprint, using renewable energy, and advocating for climate action in our communities are meaningful steps. But we can't let governments and big business off the hook.
The climate crisis is here, and it's time for all of us to rise to the challenge.