Final warning for action on climate change issued

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Tuesday, 21 March, 2023

Final warning for action on climate change issued

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its final warning for the 2020s to act swiftly on climate change.

The IPCC Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report, compiled by almost 300 scientists across 67 countries, draws together all the contributions from IPCC’s sixth assessment cycle, showing how action on climate change must be accelerated throughout the decade.

Australia risks the irreversible loss of coral reefs, loss of alpine species, collapse of forests in southern Australia, loss of kelp forests, sea-level rise, an increase in severe fire weather days and a dramatic increase in fatal heatwaves. Climate impacts such as worsening extreme weather are already affecting Australians, but further harms can be limited by moving beyond fossil fuels and getting greenhouse gas emissions to plummet.

Lesley Hughes, Climate Councillor, former IPCC author and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University, labelled Australia as one of the most vulnerable developed countries to the impacts of climate change. As a nation, she said Australia has much to lose and everything to gain by acting decisively to get emissions plummeting.

“While this is a summary report of work we’d already seen in development, there is no doubt the findings of this report will be dire. Since the previous IPCC report was released, we’ve had even more unnatural disasters. We must focus on the fact that predictions are now becoming observations,” Hughes said.

Since the previous IPCC report came out, there was a period of time where global emissions started rising again.

“We have a closing window to drive global momentum towards getting us back on track for a safer climate. Governments must heed the warnings in this report and step up action. Every fraction of a degree of warming matters. Every action matters,” Hughes said.

Simon Bradshaw, the Climate Council’s Director of Research, said this report is “a final warning”.

The central message from climate messages has been delivered repeatedly and consistently many times before. Though there has been progress in renewable energy uptake, it is not moving fast enough.

“We have a choice here to act swiftly this decade. If we start giving it our all right now, we can avert the worst of it. So many solutions are readily available, like solar and wind power, storage, electric appliances and clean transport options. We need to get our skates on,” Bradshaw said.

To make the change, coal, oil and gas need to be phased out quickly and replaced by clean industries.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Peter Newman, from the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute and a member of the IPCC, said: “The report is disappointing as the emphasis continues to be on what we are doing wrong globally (not enough action) instead of what we are doing right (action is underway). This emphasis means that we don’t see the opportunities in front of us. The IPCC says accelerated climate action will only come about if there is a many-fold increase in finance and that insufficient and misaligned finance is holding back progress. But the reality is that in recent years finance has created $88 trillion and this is changing everything. For example, two sources of finance for the WA Government withdrew their interest in funding unless a greater commitment to net zero was made. This happened and now huge opportunities for net zero urban development, regional development and industrial/mining have appeared and are driving the next WA economy. The safeguard mechanism debate must be passed to help in this transition for industry and at the same time the federal government needs to find other mechanisms such as the new Federal EPA process to prevent new fossil-fuel projects. Otherwise, they will be faced with having to help stranded assets as the market for fossil fuels dies over the next 10 years.”

The AR5 Synthesis Report contains over seven years’ worth of new peer-reviewed science. For more details, visit:

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