Sunday, December 14, 2008

Climate tipping points trump economic cycles

The Greens MPs website is asking citizens to write to Prime Minister Rudd and his Ministers urging strong action on emissions reduction targets pending tomorrow's announcement on what we'll be aiming for by 2020.

The Government's announcement comes after its recent failure to announce the 2020 target before the Poznan climate talks as promised, and amid calls to moderate climate action in light of the global economic downturn. Here's my letter, which went to Prime Minister and relevant ministers.

Dear Prime Minister,

As the Australian Government prepares to announce its emissions reduction targets, there has been much talk in the media, among industry, and by the Opposition of the need to moderate our climate response because of the worldwide economic downturn. Last Friday's edition* of Australia Talks on ABC Radio National even went so far as to speak of 'economic tipping points' we might cross if our climate measures are too strong.

However, to adopt weak targets in response to a transient economic cycle will commit Australia and the world to crossing climate tipping points that are permanent in their effect, and disastrous in their impacts for humanity.

While rising prosperity succeeded even the Great Depression, there can be no recovery once large-scale melting of ice caps and other major impacts, such as the release of CO2 from melting permafrost, have been triggered by unconstrained global warming.

It is also the case that the harsher scenarios initially indicated by science now increasingly appear conservative in terms of the scale of damage that is likely to occur according to more recent studies if we do not act now.

Because of this, and the fact that impacts can be linked without question to global temperature increases, and in turn to our carbon emissions, Australia must lead the world in adopting a 2020 target to reduce its emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels.

Arguments against such action that point to our small total contribution to the problem neglect our high per capita contribution and our ability to influence action by other nations. To adopt weak targets will not only hinder an international agreement based on the science, it will facilitate climate destruction that will impact disproportionately the world's most vulnerable people.

Prime Minister, you are faced with a world historic moment where you can act for the good of humanity. I urge you to place our climate, and therefore human well-being, ahead of narrow economic and industrial interests that refuse to acknowledge the opportunities of moving to a greener economy that Australia is uniquely positioned to achieve.

Prime Minister, you can help Australia lead the world on climate action, or push us further towards the political tipping point for irreversible climate change.

Sincerely etc.
*In fact, it was last Wednesday's edition, on which I have commented at the ABC website.

Let's see what happens tomorrow.

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