More than 20 prominent Australians have called for emergency-scale action on climate change in an open letter to the new parliament, published in The Age on June 23. Signatories include business leaders, scientists, a former Australian of the Year and a Nobel Laureate.
The open letter and associated website and petition are part of a growing campaign by a coalition of more than 20 grassroots climate action groups to pressure political leaders to step up and do what is needed to address the climate crisis.
They aim to use the alarming spike in global temperatures in February and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef as the impetus to insist that leaders stop playing political games on climate and draw a line in the sand. They are calling on the newly elected parliament to immediately declare a climate emergency.
Climate scientist and author of Climate Code Red David Spratt said: “Our climate is getting hotter and more extreme, with sea level rises already in the system set to inundate our coastlines.
“A hotter climate will undermine global food and water security, and challenge how and where we live and work unless we take big steps right now.
“We are out of time for slow, gradualist policy. The emergency action call is increasingly being taken up by leading scientists and responsible leaders around the world as extreme events escalate.”
More and more people are coming to the conclusion that the future of human civilisation and the survival of the ecosystems on which we depend now hang in the balance. We experienced the hottest year on record last year, and an alarming global temperature spike of more than 1.5°C of warming in February.
The Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Tasmanian forests are being destroyed by global warming. It is clear that the current warming of 1°C is not safe and is already dangerous. Warming of 2°C would be devastating.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action.”
Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam University said: “We are in a kind of climate emergency now … It is becoming more and more urgent. Time has almost run out to get emissions down. That's the real emergency.”
The implications of climate change have been underestimated by Liberal and Labor politicians. Declaring a climate emergency and initiating a society-wide mobilisation, unprecedented in peacetime, to make action on global warming the nation's highest-level priority, is now necessary.
Ian Dunlop, a former chair of the Australian Coal Association and former CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, said: “Politics is broken in this country. Money has stopped the real issues being addressed.
“This is not a left or right wing political issue. This is an existential issue. If we don't get it right, we all have a very big problem. What we need is a Government of National Unity.”
Epidemiologist Professor Fiona Stanley said she is already measuring the health impacts of global warming: “Our children top the list of those most likely to suffer from climate change. Their future, their health, must be our number one priority. We are doing too little, too late. As a society we need to step up."
We are out of time. Just as if we faced a large fire, flood or military threat, we now need to “throw everything” we can at the climate problem, on a large-scale and speedily decarbonise the economy.
The climate emergency statement reads:
“At the Paris climate talks, scientists and people from low-lying island states set 1.5ºC of warming as a red line that must not be crossed.
“However, earlier this year, the global average temperature spiked past 1.6ºC of warming.
“The bleaching of coral reefs around the world, increasing extreme weather events, the melting of large ice sheets and recent venting of methane from thawing permafrost make it abundantly clear that the earth is already too hot.
“The future of human civilisation, and the survival of the precious ecosystems on which we depend, now hang in the balance.
“There must be an immediate ban on new coal and gas developments and an emergency-speed transition to zero emissions.
“We must begin the enormous task of safely drawing down the excess greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere.
“We call on the new parliament to declare a climate emergency.”
[You can sign to the Climate Emergency petition here.]