Greta Thunberg, the girl who can’t quit, was asked to talk to the billionaire entrepreneurs in Davos:
- “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act,” she told them.
She also said:
- The emissions are increasing and that is the only thing that matters.
This NASA site says that current levels of CO2 were last reached in the Pliocene, 3-5 million years ago when the sea levels were about five to 40 meters higher than now and the planet roughly 3 to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than today. Four degrees is generally considered incompatible with civilised life. That is our legacy as the effects play out over the centuries. The midpoint of around 20 metres SLR is devastating. Checking the Firetree flood maps, this is Melbourne at 20 metres:
That will take centuries, but the 2-3 metres that we are increasingly told by scientists to use as a planning guide now will seriously disrupt more half the world’s major cities and displace hundreds of millions.
Clearly we need to turn down the climate dial down to 350 ppm as fast as possible. James Hansen told us in 2007 that the climate is already dangerous. For a safe climate we need to take CO2 out of the air to reach 350 ppm ASAP.
The Coalition Coalsheviks will never be persuaded, so they need to be defeated.
The only way to do this, I think, is to face the issue squarely.
When the issue looks impossible, we need to take the first step, but leadership needs to come from government at every level.
Labor’s Climate Plan which we took to the 2019 election, was fit for purpose, but never properly explained or defended. Critically we allowed the Greens to call it a dog’s breakfast, and consistently represent it as no advance on the policies of the Coalition. In the end we had a shouting match about a coal mine, rather than a discussion about the climate emergence, as the Reef was dying before our eyes, and our Pacific neighbours were facing inundation, fires, drought and floods ravished the land, and we were increasingly told about an extinction crisis emerging.
We should retain many of the features, including the facility for larger emitters to buy offsets. Warwick McKibbin, who modelled such a scheme at the request of the Abbott government found that to rule out the purchase of offsets, here and abroad, was simply bad policy, and insignificant in its cost effect.
He also says that to focus on targets in not the key issue. Key is to reduce emissions as much as possible, consistent with the science, at cheapest cost.
Labor’s targets were based on The Climate Change Authority recommendations dating back to 2014. Next election it’s best strategy would be to do as it promised this time, re-vamp the Authority and under its supervision to conduct a climate change audit, using our best expertise allowing everyone input, and at the same time building a public constituency of support. We had that proposal, which takes the issue out of political back rooms and gives everyone a say and a stake, but no-one mentioned it during the election. No-one at all.
Our youth are well aware of the fact that their future is in jeopardy, as they showed during the School strike 4 climate where they put the case bluntly and forcefully, but with impressive scientific literacy.
If we make 2021 a climate election I believe we will win. Politicians need to engage authentically with young people, their hopes and fears, name the emergency and show that political leaders are prepared to take fair dinkum action. We need young people to feel that their vote will actually make a difference.
Last election, leaving Queensland aside, Labor won 62 of 121 seats. If we enlist the young of Greater Brisbane alone we can win the next election. I think we can do much better than that.
See also: For a longer, more complete account of how we got to this situation, see Climate emergency – an existential risk requiring action
Update: It’s worth looking back, I think, to Professor John Wiseman’s identification of the emergency, and how the prime minister should respond. See Climate change: reconnecting politics with reality. That was 2013.