Today's IPCC report should reset focus on risks, not politics Media Release

Mar 31, 2014 - 11:30am

Public engagement on climate change should come out of the political and cultural trenches and into a zone focused on risk management, said The Climate Institute today, after the release of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on climate change impacts. 

“This latest climate impacts report, signed off today by hundreds of scientists and governments including Australia’s, should  reset a debate that’s been more about political and cultural point scoring than about managing  very real climate risks,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.

"The report is an unprecedented assessment of global climate risks that recognises we can build greater resilience but also that risks accelerate with greater warming, beyond the ability to adapt.”

“In areas from financial management to work place health and safety, shielding your eyes to these risks is considered reckless if not criminal. Climate risk management should be treated no differently.”

Connor added: “This exhaustive scientific assessment shows that we have the opportunity to manage many of the causes as well as consequences of climate change. Reducing carbon pollution reduces the scale of climate change and smart adaption can reduce damage and build resilience to intensifying extreme weather.”

“We are currently on a path to 4°C of global warming above preindustrial levels. The IPCC report states with ‘high confidence’ that warming of 4°C will pose ‘large risks to global and regional food security’ as well as ‘compromise normal human activities like growing food or working outdoors in some areas for some parts of the year’.”

The report Climate Change 2014: Impacts Adaptation and Vulnerability also suggests that unchecked climate change will undo poverty reduction efforts and cause major global health problems. The report highlights potential impacts on Australia’s agriculture, energy, tourism and mining industries.  It also highlights human health and water resource impacts.

Last week, The Climate Institute released a media brief on the implications for Australia, citing backward steps in climate risk assessment for coastal zones and infrastructure at state and federal levels. It noted positively that the Commonwealth is preparing a new national adaptation assessment framework to measure progress in building resilience. However, the previous 2007 Framework, agreed to by the Council of Australian Governments, was poorly followed through. 

“Australia’s carbon pollution is expected to increase substantially in the years ahead if we don’t have clear limits and safeguards in place. State and federal preparations for a more hostile climate is patchy, poorly coordinated, and not up to the scale and urgency of the task.” 

“Complacency is rife and there’s been a recent trend to ditch prudence in favour of vested interests. In politics and business, there is a reluctance to even acknowledge the reality that climate change is affecting Australian communities and industry today, let alone that the impacts will grow.”

“It is positive that the Government has signed off on this IPCC report. But it and political and business leaders from across the spectrum need to shift their attention to the risks of warming, to better reduce the causes of those risks and build resilience to their consequences.”  

“In particular we need to prepare not only for the 2°C of warming that Australia agrees with other nations that we should avoid, but also for the four degrees of warming towards which we are headed,” concluded Connor.

For more information
Kristina Stefanova, Communications Director, The Climate Institute, 02 8239 6299  —  

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