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Australia is 'ground zero' in climate crisis and must show leadership, top researchers say

Lisa Cox reports in The Guardian (29.1.20) on an open letter signed by 80 of Australia's leading researchers - including TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, John Quiggin - calling on the federal government to act urgently to cut the nation's greehouse gas emissions.

'Australia’s current position as “ground zero” for both the impacts of climate change and policy uncertainty presents an opportunity for the country to emerge as a leader in responding to the climate crisis, according to Australian Research Council laureates.

'In a letter signed by 80 ARC laureate fellows, some of Australia’s top researchers said claims strong action to cut emissions would be economically destructive have no basis and are not “consistent with Australia’s traditional optimism and ingenuity, nor with historical experience”.

'“Reducing emissions is a global challenge that requires collective action,” the letter said. “But Australia’s current visibility as ground zero for both climate impacts and climate policy uncertainty presents a unique opportunity for us to emerge as a leader on this challenge.”

'The ARC laureate fellows are a small group of researchers selected by the ARC as the top researchers across all fields in Australia.'

Humans are good at thinking their way out of problems - but climate change is outfoxing us

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, John Quiggin, writes in The Conversation (29.1.20) about how Australian primary producers have lost smoke-tainted crops this summer and political leaders apparently cannot solve the Murray-Darling crisis. The author wonders whether climate change is getting the better of us.

'There is growing evidence that Earth’s systems are heading towards climate “tipping points” beyond which change becomes abrupt and unstoppable. But another tipping point is already being crossed - humanity’s capacity to adapt to a warmer world.

'This season’s uncontrollable bushfires overwhelmed the nation. They left 33 people dead, killed an estimated one billion animals and razed more than 10 million hectares – a land area almost the size of England. The millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide the fires spewed into the atmosphere will accelerate climate change further.

'Humans are a highly adaptive species. In the initial phases of global warming in the 20th century, we coped with the changes. But at some point, the pace and extent of global warming will outrun the human capacity to adapt. Already in Australia, there are signs we have reached that point.

'Australia is not alone in facing these adaptation problems – or indeed in generating emissions that drive planetary warming. Only global action can address the problem.

'But when the carbon impact of Australia’s fires is seen in tandem with recent climate policy failures here and elsewhere, the future looks very grim.'


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