If we don’t, there is overwhelming evidence that we are staring down the barrel of a (not-too-distant) future in which rising sea levels could wipe out entire island nations, in which extreme weather events become more frequent and more devastating, in which food and water security is under threat, and more.
Watch: Greta Thunberg rebukes world leaders for their lack of action on climate change.
Just this week, the Climate Council issued a report warning that if greenhouse gas emissions (the key driver of climate change) continue to rise, unusually hot weather will become commonplace in Australia, a nation already in the grip of crippling drought and bushfire seasons. According to the report, “Sydney and Melbourne could experience unprecedented 50C summer days by the end of the century.”
Some of the world’s brightest minds are working on solutions. They use words like “climate emergency” and tell us we need “urgent action” to minimise the toll on our planet and human lives.
But what does that look like? And who can make it happen?
First… what’s the goal we need to achieve? And how quickly?
The general consensus among climate scientists is that we must limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. To achieve that, the world has to be at net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But crucially, it’s cumulative emissions that count. In other words, if countries leave decarbonisation until the last minute, it will be too late.
As Thomas Nicholas of the University of York explained via The Conversation, “Even if we could snap our fingers on December 31, 2049, and replace all fossil fuel plants, the world would have already emitted twice as much carbon as the budget allows. Sound climate policy involves cutting emissions as soon as possible, and any further delay makes the task even harder.”
So what are some of the solutions to climate change?
The following are some of the most common recommendations made by climate researchers and scientists if we want to achieve the 2050 goal.
End use of fossil fuels.
The burning of fossil fuels for energy and electricity is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Coal is the biggest villain here. It makes up 42 per cent of global emissions from fossil fuels, according to the Global Carbon Project. Oil (which is primarily used in land and air transport ie. fuel) comes in second, by contributing one third.
The answer, at its most basic: keep all remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
Rapid transformation into renewable energy.
Moving away from fossil fuels requires effective alternative energy sources. Think wind, solar, geothermal.
Investment in and use of these kinds of technologies is higher than ever.
But speaking to Mamamia‘s daily news podcast, The Quicky, Dr Kathy McInnes, group leader of climate change predictions and extremes at the CSIRO, said that transformation isn’t happening nearly quickly enough. Especially in Australia.