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How long until face masks become the Must-Have summer fashion accessory?

Next time you throw another snag on the Barbie – spare a thought for the fact that if the world stays on its current trajectory of global warming, this generation of Aussies may be the last ones to enjoy this iconic Australian summer ritual. 

And it’s not just outdoor summer barbies that are at risk thanks to global inaction on climate change. It’s many other integral parts of our day-to-day lives: enjoying our long hot summers, the Boxing Day Cricket Test, parts of Bondi Beach and the Sydney Opera House. On the current trajectory for global warming – these will soon be gone, gone and let me repeat it in case you missed it the first time – GONE.

Climate change is already impacting our everyday life

This summer, much of Eastern Australia has had just a tiny taste of what the future of Australia looks like due to climate change. At one end of the spectrum – the enormous unfathomable tragedy of the bushfires that have so far burned over 18 million hectares, destroyed over 5,900 buildings, killed over 30 humans and an estimated billion animals.  In addition, they have covered much of the southeastern part of Australia with a smoke haze so dense the long term health impacts are yet to be determined. 

At the other end of the spectrum, there have been many days when just going outdoors has become hazardous for those living on our Eastern shores due to poor air quality – not to mention the talk around cancelling cricket tests and tennis matches being halted as professional tennis players struggle to breathe

This speaks nothing of the impact severe fires and unprecedented drought have had on rural towns and communities – some of which have been wiped out altogether. More concerningly, experts say many of these communities should not be rebuilt due to the ongoing risk climate-change now brings to their sustainability. 

But if we continue at current rates of warming – we can start saying farewell to these icons of Aussie life…

Wind the clock forward – and if the current trajectory of global warming is NOT stopped, here’s just some of the icons of Australian living that we can expect to lose as the impacts of climate change become more intense:

  • Looking forward to a long hot summer – Australia is all about our beaches and our summers.  But with global warming, summers will become a time when there will be many days that it will be dangerous to go outside – whether due to poor air quality or days so hot that it will literally be lethal for many to leave the air-conditioned indoors;
  • Outdoor living – Australia is built around outdoor living. From our verandahs, outdoor restaurants, cafes and bars through to outdoor pursuits like participating in and watching sports and the humble picnic. ‘Deadly heat‘ and poor air quality will make outdoor living a thing of the past in our warmer months; 
  • The Great Barrier Reef has already been dramatically impacted, but it’s hanging on in parts. If the world continues to warm however, the Great Barrier Reef – and all the related tourism jobs – will be gone for good
  • The Sydney Opera House – this iconic image of Australia along with one-fifth of world heritage sites will go underwater once we reach 3 degrees of warming;  
  • The platypus and other iconic Australian creatures – could be driven to extinction by the severity of weather events such as the drought and bushfires. 

These are NOT doomsday scenarios – any more than saying that if you put your hand in the fire it will get burned. The scenarios outlined above are just a part of the reality of where we, and the rest of humanity, are taking the globe right now through our inaction on climate change. As David Wallace-Wells recently said

“The science says climate change threatens nearly every aspect of human life on this planet, and that inaction will hasten the problems”

It won’t get that bad – will it?

It doesn’t have to. But right now – despite the LNP’s new favourite three-word slogan promising to “Meet and Beat” carbon emission reduction targets, our policies and those of other major global carbon emitters – are not causing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to drop. In fact, the opposite is happening:

MuanaLoaCO2emissions

Global carbon emissions over the last 5 years plus projected emissions through to 2021

In Australia, our climate has warmed by more than 1-degree celsius since 1910 – and without action, we will continue to warm by as much as 5 degrees celsius by 2090. Five degrees may not sound like all that much in day-to-day weather terms – but in climate terms, it is mammoth. Ice-age mammoth. In fact, there is only a 4 to 7-degree celsius difference between the world we have been living in and the depths of the ice age.

So yes – it will get that bad if we continue to let our politicians do nothing about this. In the words of climate scientist Michael Mann:

“This is the beginning stages of monumental catastrophic climate change that will ultimately drive people away from large inhabited regions of Australia”

We need 55 by 30, and Zero by 50

You probably already know this – but we can’t just flip a switch and reverse climate change overnight – it takes time. 

If we (and future generations) want to continue to enjoy Australia as we know it – we need to take urgent action now. More specifically – according to a review by the UN in 2019, we need to:

  • Reduce global emissions by at least 50% by 2030  – more specifically, 55% of 2018 levels if we want to cap warming at 1.5 degrees celsius; and 
  • Get to Net-Zero emissions before 2050.

This isn’t a matter of left or right – there are no sides to this – it’s fact. We can argue about how we get there – but our need to get to 55 by 30, and zero by 50 is indisputable. 

WE NEED URGENT CLIMATE ACTION NOW (#UCAN)

Truth doesn’t have sides – it’s not owned by the left or right of politics – it just is. To save much of what we hold dear about Australia we need our politicians to pull together and take real action to stem climate change. Now.

We can’t help drive a global solution to this before we take urgent action ourselves – and by ‘we’ I mean the politicians who represent us.

While Australia isn’t the world’s largest carbon emitter in absolute terms – on a per person basis, we are up there with the worst of them (as illustrated in the image below). 

co-emissions-per-capita

And before we can put pressure on the world’s largest global emitters to change we have to show we are serious ourselves. To quote Simon Holmes a Court:

“We cannot expect global progress if we ourselves aren’t prepared to at least pull our weight, let alone show any leadership.”

Exactly how far off “55 by 30, Zero by 50” are we? 

If you’re wondering just how far short current LNP policies are of where we need to be – take a look at the graph below. The bar in red on the left is what the government’s own projections show we are actually doing – and the bar in green on the right is what we need to be doing to keep warming at 1.5 degrees celsius.

AusEmissionReductions

What we need to do is clear – and we can’t wait for another election to show our politicians that we mean business. However, as individuals, we can’t achieve what needs to be done on our own.  If we are to get to 55 by 30 and Zero by 50 – systemic change is needed. And systemic change can only be made by our politicians.

Unfortunately most politicians these days are influenced by one thing and one thing alone – fear of losing their seat.  That means our most powerful weapon is public opinion.

If you don’t want facemasks to be the next must-have fashion accessory – #UCAN do something. Demand Urgent Climate Action Now.

Screen Shot 2020-02-09 at 4.06.00 pm

The good news is that public opinion is controlled by you, me, and our friends and families. In the words of researcher Dr Rebecca Huntley:

What we need are thousands, millions of everyday conversations about climate change…..We must create a chorus of different communities united in asking, indeed demanding, that we act now to preserve a livable world and a viable future.

So get to it my fellow Aussies – if you want to save the world, or at least our little corner of it – tell your friends and families about this. And get them to tell our pollies they need policies that will bring about Urgent Climate Action Now.

Write. Call. Tweet. Post on FB and Instagram. Talk to your friends. Do an interpretative dance outside your local pollie’s office. Post a sign outside your house demanding 55 by 30, Zero by 50.

I don’t care what you do – but do your bit to shift public opinion and let our pollies know they have to shift with it. #UCAN do this.

Tell them we need 55 by 30 and Zero by 50 – and that nothing less will suffice. 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This article was first published on progressiveconversation.com

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17 comments

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  1. wam

    wow kate,
    electric bbqs make the sausage taste insipid???
    the china-darwin plane has landed and there are people wearing masks at the nightcliff supermarket.
    have you spoken to deniers?? If so you need to listen to them.
    They know climate change is a natural occurrence the man made part is where the work need to be done.
    The auto cue morning show journalists need educating as to the right questions to ask smirko et al.. Albo needs to make smirko, the jew, barndoor and craig religious clowns.

  2. Phil Pryor

    That backward bonking bacillus from New England, Bananaboy Juiced, full of piss and wind (real!) has stated that poor people need cheap electricity from the private parts of the fat frau of the west, who pays him pocket money to keep his hands off the dicky. Cheap electricity is not obvious and any electricity, e g, from solar and cheaply, is going to power your house, but will not power the filthy ill gotten revenues of the said fat frau of disgusting appearance and attitude. Mr. Evil Choice, a deliberately romanist idiot of no known intellect, is sure to try hard for the money, to please the huge thief, to get a future and guarantee that sinking the sausage is not too expensive. Fellatio and fornication friendly fools in office are a threat, a curse, a pox. So, burn the future, but start under Joyce on a stake. He is one of so many shitskull shyster shonky shameful sham queer quisling traitors in this putrid government cesspool…

  3. Andy56

    First we need to get rid of the dicks in charge who” dont look at the evidence”. These stupid people, you cant call them anything else, have already polluted the minds of the mass of ignorant people. Just down at the lakes and the shear ignorance of the locals. ” we have always had climate change ” is the greatest act of head in the sand. No amount of explaining in simple or complex terms will move these people now. Their default position is that its not happening. No amount of fires or drought impresses these ignorant people. Its like science is some abstract thing you can just ignore because its inconvenient. The stupids in charge have poisoned the water sufficiently to make me weep.Machine guns to the wall seems a good solution.

  4. Matters Not

    RE:

    I mean the politicians who represent us. …

    Only in theory Kate. Only in theory. And when they don’t (represent us) what avenue(s) are available to effect significant change? Chanting? Disrupting traffic? Placard waving? Haven’t all those things happened before (and continue to occur) without noticeable effect? And as you recognise:

    can’t wait for another election to show our politicians that we mean business.

    Fact is, the way the system works (the structures in place), we will have to wait years for anything other than superficial change. And there’s no political party that has an agenda for that. Just keep doing the same ole, same ole – in the hope that this time it may work. Surely we can do better than that in the thinking stakes? No wonder the youth remain alienated.

  5. Kate M

    Actually MN, history is full of examples where public opinion has made changes – most recently marriage equality. There’s no doubt there’s a tipping point which has to be reached before this happens, which is not easy to get to.

    But with over 70% of Australians believing we need to do more on climate change – and that it’s the number one issue for Australia today, the numbers are with us.

    The shift is already starting to kick in. You can see it in the change in spin. There’s still a way to go – but people’s voices are having an impact.

    More of us just have to find our voice and make it heard in whatever way works for us. There’s enough of us.

    So how about you stop the heckling and the excuses and do something constructive?

  6. Zathras

    Stopping all C02 emissions right now won’t save the Barrier Reef. There’s enough momentum in the system for warming to carry on regardless – like taking your hand off the throttle of a steam train it will take a long time to slow down, let alone stop. Some have predicted centuries before we reach some sort of stability and reversing the accumulated effects may not even be possible.

    Some scientists believe that human activity has replaced the Holocene epoch with the Anthopocene era because of how much human activity has altered the environment itself let alone the warming climate.

    When the reef inevitably dies, let it become a global symbol of the result of wilful ignorance and corporate self-interest. Maybe someone will start paying some serious attention.

    Canaries in coal mines are intended to die as an indication of danger.

  7. Josephus

    Invective especially racist sneers is ineffective and no better than the insults of deniers. Where is the site moderator?

  8. Pingback: How long until face masks become the Must-Have summer fashion accessory? #newsoz.org #auspol - News Oz

  9. Terence Mills

    Because a couple of Queensland red-neck National Party politicians decided that they could cream a few votes by supporting a coal-fired power station in North Queensland and because they are now using that brain-fart to demand a publicly funded feasibility study at a cost of $6 million, we are just expected to fall in line.

    These clowns want to take over the National party and then demand that their power station be publicly funded.

    Morrison has to slap down these nutters.

  10. Matters Not

    Kate M, just for the record, the Marriage Equality debate had been won (in the court of public opinion) long before it was legislated. It only happened after a structural mechanism was put in place – namely the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey which gave legitimacy to what the citizens wanted. The political class couldn’t or wouldn’t act because of divisions (real and/or imagined) so they gave it to the citizens to decide (thinking initially that it would go down.). But the citizens overwhelmingly decided to endorse. Surely, it’s not too much for that process to be replicated re the climate ‘debate’. (PS – given the technology we have, it can be done much cheaper and far, far quicker, given that it doesn’t have to be compulsory.)

    You say:

    with over 70% of Australians believing we need to do more on climate change – and that it’s the number one issue for Australia today, the numbers are with us.

    And I agree. The numbers are with us but what we don’t have (and what we badly need) is a legislated mechanism to allow that to happen. Further, with the right structural arrangement, we could go further and cause the establishment of an ICAC etc. Again you say:

    have to find our voice and make it heard in whatever way works for us

    Agree also! And what I am suggesting is a much more effective, legitimated mechanism for those voices to be heard now and into the future. The way I see it, such an arrangement would be more constructive (and longer term) than waving banners and the like which may or may not work for a single issue but doesn’t change how our democracy might function. Time to think big, particularly in an era where technology is changing everything except the how, when and why we vote. Perhaps we limited by our imagination?

  11. Keitha Granville

    The giant kelp forests of Tasmania’s East Coast have already gone. The water here is warming faster than further north. Eventually when the Barrier Reef is gone, people will say things like ” if only we’d known”.

    We do know. We are all guilty.

  12. Stefano

    Thanks Kate M, for your excellent article.
    But it doesn’t address the elephant in the room, which is supply and demand economics. Whilst there remains an ever increasing demand for coal,oil and gas there will be a supply. Australia’s biggest export earnings are from fossil fuels and raw materials which require large amounts of fossil fuels to process, ie iron ore,bauxite etc.
    It doesn’t matter if 25 million Australians emit zero emissions when we supply the world with fossil fuels which are then burnt and increase the planet’s instability and loss of biodiversity.
    How do we reduce the world’s demand for fossil fuels quickly ?

  13. DrakeN

    Stephano, have you just woken up to the facts of impending doom?
    Facts that have been available for well over half a century?
    Reducing the use of fossil fuels quickly needs to have been done decades ago. We now need to put the whole of the industrialised world on to a war footing to combat the consequences of deliberate inaction.
    The proceses of global heating can now only be slowed by massive and coordinated action; which will be resisted at every juncture by those whose short term finances stand to suffer.
    In the longer term, there will be no financial economy to suffer in a complete collapse of the natural systems on which we all depend.
    The only way to achieve any kind of reduction in the output of climate changing gasses is a complete change to the current trading and financial systems.
    Via the Ballot Box, where you, I and the rest of our population have the ultimate say.

  14. Stefano

    Thanks DrakeN for your reply, no I haven’t just woken up to the facts, I’ve been proactively engaged in our need to reduce our fossil fuel use since the 1980’s via 100’s of letters to ministers, street marches ,petitions and every other legal way available in a democracy.
    What you say is true that the world does need to go on a war footing to combat decades of inaction, will it happen before it’s too late, I doubt it.
    The western worlds governments are owned and operated by the banksters and fossil fuel industries.
    If voting changed anything, it would be illegal. Our coal loving PM, now admits we have to acclimatise to our new reality, because nothing’s going to change.

  15. David Stakes

    When this bunch of knuckledraggers have shuffled off the planet, and me I will be in a different q for the pearly gates. I just hope they are held to account for destroying a planet.

  16. Andy56

    stefano, there is a way around this. Vilify the coal suppliers. Make sure people in India know that solar is cheaper for them than coal. Hit them where it hurts, follow the money.
    The other way is wait for more catastrophes and hang the traitors. The reef is gone, just a matter of time. Koalas are just about gone, platypuses are just about gone. The drought aint over, some places have had a reprieve. Some sydney dam is 67% full, not 100%.

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