Australia’s prosperity, security and health at risk without strong climate action


Former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson, Professor Tony McMichael of the Australia National University’s Climate Change Institute and The Climate Institute’s CEO John Connor today launched a new report warning of the danger climate change poses to the health, prosperity and security of all Australians. The three warn that Australia is “stumbling blindly into utterly uncharted territory where a few degrees make a world of difference”, and that the country is more exposed to climate risks than any other developed nation. According to the report, titled Dangerous degrees: risking Australians’ prosperity, security, and health, failure to take prompt action to contain emissions risks a global economic decline that would make the current financial crisis look like a blip. However, for the continued warnings, positivity remains as the boom in global clean energy is a sign of hope, as is the increasing abandonment of fossil fuel support, and the fact that more than 80 countries – including the US and China – have policies in place to cut pollution.


MT @climateinstitut: A rise of only a few deg avg temp risks prosperity, security & health #DangerousDegrees #climate

Key Points

  • The future prosperity, security and health of all Australians will be at risk without strong, urgent action to reduce carbon pollution here and around the world.  A number of reports have been released recently, giving us a stark picture of a warming future.  Climate change is projected to cost the world economy $60 trillion, a Nature study told us last month.  Yesterday’s Senate report told us that  extreme weather in Australia will intensify, and has already cost the Australian economy between an estimated $900 million and $4 billion annually.
  • Reinforcing this week’s Senate report on extreme weather, The Climate Institute’s report says that Australia is more exposed to extreme weather threats than any other country. The report paints a picture of Australia in a 3degC (by 2050) and 4degC (by 2100) world, says Australia could become a net importer of food by 2050 and, if warming continues, irrigated agriculture in the Murray–Darling Basin is projected to fall by 90% by 2100. Around 2,000 more temperature-related deaths are expected by mid-century, and around 10,000 more by 2100.
  • While the risks become clearer by the day, the Climate Institute says the political framework for climate action and adaptation remains insufficient to address the challenges ahead. This again echoes the Senate report, which says Australia is underprepared for the impacts of just a few degrees of warming, and while closing the gap between danger and relative safety is still doable, it is only possible if we start now. Delay means higher social, environmental, and economic costs, and fewer options. The USChina, and many other countries around the world are moving to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and while Australia is currently among them, this election has seen a watering down of current carbon pricing policy by Labor in its pitch, and the threat of key elements (such as the carbon price and clean energy finance corporation) being dumped altogether should the Coalition be elected.



Senate report on extreme weather (released 7 August):

US Meteorological Office State of the climate report (released 7 August):

Tools and resources

Key quotes

“You can’t seriously talk about ‘A New Way’, or ‘Real Solutions’, for Australia without addressing the mounting risks to Australians’ prosperity, security, and health from a more hostile climate. [A] majority of Australians recognise climate change is here now, with nearly two-thirds concerned about the effects on food prices and insurance premiums, [and] eminent climate, health, security and economic experts say Australia and the world face mounting costs and uncertainties from even a few degrees global warming.” CEO of The Climate Institute John Connor.

“A failure to change track puts in jeopardy everything for which Australians have worked and their retirement nest eggs. [However,] asset owners like superannuation funds are slowly waking up to the climate risks and if they properly manage their investments of our money for these risks, they will help drive investment and innovation in the solutions.” Former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson.

“The symptoms we already see in people beleaguered by bushfire, storms, floods, and drought are the early warming signs. The risks to physical and mental health, as well as community morale, mount with every year  we fail to act decisively. Yet, there is still time to avoid much additional human suffering, to realise the health benefits of action, and to restore hope.”  Professor Tony McMichael, ANU.

“If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.” Author and journalist Paul Hawken.

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