Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reiterated his love of coal as the world’s leading authority on climate science released its most concrete findings yet, warning the effects of climate change are irreversible and the world’s leaders must severely cut the use of fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.
Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report.
It provides the clearest picture yet of the threat posed by human-induced climate change and the dire need for the world’s leaders to act to keep warming below 2 degrees C.
The report warns of catastrophic temperature rise if there are no additional efforts to reduce emissions, stating that the world will warm from between 3.7 to 4.8 degrees C above preindustrial levels by 2100.
Keeping warming below 2 degrees C would require severely limiting CO2 emissions, ensuring remaining fossil fuels stay in the ground and quadrupling the use of renewable energy.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, on releasing the report, said “the science has spoken yet again – with more clarity and greater certainty”.
“There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side,” he said.
He stressed it was a “myth” “that climate action will cost heavily.”
“But I am telling you that inaction will cost much more.”
But in the same week, Prime Minister Tony Abbott again reiterated his commitment to fossil fuels, just a month after his government cut the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by 40 percent.
Yesterday, Mr Abbott told a press conference that “for the foreseeable future, coal is the foundation of our prosperity”.
“Coal is the foundation of the way we live because you can’t have a modern lifestyle without energy. You can’t have a modern economy without energy and for now and for the foreseeable future, the foundation of Australia’s energy needs will be coal.”
“The foundation of the world’s energy needs will be coal. So, if we [are]serious about raising people’s living standards in less developing countries; if we are serious about maintaining and improving living standards in countries like Australia, we have to be serious about making the best use of coal.”
Mr Abbott’s comments follow controversial statements he made at the opening of a coal mine in Central Queensland, last month where he said “coal is good for humanity”.
Environment minister Greg Hunt responded to the report by stating it supported the Coalition’s Direct Action policy and “reaffirms precisely why we have taken the action we have”.
But Direct Action has been condemned by many economists and climate scientists, with doubts it will lead to reductions in emissions.
Mr Abbott’s comments on coal come as Brisbane heats up for the annual G20 meetings next week – a summit of the world’s top 20 economies – where climate change has been wiped from the agenda, despite being part of the agenda at the last three meetings.
There were hopes following the circulation of a draft agenda of a brief mention of climate change in the “energy efficiency” stream of the talks.
But Fairfax media reported earlier this week the Energy Efficiency Action Plan now makes no mention of it.
Australia’s demotion of the crucial issue has outraged climate scientists, the European Union, climate campaigners, medical scientists, and many more, particularly given the timing in the lead up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima next month, and then crucial UNFCC talks in Paris in December 2015.
The Paris talks will attempt to reach a binding and universal agreement on emissions targets.
International climate change economist Nicholas Stern was scathing of the Abbott government following the release of the IPCC report earlier this week, stating local Australian politics is undermining debate on a global issue.
“The G20 is the most effective forum for the discussion of the growth story of the future, the transition to the low-carbon economy,” Professor Stern wrote.
“Yet the local politics of a country of less than 25 million is being allowed to prevent essential strategic discussions of an issue that is of fundamental importance to the prosperity and well-being of the world’s population of 7 billion people.”
Professor Stern said next year’s G20 talks in Turkey, where climate change is more likely to be discussed, will be too late to have an influence on crucial Paris talks in December.
Earlier this year, Mr Abbott dodged a United Nations climate change summit in New York attended by 120 world leaders, including US President Barack Obama who noted “no-one gets a pass”, a pointed reference to Mr Abbott and others absent from the talks.
Last month, Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane announced Coalition plans to slash the Renewable Energy Target (RET) by 38 percent, in a move that will damage the already beleaguered renewable energy industry.
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