Climate action now! Socialist Climate Change Charter
Climate action now! Socialist Climate Change CharterIt happens to be an emergency...
Climate action now!
Warnings that can’t be ignored
Climate scientists have been warning us about global warming for decades. But in the last few years, alarm bells have been ringing more loudly.
Previously it was assumed that gradual increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere would produce gradual increases in global temperatures. But now scientists predict that an increase of as little as 2˚C above pre-industrial levels could trigger environmental effects that would make further warming—as much as 8˚C—inevitable.
Worse still, a 2˚C increase is highly likely if greenhouse gas concentrations reach 450 parts per million (ppm). They presently stand at 430ppm and are increasing by 2-2.5 ppm per year.
Such accelerated warming would create the hottest Earth since the human race evolved. In the earlier stages, an additional 2 billion people would be at risk of insufficient water, 95% of coral reefs would be lost, the Amazon rainforest and other important ecosystems would be destroyed forever, and a super-drought would spread to the world’s largest food producers, causing widespread famine and an unprecedented refugee crisis.
The collapse of the polar ice caps would result in a sea level rise of up to 25 metres, and massive devastation to coastal and island communities and major cities. The rate of species loss could match those of previous mass extinctions. Needless to say, not only civilisation, but the very survival of humanity would be threatened.
Australia—greenhouse gas emissions junkie
Each year human activity is pumping out twice as many greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions —8 billion tonnes as against 4 billion—as the world’s forests, land and oceans can absorb.
Moreover, there is a time lag between greenhouse gas release into the atmosphere and the final impact on global average temperature. Since the late 1880s, this has risen 0.8˚C and the GHGs now in the air will cause a further 0.5-0.6˚ rise over coming decades. This puts us dangerously close to the temperatures at which runaway warming will occur. The harmful effects are already being seen in droughts, floods, cyclones, heat waves and rising sea levels.
While Australia's share of world GHG emissions is small, around 1.4%, our highly industrialised economy has the highest GHG emission rate per person in the world: 5.63 tonnes of carbon each year (see Graph 1).
The global average is 1.27 tonnes and the world environment can absorb only 0.62 tonnes per person. Just to get Australia’s emissions down to a level the Earth can absorb would mean cutting emissions by 90%.
Yet, despite knowing the serious risks since the 1980s, the Australian government and resource industry lobbyists (the “greenhouse mafia”) have sabotaged international negotiations in order to protect the profits of a small number of big polluters like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
We have no choice but to make every possible effort
The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated: global warming and climate change are already upon us. Bringing greenhouse gas emissions under control will require deep changes and immense effort at the global level: a revolution in the economy and industry as big as mobilising for world war.
Climate change scientists say we have a window of around 10 years to make the necessary infrastructure and investment changes that can produce these emissions cuts. In the words of the May 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “It is technically and economically feasible to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere”.
But getting there in time is the greatest challenge. It means adopting policies adequate to the climate crisis, and creating the social and political movement capable of making sure they are actually introduced. This charter outlines the Socialist Alliance's view of those policies and the strategy we need to implement them.