'Survival guide for humanity' released as Australian way of life is threatened

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report warns things are worse than we thought, but there is a glimmer of hope.

More than three billion animals have been impacted by the Black Summer bushfires, millions of fish likely killed by algae in Menindee, thousands left homeless by flooding in Lismore and the Kimberley, and multimillion-dollar homes are falling into the ocean due to erosion.

Over the last four years, life in Australia has been uncomfortable for those impacted by extreme weather systems, but climate change is expected to increase their frequency and severity for the next generation.

The Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns the world is dangerously close to warming by 1.5 degrees, a level that will create uncomfortable living conditions and interrupt lives across the globe. It is likely the last time the world will hear from the IPCC until 2030 because it has set out what leaders must do to prevent our way of life from collapsing.

Left - two children sitting on bleachers amid bushfire smoke. Right - Australian houses from above.
The next generation of Australians will have their way of life significantly impacted by climate change if emissions are not dramatically reduced. Source: Getty (File)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned while “humanity is on thin ice” the report provides “a survival guide for humanity”.

What you need to know about the IPCC report:

  • The world is off-track in meeting emissions targets.

  • The planet has warmed by 1.1 degrees and will likely exceed 1.5 degrees.

  • Fossil fuels are the key driver of global heating.

  • Several climate-related risks are higher than previously thought.

  • Some communities and ecosystems have reached their limits of adaption.

  • Urgent action is required and possible.

  • Renewable power sources have broad public support and are cost-effective.

Australia continues to back coal and gas

With concentrations of carbon dioxide at their highest levels in two million years, Mr Guterres has urged governments and industry to phase out and cease funding new fossil fuel projects — a message backed by the International Energy Agency.

While the science on oil and gas is clear, convincing world leaders to phase out these fossil fuels and risk losing short-term profits is proving a challenge. Last week, Australia’s climate change minister Chris Bowen described calls for a blanket ban on new fossil fuel projects as “irresponsible”. In the United States, President Joe Biden is backing an Alaskan oil project that could pump as much carbon into the atmosphere as 60 coal-burning power plants.

Can Australia turn around its emissions output?

The Climate Council’s Dr Simon Bradshaw told Yahoo News Australia despite already understanding that climate change is a reality, the IPCC report is still “confronting”.

“We see, first of all, the enormous gravity of the moment and just how dangerous things are. But also it's telling us again, in the strongest possible terms that we can turn the ship around.

He believes key changes Australians can make to help the planet include getting gas out of their homes, and switching to electric vehicles, but it will take government and corporate action to drive meaningful change.

What conservation groups are saying:

“This report underscores the massive gap between what the world needs and what countries including Australia are currently doing to reduce emissions,” Dr Krista Singleton-Cambage, WWF-Australia.

“Political and business leaders have no excuses and must be held to account in this hour of supreme planetary need,” David Ritter, Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“We call on world leaders and corporations to listen to the science and endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty,” Shawna Foster, Rainforest Action Network.

“We must act fast to secure a safe climate and future for our Reef. This is the critical decade for action to curb the worst impacts of climate change,” Cherry Muddle, Australian Marine Conservation Society.

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