By Sophie Bennett and Max Aldred

Australia has “run out of wiggle room” to put off any longer acting on stemming climate change, the CSIRO has said.

Responding to the newest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that came out on Monday, the country’s top science body told Central News it was clear global warming is unequivocally human driven, is happening now and occurring more rapidly than expected.

“Climate change impacts kind of scale up with every degree or fraction of a degree of warming. It’s not that we’ll reach one point and then we have to start worrying about it, it’s an ongoing concern already, and will be in the future,” said CSIRO climate projections scientist Dr Michael Grose.

“We’ve already seen 1.1 degrees of global warming since pre-industrial times, predominantly because of human influence… that doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to get to 1.5. We’re already most of the way there.”



“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC Working Group Co-Chair, Valérie Masson-Delmotte. 

“We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.”

The IPCC report made clear there is only one real solution, putting an end to fossil fuels now and committing to at least net-zero targets by 2050.

Without action, Australia could potentially warm by 4℃ or more this century, resulting in unprecedented increases in climate extremes such as bushfires, floods and drought.

Australia has already experienced its fair share of disasters, from fires to floods and, according to Dr Grose, understanding the role of climate change in these past events will help us foresee what lies ahead. 

“We now have high confidence that climate change has made some climate extreme events either more likely or more severe than they would have been without human influence on the climate,” he said.

“Examples from Australia include extreme heat, heatwaves, marine heatwaves, and the hot and dry conditions setting up dangerous fire conditions, including for the 2019-2020 Black Summer fires.”

Despite the findings there was no indication Prime Minister Scott Morrison has changed his lukewarm stance on the issue.

When asked yesterday if Australia would now commit to a net-zero target, he told the press: “I don’t make blank cheque commitments. I leave that to others.

“Blank cheque commitments you always end up paying for. And you always end up paying for it in high taxes. That’s what the alternative approach is. That’s not my approach.”

Dr Grose said for the next 20 years we’re going to see global temperatures increase no matter what, the decisions that are made by our leaders today will impact how the climate responds beyond that.

However, this is not to say that at the 20-year mark there will be sudden consequences. 

I think the awareness, and the amount of people that care about the issue is only building more and more.

Mr Morrison has described his government’s approach as, “finding practical solutions to what are very practical problems” adding: “…and that practical problem is ensuring that the technology that works here needs to work in other parts of the world and we are positioning Australia to be in the forefront of that and our hydrogen strategy, the carbon capture and storage, the soil carbon, all of those initiatives is about positioning Australia to be successful in that world.”

While the report made clear that without immediate action the effects of climate change will only worsen, Dr Grose said it’s not a lost cause and we still have some level of control. 

“I think the awareness, and the amount of people that care about the issue is only building more and more,” he said. “And I think decision-makers are hearing that.

“So I think there’s room for optimism, and certainly, because pledges and commitments that are being made by national governments and international agreements and so on, are only strengthening more and more with each year.

“There’s more to do, but I think it’s still achievable.”

Main Image by Markus Spiske via Unsplash