You are here

International Panel on Climate Change

17 October 2018

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to the most important report that has been submitted by the International Panel on Climate Change - as some people say, the most important report they will have tabled in their history of reports on the impact of global greenhouse emissions on the world's planetary climate system and all the life systems it supports. The International Panel on Climate Change is a massive organisation that collects together the evidence and considered reviews of many scientists around the world and the reports of thousands of scientific studies were drawn together by 90 scientists who were responsible for those chapters in that IPCC report.

I was one of the scientists who was an author of an IPCC report in a previous career and was responsible for drawing together the Australian and New Zealand impacts of climate change and the projections that were made for the impacts on human health in the Australia and New Zealand region. That was back in 2003. There has been since then a lot of time but, sadly, no action. What we have seen is what was in a comfortable and far off future in 2003 concerning but still clearly something that the world could act on and Australia could play a leadership role in. What we have seen now in 2018 is that we have a desperately short amount of time to act. The window is so narrow within which we must make serious cuts in the fossil fuels we are dependent upon, particularly coal and gas, or we will be in a situation where the climate will have tipped into a volatile state where it is no longer possible to have anything like sustainable development.

I want to paraphrase a little here from the words of Lisa Cox, who spoke on the ABC recently and she explains the situation so clearly. She says that from the start of the Industrial Revolution in about 1870, the world could release around 790 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. That is the amount that scientists estimate we could emit as a world if we wanted a 66 per cent chance of meeting our Paris target of holding the world to no more than a 2 degree rise in global temperatures - 790 billion tonnes into the atmosphere. We have about 215 billion tonnes left. The world is currently emitting at a rate of around 10 billion tonnes a year, which leaves us with two decades of our total global carbon budget, and that is not much. We are running out of time. We have been faffing about for far too long and the planet cannot afford it.

We have been talking about this as a matter of opinion, but ending the fossil fuel era is not about ideology, it is not part of a culture war and the stakes are far too high for us to preserve a liveable planet. We have to understand that this is not just about an aspiration. It is not something we can do on the side of the other conversations we have. It is not something we can put off any longer. It is our job and is in the public interest. It is the central role of every politician. It is about public health and public safety and our generation has to do its part.

Tasmanians want their politicians to act on climate change. It is clear on every study that is done, every survey that is conducted and every conversation you have with people in the street that we need to have confidence about the climate. It is everything to us. It provides us with our agricultural subsistence and our flourishing as a nation. The MOUs that were signed in China by the Premier for exports to that country will mean nothing if we cannot provide the food and the produce for those exports.

We have to do what we can to keep fossil fuels in the ground. It is certainly not too soon to ditch fossil fuels. That is the conversation we have to have, because it is clearly nearly too late. In Tasmania we need to shift from a conversation about a future state to action right now. We do not have a climate change plan that has direct actions. We do not have proper accounting of the individual sectors in the Tasmanian economy. We have one global carbon budget for Tasmania. It is not good enough any longer. We are resting far too much on our historical renewable energy generation. We have to look at our emissions from agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and across all of our sectors, put our heads down, our shoulders to the grindstone and take this on as our most central duty as members of parliament as to the contribution we can make to our children and future generations.