Future Tense: Australia’s safe climate vision

Australian ABC Radio National show “Future Tense” features a pretty interesting discussion of the Safe Climate Australia goal to restructure Australia’s economy by transitioning away from fossil fuels. Some great insight by Ove and Professor John Wiseman amongst others – click below to listen to the audio.


Al Gore: Safe Climate Australia is a wonderful initiative, apolitical, solutions-based, science-based, bringing together business leaders, leaders in the scientific community, the arts community, emergency firefighters, people from all walks of life, to respond to what many scientists have now been saying is truly a planetary emergency. And that phrase is one that still sounds a bit shrill to most ears, because we’re not used to hearing such a phrase.

A leader some 50 years ago in the aftermath of the attack in my country on Pearl Harbor during an investigation of why it wasn’t predicted in advance, and one of the explanations for why there were no preparations to anticipate that attack, was in an interesting phrase, they said, ‘We as human beings tend to confuse the unprecedented with the improbable.’ And of course if something’s never happened before, it’s a generally safe assumption that it’s not going to happen in the future.

The problem is, the exceptions can kill you, and this is one of those exceptions.

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg: Well we’ve known for a long while in the scientific community that it doesn’t take much CO2 into the atmosphere to have major effects on ecosystems. And over the years I’ve been studying the demise of the Great Barrier Reef, and we’ve known for a decade that if you double CO2, you don’t have a Great Barrier Reef any more.

I think the latest science, especially that which was presented in March in Copenhagen, has shaken us up even more, because it’s telling us that things like the great ice sheets of the world are now melting very rapidly. Now if they do, and we continue down this pathway which is above the worst case scenario of the IPCC, we end up in a world in which we may have — well, we certainly have one metre, we may actually have three to four metres of sea-level rise around the planet. Now that would be devastating. That’s a civilisation wrecker. You’ve just to think about this harbour where we’re sitting right now, two metres of sea level, you don’t have this very spot. The messages from Copenhagen were very clear, we’re above the worst case scenario, it’s happening a lot quicker than we thought, and we now have little time to fix it. It’s not going to be easy, but by the same token, we haven’t even started.

The analogy is always drawn to step changes in behavior, such as Pearl Harbor for the US, where you go from making cars to tanks within a month. You can turn an economy up on its head and still survive, and I think that’s what we’ve got to do with the climate change problem. It’s so massive, it’s really looming as a planetary tragedy, and we’ve got to treat it as it is. It’s an emergency, and it needs emergency action.

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