Climate Emergency Action
Context & Governance

PART 1.  CONTEXT

The Real Climate Challenge
After three decades of inaction, human-induced climate change is the greatest threat, and opportunity, facing this country, far outweighing the issues dominating our domestic political discourse, such as the US/China impasse, a faltering economy and religious freedom. The world faces the same threat. Climate change now represents an existential challenge which, if not addressed as a genuine emergency immediately, will destroy human civilisation as we know it within decades. Immediate, in that the actions we take today, particularly expanding fossil fuel use thereby increasing global carbon emissions, are locking-in that outcome.

In stark contrast, the disastrous lack of serious climate change policy in Australia stems entirely from the fact that Federal parliamentarians of both persuasions, despite access to the best possible scientific, economic, social and health advice, refuse to accept, even today, that climate change and its risks are real, let alone doing anything to address them. That denial is responsible for the increasingly maniacal contortions of ministers pretending to take climate action, but in essence intent upon doing nothing, despite the massive damage inflicted on the community by extreme weather.

The vitriolic exchanges between politicians regarding the linkage of drought, bushfires and climate change, confirm that our current political system is incapable of managing this threat. Likewise with much corporate, finance and media leadership, whose business strategies either totally contradict their rhetoric urging climate action, or are ideologically locked-in to climate denial.

The starting point in overcoming this extremely dangerous situation, must be acceptance of the real climate challenge we, and the rest of the world, face. A challenge far more serious than acknowledged by our Federal and State governments.

Climate change as an immediate, existential risk
Climate change is happening faster than anticipated, driven primarily by human carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, agriculture and land clearing. Uncertainties relate not to the basic climate science, which has been well-understood for decades, but to the speed and extent of climate impact, both of which have been badly underestimated.

• The first round of voluntary emission reduction commitments in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, if implemented would lead to a temperature increase of around 3.5°C, relative to pre-industrial conditions, by 2100 if not earlier – a world which leading national security experts describe as “outright social chaos”. At present, we are on track for around a 4.5°C increase, which would be “a world incompatible with any organised society”, resulting in a substantial reduction in global population, toward 1 billion from the current 7.5 billion.

• Dangerous climate change is occurring at the 1°C temperature increase already experienced. The 2°C Paris upper limit now represents the boundary of extremely dangerous climate change.

• To stay below 2°C, global emissions must peak now and be reduced by around 9% annually, something no country has ever achieved. The lower 1.5°C Paris target requires even more rapid reduction. Meanwhile, emissions rise in line with worst case scenarios.

• This Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) analysis assumes only a 50-66% chance of meeting the targets. Not good odds for the future of humanity. To have a sensible 90% chance, there is no carbon budget left today to stay below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. Thus all fossil fuel consumption should stop immediately. Obviously that is not going to happen, but new investment must stop now, and the existing industry wound down as fast as possible.

• Emissions from continued fossil fuel investment, including gas, lock-in irreversible, existential climatic outcomes today. Due to climate inertia, by the time the climatic impact of these investments becomes clear, it will be too late to take avoiding action. Hence the risk is immediate.

• Atmospheric aerosols produced by burning coal and oil are cooling the planet by around 0.3 to 0.5°C. As aerosol concentrations reduce with the phase-out of fossil fuels, a commensurate one-off increase in temperature is likely, compounding the problem of staying below warming limits.

• Proposed solutions to meet the 1.5°C target rely heavily on carbon removal from the atmosphere using negative emissions technologies, none of which exist at scale today. This is extremely dangerous, creating a false sense of security.

• The recent IPCC 1.5°C report understates key risks in moving from 1.5°C to 2°C warming. For example, increasing climate-driven refugees, exceeding tipping points that could push the world on to an irreversible path to a “Hothouse Earth”, Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet instability triggering multi-metre sea level increase. Exceeding 1.5°C poses huge risks both for humans and natural systems, but it is likely that will occur within a decade.

In summary, it is now impossible to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C, and probably to 2°C unless global leaders accelerate action on climate change to an emergency footing, akin to wartime.

This is no extreme, alarmist view, but objective risk management analysis of the science and evidence. It is also not new; it has been clear for at least a decade that these were the risks, yet officialdom globally has deliberately ignored them at the behest of fossil fuel interests and conservative acolytes.

Tipping points
The tipping points referred to above are the most critical aspects of climate change, as it does not necessarily progress in a linear manner correlated with increasing atmospheric carbon concentrations. Instead, at a certain point, it may flip abruptly from one relatively stable state to another far less conducive to human development. For example, Arctic sea ice is melting rapidly as temperatures rise 2-3 times faster than the global average. As a result, less solar radiation is reflected back to space off the white ice; instead it warms the oceans, which in turn warm the seabed and surrounding land, melting permafrost, leading to further carbon emissions and accelerated warming.

15 non-linear tipping points were identified around the world some years ago. They represent the greatest risks of climate change in that, once triggered, they become irreversible, beyond humanity’s influence, with catastrophic outcomes. Some are inter-related; once one triggers, others may follow in a cascading effect globally.

Unfortunately, the implications of tipping points are not quantified in IPCC analyses, in part because scientists do not know enough about their mechanisms to accurately assess the potential impact. This emphasises the importance of exercising the precautionary principle, by early reduction of carbon emissions. As Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research puts it: “This is particularly true when the issue is the very survival of our civilisation, where conventional means of analysis may become useless”.

The latest assessment by leading scientists suggests that tipping points may occur earlier than previously thought. Indeed, there are indications that 9 inter-related tipping points are underway, with one, the West Antarctic ice sheet, now irreversible, leading eventually to a 3 metre sea level rise. Others may be triggered between 1 – 2°C, raising the prospect of a global cascade effect even below the upper 2°C limit of the Paris Agreement. Hence the importance of staying below that limit, however difficult.

They conclude:
“In our view, the evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency; both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute.
We argue that the intervention time left to prevent tipping could already have shrunk toward zero, whereas the reaction time to achieve net zero emissions is 30 years at best. Hence we might have already lost control of whether tipping happens. A saving grace is that the rate at which damage accumulates from tipping – and hence the risk posed – could still be under our control to some extent.
The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril. International action – not just words – must reflect this.”

In short, prayers and platitudes from global, and Australian, leaders no longer suffice.

Solutions
The prevalent idea that the world can still make an ordered, gradual transition to a low-carbon world, for example to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, is now totally unrealistic. We have to take emergency action to reduce carbon emissions as fast as possible. This means the big emitters, whether private fossil fuel companies or state entities, must take the brunt of the cuts. Other contributions, from communities, agriculture etc are important, but will not achieve the required reductions in the limited time available. Solutions would be along the following lines;

• Accelerate innovation to further reduce cost of low-carbon energy alternatives

• Ban investment in new fossil fuel capacity from 2020, then phase-out coal, then oil & gas as fast as possible as alternatives become available

• Remove subsidies to fossil fuel industries (currently A$42 billion in Australia, more than our Defence budget)

• Introduce realistic carbon pricing

• Tighten controls on fugitive emissions from fossil fuel operations

• Accelerate electrification to eliminate fossil fuel rapidly.

• Redesign agricultural practices, emphasis on soil carbon, ocean sequestration and reforestation

• Strong emphasis on energy conservation and efficiency

• Encourage debate and reframing of values toward evolution of sustainable societies in support of this transition

• Provide, and plan for, a fair transition for those people and regions adversely affected.

The immediate priority must be to stop fossil fuel expansion – coal, oil or gas – both here and overseas.

What Does Emergency Action Mean?
The climate threat is increasingly obvious as extreme events escalate globally. As a result, the climate emergency call is being taken up widely. In essence it means, akin to wartime, the suspension of business-as-usual, politically, corporately and socially, to do whatever it takes to resolve the climate crisis. There is no higher priority.

This does mean massive societal and cultural change, and fundamental reframing of virtually every policy arena; climate, energy, foreign affairs, defence, health, immigration, agriculture to name but a few. The upside is that Australia has far greater potential to prosper in the low-carbon future than in the high-carbon past, as experts have long been pointing out. But realizing that potential requires an all-encompassing commitment to a low-carbon emergency transition. Certainly there will be costs, but the costs of ignoring climate change and continuing Australia’s current climate denialist stance will be far greater.

Addressing the Existential Climate Threat
The immediate existential threat of climate change is a global problem that cannot be solved by Australian action in isolation. It requires unprecedented levels of global co-operation to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. This may seem fanciful at a time when many leading countries are moving toward isolationism. However this existential threat is unlike anything humanity has experienced historically; if human civilisation as we know it is to survive, it is in everyone’s interest to overcome it.

Climate change has the potential to create major conflict over issues such as migration, water and other resource availability. It has already been a major factor behind the Syrian crisis, Brexit and Trump’s Mexican Wall, though this is rarely acknowledged.

As climate impacts mount, if the outcome is increasing isolationism and conflict, then civilisation will collapse. The question is whether, and how, leadership and statesmanship will emerge to trigger co-operation and avoid collapse?

New leaders must accept some hard truths:

• Climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is now fundamental to the economic and social prosperity of the country, indeed to our survival.

• Emissions reduction commitments must focus on absolute outcomes, not per capita or relative comparisons. The first round of Paris voluntary emission reduction commitments were woefully inadequate. Within that, the Australian contribution of 26-28% reduction by 2030 (less than half that amount if Kyoto carryover credits are applied) was one of the worst. To claim that “we are meeting our Paris commitments” is worthless as a real contribution to the global climate challenge

• With no global carbon budget left to stay below 2°C, the emissions of every major emitting country and company need to reduce, fast. Whether China, the US, EU, India, Australia, Exxon, Shell, BP, BHP, Rio Tinto etc.

• Further, a country’s climate impact must be assessed by including fossil fuel exports. Climate change is a global problem, and emissions have global impact irrespective of the point of consumption. Whilst it was convenient for the UNFCCC to adopt an accounting mechanism in the 1990s based upon consumption point, that is no longer relevant given the global climate risk we now face.

• On that basis, Australia will shortly become the third largest global carbon polluter if current coal and LNG expansion plans are realised. We are already one of the world’s highest per capita carbon polluters. Far from being an insignificant “1.3% of global emissions”, what Australia does matters in emission terms.

• Arguments that Australian, or any other country’s, coal exports, can expand on the grounds that a particular coal is better quality than others are nonsense in the circumstances where there is no global carbon budget. All coal consumption must reduce.

• Likewise with the expansion of LNG exports. Gas has less emissions per unit of energy than coal, but it is still a fossil fuel adding to the global emissions burden. Given the rate of emission reduction required, there is no justification for gas expansion. The argument that gas expansion is justified because it is replacing coal has no validity in the absence of a carbon budget.

• Similarily, fracking expansion, deep water oil exploration whether in the Great Australian Bight or the Arctic, make no sense in the current climate context.

• Negative emission technologies can no longer be used as a justification for fossil fuel expansion. There is no prospect of them being applied at scale in the limited time available. They may have longer term benefit, but the immediate risks are so high that they cannot be relied upon for the time being.

• There is a great deal of criticism directed at the supposedly excessive subsidies given to renewable energy technologies. These pale into insignificance compared to the massive A$42 billion subsidy given annually to the fossil fuel industries in Australia. The latter must be removed rapidly and more support given to renewables to accelerate the rate of change.

In an Australian context, it makes absolutely no sense to build our economy on fossil fuel resources and technologies which are fundamentally unsustainable. It is particularly untenable, in geopolitical terms, when Australia has some of the best low-carbon energy resources in the world, and is not using them.

Given that Australia is one of the countries most exposed to climate risk, Australia’s national interest, and national security, is best served now by reversing years of climate denial and taking strong global leadership in the transformation to the low carbon world.

In 1964, Donald Horne wrote:
“Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise”.

Is that still the case in the climate context, or do we have leadership and statesmanship potential capable of rising to the greatest threat, and opportunity, this country has ever faced? It is certainly true that current leaders have been taken by surprise at the ferocity of climate change impact, despite having been warned about it for years.

PART 2.  GOVERNANCE
How good is Australia’s climate leadership?
In short, appalling, as the recent disputes on the linkage between climate change, drought, water availability and bushfires confirm only too well.

No single weather event can be exclusively attributed to human-induced climate change. However it is patently obvious, from the basic science and evidence, that climate change is intensifying extreme weather events around the world. There is no doubt that it is contributing, directly or indirectly, to the extreme events that are currently impacting Australia. From the unprecedented drought and bushfires, to the Townsville floods earlier this year, and the recent severe Sydney storm. To claim otherwise, whether as Prime Minister, Cabinet Minister or conservative media cheer-leader, demonstrates profound scientific and economic ignorance.

For three decades, attempts to use science, evidence and rational debate to gain political and corporate commitment to urgent action have failed abysmally in the face of massed fossil fuel interests, supposed “conservatism” and political self-interest – determined to preserve our high-carbon “status quo” whatever the cost to the community. Leaders have been repeatedly warned of the risks, but deliberately chosen to ignore them. We are now paying the price, with the Australian taxpayer and society picking up the bill for conservative ideological indulgence. Lives and livelihoods are being lost and impacts will get much worse, absent emergency action.

• Politics
The Prime Minister continues the Coalition’s climate denialist mindset, and masterly inaction, initiated by John Howard in the late 1990s. He refused to attend the critical UN Climate Summit last September, subsequently lecturing the UN that “Australia is doing its bit on climate change”. He cannot bring himself to admit the linkage with extreme weather events.

Minister Taylor assures us that Australia has “a track record on climate of which all Australians can be proud”. In reality, the Australian government for years has deliberately set out to prevent any serious global climate agreement being reached. He tells us Australia will meet it wholly inadequate Paris emission reduction commitments “at a canter”, when it is patently obvious it will not, even including unused Kyoto carryover credits. The very fact that the government attempts to justify the use of these credits at the current UN Madrid COP25 climate meeting underlines its brazen denialism. John Howard extorted these credits, via the Australia Clause, by holding the world to ransom at the last minute in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol negotiations – unjustified then and absolutely unjustified now in the face of a climate emergency.

Emissions, we are told, are falling when they are going up. Minister Hawke insists the Australian government is doing “more than anyone else” on climate change. Minister Littleproud, in charge of drought and natural disasters, cannot make his mind up if climate change is even relevant to his responsibilities. Minister Canavan claims that expanding coal and gas use would be a sensible response to climate change, and refuses to plan for a transition away from fossil fuels. Minister Birmingham considers France’s push for Australia to adopt more realistic climate change targets, as part of an EU trade deal, as “unprecedented”, implying it would be contrary to the national interest.

So the propaganda ramps up, worthy of any totalitarian regime, completely ignoring reality, highlighting the absence of any credible climate and energy policy as ministers shoot from the hip for short-term electoral advantage.

Australia, on any objective measure, with its 26-28% emissions reduction target by 2030, in practice more than halved if unused Kyoto credits are applied, is abjectly failing to contribute its fair share to global climate action, as it has done consistently since the 1990s. Not just failing, but now adding fuel to the fire by attempting to massively expand coal and gas use when emissions must fall dramatically if even worse catastrophes are to be avoid than those already happening. We are not “just an inconsequential 1.3% of global emissions” as Ministers insist; if the government has its way, we will shortly be the third largest carbon polluter in the world, exports included which is the only realistic way of assessing our climate impact.

The Prime Minister’s knee-jerk response to mounting pressure for climate action is to invoke the perennial defence of national sovereignty to stop dastardly “global institutions” from interfering in our affairs. But climate change is a global problem, requiring unprecedented collective action. Without it, and without leaders capable of understanding that reality, we are headed for global and national collapse. Nobody is seeking to “elevate global institutions above the authority of nation states”. It is the nation states that are failing their communities.

The Opposition are little better, having made contradictory bets during the May election by claiming strong climate change credentials, yet simultaneously supporting development of Adani and other coal mine projects. Their post-election reversion to a pro-fossil fuel stance does not suggest strong climate leadership potential. Anthony Albanese’s latest support for the continuation of coal exports demonstrates profound ignorance of climate science, risk and energy markets, in the process doing nothing for the future prospects of coal miners.

But perhaps the best indicators of political leadership failure on climate change, are the recent antics of the National Party. Not content with the Prime Minister and Barnaby Joyce throwing a lump of coal around in parliament last year, at an executive dinner following their September 2019 Federal conference, a lump of coal in a glass jar, and a “Start Adani” tee shirt worn by self-proclaimed “Minister for Coal” Matt Canavan and Queensland Coal, were auctioned by Barnaby Joyce, no less. Great hilarity all around, just confirming the utter contempt in which this Government hold the Australian people as they grapple with the threat of climate change.

At the State level, the understanding of a climate emergency has yet to penetrate the fossil fuel States. NSW and Queensland are intent on massively expanding coal and CSG, likewise with LNG in WA. Environmental regulators in NSW and WA have exercised their independent mandates to stop some new coal mine development, and seek greater transparency in the handling Scope 3 (exported) emissions, partly in regard to climate change concerns given the absence of any realistic federal climate and energy policy. In both cases the State Government has moved to defuse these initiatives by proposing legal changes allowing unfettered fossil fuel expansion, confirming their ignorance of climate realities, and their subservience to fossil fuel interests.

Business
Business attitudes toward climate change until recently, with a few notable exceptions, have followed, and frequently dictated, the Federal Government’s denialist stance. The resource sector in particular has done everything possible, for years, to prevent or slow the introduction of sensible climate policy, via lowest common denominator industry bodies such as the Business Council of Australia, the Minerals Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, the Institute of Public Affairs and so on.

The exceptions are companies such as BHP and Rio Tinto, who have taken far stronger climate action, but even they have yet to accept the reality of a climate emergency.

Attitudes are beginning to change. First, the legal implications, and liabilities, of ignoring climate risk are better understood, as emphasised by Kenneth Hayne. Second, investors are increasingly nervous about their exposure to carbon risk as the climate science and evidence evolves, and are moving away from fossil fuels. Third, Australian financial regulators, in common with their colleagues globally, are calling for far greater transparency on climate risk to avoid potential financial market collapse. Companies are increasingly complying with the voluntary recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Risk Disclosure, albeit at present most are reactive, rather than proactive, responses. Fourth, the competitiveness of low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels has vastly improved, bringing a range of new players into the arena, diluting the strangehold on government policy previously enjoyed by the resource industries, and spurring the transformation to a low-carbon world.

Perhaps most important, it is gradually dawning on corporate leaders that unless climate change is addressed urgently, social collapse will destroy the markets they rely upon for their prosperity.

All of which may result in more enlightened business leadership emerging, albeit not evident as yet. The resource sector continue to pursue rapid fossil fuel expansion, even though it is now clearly contrary to their own best interests, and to those of their shareholders.

Bureaucracy
Since the advent of the Howard government, the senior levels of the Australian Public Service have been progressively politicised and are now generally unwilling to offer free and frank advice, or to carry out work, that is contrary to the government’s desires. As a consequence, thinking that would have once been done about eventualities that may face the government is not being done well, especially in regard to climate change.

Hence the government has been caught off-guard, unprepared and playing catchup on key climate-related issues which will henceforth dominate the political agenda, including drought, bushfire risk and the Pacific.

Initiating work on climate change that is not specifically mandated by ministers is in general not occurring. Where it does happen, a key task is to ensure that it is not overtly identified as climate focussed. This is a particularly stark expression of the government’s denial on climate risks and how it has neutered public policy advice.

Likewise the security and intelligence community have not been on the front foot in regard to the implications of climate change for national security.

Department of the Environment Deputy Secretary Jo Evans demonstrated in a recent Senate Estimates hearing, in response to a question as to whether the climate situation was getting worse, the excruciating contortions which senior public servants are forced into by the government’s climate denial agenda.

Media
The conservative media, notably the Murdoch press, have for years played a major climate denial role, which is becoming ever more hysterical as the prospect of serious climate action nears. The preparedness of newspapers such as The Australian to continually distort, obfuscate and undermine the climate science is completely at odds with any notion of responsible journalism. Which is complemented by the statement by Chairman Rupert Murdoch, in response to a question at the recent News Corp New York AGM, that “there are no climate deniers here”. From a corporate governance perspective, one of the most misleading and deceptive statements ever made by a listed company chairman.

Other media groups have taken a far more balanced approach, notably the ABC, The Guardian, Crikey and Fairfax prior to the Nine takeover. The Australian Financial Review on the other hand tends more to the Murdoch denialist line.

However, apart from The Guardian, they have yet to fully embrace the need for emergency action.

To conclude, it is patently obvious that the Australian political system, as represented by the two main parties, has left the country totally unprepared to face the impact of climate change. It does not have leaders who can be trusted to, or are capable of, managing the climate emergency domestically, let alone having the statesmanship required to contribute to global collective action. There is little chance of such leadership emerging, given the short-termist, adversarial nature of current politics.

On the other hand, the bureaucracy has many capable people who are currently constrained from addressing the climate emergency. They need to be freed up to do so

Business has been sitting on the fence re climate change for far too long. That is beginning to change, but not fast enough. Fossil fuel industry denialism and disruption of sensible climate policy must stop.

Strong media understanding of, and support for, emergency action is essential if it is to be successful. Not least to counter the malevolent influence of the Murdoch press.

Governance for the Climate Emergency
The first responsibility of any government, and opposition, is the security of the people they represent. Recent commentary by senior Coalition politicians from the Prime Minister down indicates that either they have absolutely no idea of the implications of the climate science, or they are deliberately ignoring those implications, prepared to put the immediate security of the Australian people, and their future prosperity, at grave risk.

If the former, they are in breach of their fiduciary responsibility to the community to understand the risks facing the country and to act honestly to address those risks. They have access to the best possible scientific advice; it is criminally irresponsible to ignore that advice, hiding behind denialist ideology, pretending the problem does not exist.

If the latter, they are morally and ethically bankrupt, prepared to sacrifice Australian lives and livelihoods in the interests of short-term political advantage, pressured by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and media. Given the increasingly hysterical political push-back from these interests as the time for emergency action arrives, this is the most likely explanation.

Having dug themselves a massive climate denialist hole, and lacking the honesty and integrity to climb out, they are now doubling down, determined to drag the rest of the community in with them. They assume that climate change is just another item on the political agenda which can be handled with the time-honoured process of wheeling and dealing for political advantage, which it patently cannot.

In confronting the greatest threat this country will ever experience, the unfortunate reality is that those managing the affairs of this nation have absolutely no interest in addressing that threat, or the capability to do so even if they chose. Further, investors and business, using current approaches, are not going to effectively contribute to managing the climate challenge in the limited time now available.

Most importantly in the climate context, an emergency implies acting early rather than later, otherwise mitigation becomes secondary to adaptation, as incumbencies throw their resources at managing symptoms, the climate impacts, rather than paying adequate attention to the underlying climate change cause . This would lead into a “death spiral” toward social collapse, as climate impacts escalate unconstrained. The beginnings of this can already be seen in responses around the world in the last few weeks as drought and bushfires enter uncharted territory. Australia and California, for example, are totally unprepared for the ferocity of the fires now being experienced.

The only way climate change can be addressed, domestically and globally, with any realistic chance of avoiding the worst impacts, is akin to a wartime response. In wartime:

• An over-riding issue is identified, a threat to national and/or human security, which has to be the absolute focus of national, and in this case, global activity. There is nothing more important.

• Climate change is now such an issue.

• To address it, the best possible expertise must be brought together in:

• A governance structure, possibly a government of national unity, comprising the best leadership from politics, business, finance, academia and community.
• A technical support framework, to identify and act upon the optimal solutions to the climate challenge

Obviously such changes are far from anything being contemplated officially. However, the existential, immediate nature of climate risk provides the catalyst to break through established denialist barriers, creating a new framework for action.

The government claims a mandate from the electorate for its supposed climate change policies as set out at the May 2019 election. In reality the government deliberately refused to articulate to the community the real implications of climate change. These were spelt out in numerous reports from the government’s own risk advisors, along with scientific advice, most recently in the various reports relating to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework published in 2018/19. To quote, inter alia:

“The cost of disasters to society and the economy are growing and it is becoming increasingly apparent we need to urgently do more than change at the margin”

“Natural hazards intersecting with societies are not only possible, but are highly plausible, and their effect will likely exceed the capacity of the nation. The consequential damage, loss and suffering would be immense and enduring”.

The government ignored the advice; the costs to the community from this misleading and deceptive conduct are now in plain view as drought and bushfires escalate. The opposition likewise refused to articulate the real implications of climate change, whilst supporting the opening up of the Galilee Basin coal deposits which will heap further damage on the community.

Neither party has a mandate to destroy the future of Australian society, which is the implication of their current policies. Both have deliberately misled the people, and failed in their primary responsibility to ensure the security of the nation. For which there is no excuse.

When parliamentarians act in this irresponsible manner, they have no right to remain in office, even more so when the issue is the greatest threat facing the nation.

Accordingly, the Australian people must now demand that the responsibility for handling all matters relating to climate change be vested in a wartime governance structure as above. Constitutional advice on the mechanism for establishing such a structure would be required from the Governor General and other experts. Given the all-encompassing nature of climate action, this may mean both Government and Opposition stand aside in the interests of national security.

During their Christmas break, parliamentarians might contemplate why the best interests of constituents are now served by them stepping aside.

On Australian climate change leadership, Donald Horne is still right “—— most of its leaders so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise”. Indeed, but perhaps that might now change.


Published in Pearls & Irritations, 12th & 13th December 2019