A majority of Australia's remaining fossil fuels 'must be left in the ground and cannot be burned' if society is to have any hope of curbing the existential threat posed by climate change, Australian scientists declare in a chilling government report released today.
"Unless effective action is taken, the global climate may be so irreversibly altered we will struggle to maintain our present way of life," report authors assert. "The choices we make this decade will shape the long-term climate future for our children and grandchildren."
The report finds that most of Australia's vast fossil fuel reserves must remain untouched in a country that ranks as the world's second largest exporter of coal, with shipments continuing to rise.
From today until 2050 we can emit no more than 600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to have a good chance of staying within the 2°C limit," deliver the authors in a sobering assessment.
This would require reversing the rise in Australian emissions within the next two years if there is to be any hope of stemming the crisis.
Put simply, time is running out.
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The Climate Commission that drafted the report was formed by the Australian government in 2011 to provide scientific information about climate change.
Their non-binding findings put them at loggerheads with Australia's powerful oil and coal industries, as well as the rising conservative opposition, expected to win elections in September. Opposition leader Tony Abbott, who declared climate change is 'absolute crap', has vowed to do away with the climate commission if elected.
Report authors warn, in what could be their final report given Australia's political climate, that the situation is dire: people across the world are already seeing the effects of climate change:
It is clear that the climate system has already shifted, changing conditions for all weather. While extreme weather events have always occurred naturally, the global climate system is hotter and wetter than it was 50 years ago. This has loaded the dice toward more frequent and forceful extreme weather events.
Severe weather events are a hot topic in the United States as firefighters continue to battle the largest fire in Colorado history.