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Scientists’ open letter: Intergenerational Report wrong on climate

A group of Australia’s top environmental and climate scientists, led by Australian National University’s Dr Andrew Gilkson, have signed an open letter decrying the minimal attention climate change received in the 2015 Intergenerational Report, calling on the federal government to “reconsider the consequences of ongoing emission of greenhouse gases” and to transition to a zero-carbon electricity system.

The letter from the 64 scientists reads:

We the undersigned are concerned that the 2015 Intergenerational Report underestimates the serious threat of global warming to future generations.

Based on the basic laws of physics, direct measurements and empirical observations in nature, the current rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases by about 40 per cent since the 19th century is inducing a shift in the state of the atmosphere-ocean-land-ice sheets system, seriously endangering future generations, and indeed nature’s life-support systems.

Our concern is based on the peer-reviewed scientific literature, as summarised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and on observations by the world’s national science academies and geophysical research societies of leading nations, including Australia.

The current and projected trend in CO2 from the 19th century concentration of 280 parts per million to the present 400 ppm, currently rising at more than 2 ppm per year, threatens to transform the planetary climate, creating conditions in which large parts of the continents become subject to droughts, fires and other extreme weather events. If this trend is allowed to continue, low coastal and river valleys, where much of the world’s population lives and where its food supply is produced, would be inundated by rising sea levels.

At the current rates of CO2 emissions, by 2055 (the projected date in the Intergenerational Report) CO2 concentrations would rise to about 480 ppm, threatening the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and approaching conditions that existed on the planet more than 2.6 million years ago, before the appearance of the genus Homo.

Australia has many excellent renewable and low-carbon energy resources and access to commercially available technologies that would enable Australia to transition to zero-carbon electricity within two to three decades, given the political will. This zero-carbon electricity system would be reliable, affordable and job-creating.

We call on the Australian government, and indeed the governments of all nations, to reconsider the consequences of ongoing emission of greenhouse gases and, as a matter of urgency, promote much more rapid transition to non-polluting energy-generating methods.

Signatories

  • Professor Michael Archer, Evolution of Earth and Life Systems Research Group, University of NSW
  • Dr Linda Beaumont, climate ecologist, Macquarie University
  • Dr Tom Beer, Past President of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
  • Professor Jason Beringer, School of Earth and Environment, University of Western Australia
  • Professor Helen Berry, Dean, Research of Epidemiology, Faculty of Health, University of Canberra
  • Professor Andrew Blakers, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, Australian National University
  • Jette Bollerup, lecturer in human sciences, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University
  • Dr Caryl Bosman, senior lecturer in urban and environmental planning, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University
  • Professor Corey Bradshaw, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change, The Environment Institute and School of Biological Sciences, The University of Adelaide
  • Associate Professor Tim Brodribb, plant science, University of Tasmania
  • Professor Richard Broinowski, President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, NSW
  • Associate Professor Jason Byrne, Environmental Planning, Griffith University
  • Professor Carla Catterall, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University
  • Professor Chu Cordia, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University
  • Professor Andrew Cockburn, Evolutionary Ecology, Director of the College of Medicine Biology and Environment, Australian National University
  • Emeritus Professor Jann Conroy, Tree Nutrition and Physiology and Global Change Biology, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
  • Professor Alan Cooper, Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide
  • Emeritus Professor Michael Crisp, Evolution, Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, Australian National University
  • Ian Davies, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
  • Dr Kirsten Davies, lecturer and researcher, Department of Environmental Sciences and Macquarie Law School, Macquarie University
  • Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf, Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of NSW
  • Professor Bob Douglas AO, Director of Australia 21; Former Director of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University
  • Dr Ben Elliston, Power and Energy Systems Engineering, University of NSW
  • Professor David Ellsworth, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
  • Associate Professor Jason Evans, Climate Change Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of NSW
  • Professor Jim Falk, Professorial Fellow Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sara Fuller, lecturer in Justice and Democracy in the environment, Macquarie University
  • Dr Andrew Gilkson, Earth and Paleoclimate science, Australian National University; Honorary Associate Professor, University of Queensland
  • Associate Professor Victor Gostin, Earth Science, University of Adelaide
  • Dr Susan Gould, Adjunct Research Fellow, Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University
  • Professor Colin Groves, Bio-anthropology and Primatology, School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University
  • Dr Willow Hallgreen, Research Fellow at the Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University
  • Dr Elizabeth Hanna, Director, Heat- health risks and adaption, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health Project, Australian National University
  • Dr Christine Hosking, Research Officer at the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland
  • Associate Professor Mark Hovenden, School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania
  • Distinguished Professor Lesley Hughes, Department of Biological Sciences, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research Integrity and Development, Macquarie University
  • Professor Michael Hutchison, Spatial and Temporal Analysis, Fenner School of Environment and Society, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Australian National University
  • Emiratus Professor Phillip Jennings, Physics and Energy, Murdoch University
  • Professor Darryl Jones, Deputy Director of the Environmental Futures Research Institute and the Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University
  • Associate Professor Jochen Kaempf, Oceanography, School of Environment, Flinders University
  • Associate Professor Naomi Langmore, Ecology and Genetics, Research School of Biology, Australian National University
  • Professor Michelle Leishman, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University
  • Professor Darryl Low Choy, Head of Discipline (planning)), Environmental and Landscape Planning Research Program, School of Environment, Griffith Unviersity
  • Professor Andrew Lowe, Chair of Plant Conservation Biology and Director of the Centre for Conservation Science and Technology, University of Adelaide
  • Associate Professor Andrew McGregor, Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University
  • Professor Andrew Millington, senior academic, School of Environment, Flinders University
  • Dr Ben Moore, senior lecturer of ecology, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
  • Professor Barbara Norman, Foundation Chair of Urban and Regional Planning, Director of Canberra Urban and Regional Futures, University of Canberra
  • Dr Bradley Opdyke, Research School of Earth Sciences, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Australian National University
  • Dr Linda Prior, forest ecology, tree growth and savanna ecology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Tasmania
  • Associate Professor Markus Riegler, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
  • Dr Oz Sahin, Research Fellow at the Griffith School of Engineering, Griffith Systems Modelling Group, Griffith University
  • Dr Tapan Sarker, Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith Business School, Griffith University
  • Professor Brajesh Singh, Functional microbial ecology, climate change and environmental biotechnology, Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
  • Dr Ben Spies-Butcher, Senior Lecturer in Economy and Society, Sociology Department, Macquarie University
  • Emiratus Professor Patrick Troy, Visiting Fellow, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
  • Professor Martin Van Kranendonk, earth science, Archean tectonics, early life, global geodynamics, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of NSW
  • Dr Hayden Washington, Visiting Fellow, Institute of Environmental Studies, University of NSW
  • Professor Adrian Werner, Hydrogeology, Chief Investigator, National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training
  • Professor Patricia Werner, plant population dynamics, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University
  • Dr Jonathan Whale, Senior Lecturer in Energy Studies and Renewable Energy Engineering, Murdoch University
  • Emeritus Professor Ian White, Vice-Chair (Asia-Pacific) UNESCO IHP Water Resources; Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University
  • Associate Professor Jane Williamson, Marine Ecology, Macquarie University

Comments

5 Responses to “Scientists’ open letter: Intergenerational Report wrong on climate”

  • Wendy says:

    Surely these are the people we need to listen to – this is what they are paid to research. No more sticking our head in the sand and blaming other countries for not doing the right thing. We can make a change and if it isn’t enough at least we know as a country we’ve given it our best shot. It may not be popular but what happens in 50 years time is definitely not going to be good for our children and grandchildren.

  • Bill Marshall says:

    It saddens me that the government ignores even the most compelling evidence of climate change and I hope the above list of concerned scientists will be listened to for the sake of all Australians now and future.

  • Gerard Dean says:

    The majority of those who signed the letter burn JetA1 fossil fuel to attend conferences and holidays overseas where they lecture people like me to stop burning fossil fuel.

    There is a word for that.

  • Chris says:

    Haven’t seen much from ‘political science’ contingent, would seem a tad overdue, the problem 3B years in the making, need some pretty clever holistic thinking to navigate what now ahead – incidentally not a mention here of tipping points, the knows/don’t knows etc but full marks regardless.

  • Tuck says:

    Go Scientists! But it’s already all over. Tones has already assured us that climate change is crap – and a majority of us voted for that crap. So while we have the politicians we deserve, we’ll never see science and sense in how we proceed and the fundamentalists of many persausions may well prove to be correct in their long held doomsday predictions.

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