Scott Morrison government transparency foreign aid
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

We can’t avoid climate change. It has already begun. The slow motion descent into environmental catastrophe is irrevocable and certain. But, if real action is taken, we can avoid the worst of it.

We’ve seen rapidly increasing global temperatures, melting polar ice caps, the loss of glaciers, raging forest fires, extreme weather events, and a steady climb in sea level. The signs of change have been noticeable for some time, but very few phenomena quite touch the lives of the average, comfortable Australian. And yet, creeping into our news are the local stories of chronic drought; of coral bleaching and loss of tourism revenue; of many of our iconic species becoming endangered and extinct.

Climate change is here and it disproportionately affects the poor — but just give it time (and plenty more emissions) and the lifestyles of the comfortably affluent will also be devastated. Now is the time — or, more accurately, a time far past the time — to mitigate the dire prognosis. We can curb carbon emissions, plant many more trees, invest in a war cabinet to take on this huge challenge. If we do this, perhaps we can limit warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees. We might avoid the apocalyptic outlook of a 4-6 degree rise. We might, if there were political will.

This is why I’m calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to immediately declare a climate emergency. I’m calling on you, Scott, to represent all Australians — including those who are too young to vote and those not yet born. I’m calling on you to act on the will of the majority of Australians. I’m calling on you to make a concrete commitment, a willingness to stand together and fight to prevent the largest threat of our times.

Three million Australians have seen their representatives heed the warnings at a local government level. Their leaders recognise that we cannot repair all the damage, but we can mitigate the future effects. Forty five Australian councils have declared a climate emergency (for have no doubt, this is an emergency), and have promised to prioritise the environment and take on climate change. The declaration of a climate emergency is a symbolic gesture and can imply different things for different groups. At the forefront of a climate emergency declaration (CED) is reduction of emissions, a move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, and a reduction in deforestation.

What we really need, however, is a federal climate emergency declaration. Before any measures are taken, we first need our government to acknowledge there is a huge and pressing problem. This is yet to occur, and with that mindset there is no commitment to a green change, no investment in clean energy, in forestation, in recruiting bright minds to innovate and work towards protecting our civilisation and our home.

There is community appetite for climate action — 60% of Australians want steps taken to address climate change even at significant cost; 84% want a switch to renewable energy.

At time of publication, my petition asking the federal government to declare a CED has upwards of 120,000 signatures.

Scott, you’ve declined requests to receive this petition. The Coalition continue to support coal mining and coal power, they have railed against electric vehicles, they have ignored the example of the UK and Germany, both of whom have recognised the climate emergency and responded accordingly.

We remain the largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world. Will there come a point where the majority of Australian councils act responsibly, where state governments move ahead with change, and where the federal government is finally forced to act? Will they heed calls to declare a climate emergency and start fashioning solutions? Or will we all be paralysed like frogs in boiling water until we reach a point where perhaps even governments will be powerless to effect change?

Scott, please, our lives depend on it.

What are some steps the government could take immediately to help address the climate emergency? Write to [email protected] with your thoughts and your full name.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey