Switching from fossil fuels to renewables and electrifying transport, homes and the economy will reduce emissions, but experts say Australia is not moving fast enough.
Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 0.8% in the year to September 2021 as the switch to renewable electricity from coal and gas means that emissions from the electricity sector fell by 4.7%.
Protecting nature and restoring degraded ecosystems
The recently released IPCC report recognizes the interconnectedness of climate, biodiversity and human populations more strongly than previous assessments and highlights nature’s potential to reduce climate risks and improve people’s lives, saying that ecosystems healthy ones are more resilient to climate change and provide clean food and produce. the water.
By conserving 30-50% of the planet’s land, freshwater and oceans, human societies would benefit from nature’s ability to absorb and store carbon, according to the report.
We need to stop degrading nature through plastic pollution, salinity and land clearing, says Lauren Rickards of RMIT, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. Australia’s high rate of land clearing is one of the biggest obstacles to its progress on climate change, says Professor Rickards.
“We make our climate mitigation and adaptation tasks so much more difficult if we passively allow existing degradation to continue,” she says. “We can’t assume that natural systems are just going to move around and be there for us to take advantage of when we need them.”
Half of the world’s population lives in cities and their health and livelihoods, as well as infrastructure and transportation systems, are increasingly at risk from heat waves, storms, floods and rising seas. from sea level.
Climate action in cities should include green and energy-efficient buildings, urban greening, reliable water and electricity supply, and revegetation of parks and gardens to encourage wildlife, according to the IPCC.
Investing in health and equality
Becoming low-carbon and more equitable societies has multiple benefits for health and well-being, according to the authors of the IPCC report.
“It will be a win-win scenario if we invest in climate justice and in low greenhouse gas societies, because we will see benefits for human health and well-being,” says Professor Kathryn Bowen , author of the report and climate and global health expert at the University of Melbourne.
Globally, the worst health effects of climate are threats to health and water security. Climate change will also exacerbate current underlying health issues, which means health systems need to be strengthened.
Professor Bowen says the mental health impact of climate change is also evident. Not only do these stem from the trauma of having experienced an extreme weather event, but from a feeling of “solastalgia” – a feeling of emotional or existential distress caused by an environmental change.
“The impacts on mental health – particularly stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and general trauma – are evident. This highlights the need for a robust health sector to deal with it properly.
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