The world is facing a climate emergency. Uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels, together with excessive land clearing and deforestation, have led to dangerous concentrations of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, trapping heat, and these processes are accelerating. As a result, the world’s climate is becoming increasingly energetic and unstable. Extreme events like droughts, storms, floods and wildfires are becoming more frequent and more severe, while sea levels rise, snow and ice disappear and vulnerable species and communities are pushed to extinction. We are now dangerously close to a ‘tipping point’ that could lead to runaway climate change, leaving a legacy of an unsafe climate for our children. The world’s premier climate science institution, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned that global greenhouse gas emissions must begin to fall within the next five years.
Tasmania is highly vulnerable to these climate changes. Major industries and exporters, such as agriculture, horticulture, forestry, fishing, aquaculture, tourism and power generation, face risks both from climate change itself and from poorly considered climate responses. Many small businesses, communities and families that rely upon these major employers are threatened in their turn. It is therefore not surprising that some respond with anger or even denial when faced with the reality of climate change. While understanding such emotions, we need as a community to summon the maturity to act in our own best interests and as the science demands to prevent dangerous climate change.
For the most part, the actions that are needed will bring greater benefits than costs: better planned and more liveable cities and regions, better quality housing, better access to services, less road congestion, more resilient communities, more secure jobs, reduced vulnerability to global economic shocks, less pollution and an increasingly valuable global reputation as a ‘clean and green’ haven for tourism and sustainable development.
Yet we should not imagine that responding to climate change will be free of cost. All investments in a better future (just as with schools and hospitals) require an upfront cost in return for greater benefits over time, and that is why we must place fairness at the centre of our climate response. We must be prepared to assist the vulnerable businesses, communities, families and individuals to make the necessary adjustments demanded in a sustainable, low-carbon future. As a global citizen, Tasmania must also extend the hand of friendship to vulnerable citizens – climate refugees – in our region and around the world.
Despite clear scientific evidence about the dangerous acceleration of climate changes, and despite the benefits that would flow from a concerted climate response, the Australian and Tasmanian governments have thus far failed to act decisively and as the science demands. That is why Climate Action Hobart – a local community group dedicated to securing a safe climate for us all – has documented 10 Steps for a Safe Climate.
The fruit of an open community Climate Forum in October 2009, which attracted more than 60 participants from around the State, 10 Steps has now been endorsed by local climate groups in the North and North-West of the State in addition to the South. This community plan is offered to the Tasmanian Government and people with the plea that all groups in society – political parties, community groups and businesses – embrace and commit to this plan as a way of contributing to a safe climate for all Tasmanians and playing an appropriate role in a global climate solution. Tasmania is well placed to lead the world.
The journey to a safe climate will demand more than 10 Steps, and no-one can predict where the potholes will lie on the road ahead. We hope and expect this community plan to evolve and expand over time. Yet a journey of thousand miles begins with a single step… and so we call upon the Tasmania Government, on behalf of the Tasmanian community, to commit publicly to taking these 10 Steps together with the community, trusting that the road ahead will become clearer with each step we take.