Report

Climate change: the case for action

21 Apr 2009
Description

Delaying action to mitigate climate change increases the risk that adverse climate change impacts, including possibly irreversible changes, will occur before greenhouse gas concentrations can be stabilised at a desired level, according to this research paper. The likely consequences of unmitigated climate change present serious risks to our environment and consequently to our socioeconomic productivity, security, and health. These risks can be reduced to manageable levels with mitigation action.

The climate system responds slowly to small changes in its driving forces, such as the changes in atmospheric composition and energy balance that it is now experiencing. Therefore, the Earth and its inhabitants will continue to experience the effects of current and previous greenhouse gas emissions for centuries to come.

Delaying action to mitigate climate change may preclude the successful realisation of more ambitious greenhouse gas stabilisation targets over the next century, as continued investment in long–lived, emissions–intensive technologies commits us to continued high rates of emissions. Delaying action will require more drastic measures to achieve a desired mitigation target than early action. Early action enables businesses and industries to adjust gradually and allows time for new technologies to emerge and be commercially deployed.

The costs of unmitigated climate change are likely to be substantially higher over the next century than the costs of mitigation. Mitigation action is likely to cause a net cost to GNP growth in the first half of the century, but a net benefit in the second half.

Australia is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, both environmentally and economically. It is in Australia’s interests to do all we can to secure an effective international agreement to mitigate climate change. Through existing agreements, Australia has committed to contributing our fair share of global responsibility in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In implementing effective domestic action, Australia would demonstrate this commitment while facilitating the process of reaching an international agreement, easing the integration of our economy into an international mitigation framework, and safeguarding the future of our country and planet.

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2009
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