AUSTRALIANS will begin to see the stark effects of climate change within the next few years, not the next decades, a leading Australian scientist has warned.
Graeme Pearman, the former head of CSIRO’s atmospheric research unit, yesterday released a report showing that evidence of global warming has dramatically increased in the past 12 months.
Dr Pearman told the Herald: “If you think climate change is on the agenda, just wait another couple of years. Every day the media are going to be reporting people seeing changes as a result of things we have already done and the implications of these all over the world: like the breeding patterns and migration patterns of birds and animals, the flowering times, the production capacity of farms and the impact of coastal erosion. We are going to get more of them, not in the next few decades but the next few years.”
His report for the Climate Institute comes just days before the United Nation’s peak scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is due to release the last of four reports by the world’s leading scientists and policy-makers on the worsening effect of climate change on the planet.
The panel’s report will be released on Saturday in Spain at a meeting attended by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and is expected to carry a dire warning that without urgent action over the next five to 10 years, the world’s leaders risk climate change accelerating at dangerous levels. The head of the UN climate negotiations warned this week that failure to recognise the urgency of the warnings “would be nothing less than criminally irresponsible”.
Dr Pearman fears there is a “disconnect” between the level of urgency understood by the scientists and the actions of governments to change our use of energy. His report for the Climate Institute points out that already the IPCC evidence is out of date because new data on climate change has emerged in the past 12 months.
This includes the melt of the Arctic sea ice this year at a much faster rate than any of the scientific models forecast. It shrunk the sea ice 40 per cent below its average size, losing an area twice the size of NSW. The growth in carbon emissions, mainly from fossil fuels, has also leapt in the past decade from 1.1 per cent a year to 3 per cent a year.
“Greenhouse emissions are rising faster than the worst-case IPCC scenarios,” Dr Pearman said.