The Guardian • Issue #2047



The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has put together six years worth of work by 700 scientists. Thousands of scientific studies were used to make the report. Australia and 194 other countries have signed off on it. The “synthesis report” doesn’t split hairs. Earth is well on the way to 3.2 degrees warming by 2100. For anyone thinking that 2100 is a long way away, the report also makes it clear that right now, we are highly likely to go over 1.5 degrees of warming within the next ten years. 1.5 is where the line between “uncomfortable” and “catastrophic” is drawn.

Going over 1.5 could mean “once in a century” events like the bushfires that made air in Australian cities almost unbreathable just three years ago happen on an annual basis. Other consequences would include mass migrations on a scale never before seen as millions of people try to go somewhere habitable.

There is hope. It’s possible to keep the temperature rise under 1.5 degrees.

By now, alert readers will wonder why this information is appearing under the title of “Peace Notes,” and not “Green Notes.” Has there been a mix up? No there hasn’t. Here’s why.

The IPCC synthesis report is really serious stuff. It requires all developed countries to stop funding coal, and stop using the stuff to generate power by 2030. Developed countries need to get their electricity generation to net zero by 2035. That’s going to cost a lot of money. Here’s where the Peace Notes headline is justified.

Something else that costs a lot of money is military spending. That’s $43 billion a year at last count.  Another thing that costs more money than Australia has ever sent overseas in one go, is AUKUS.  The starting price of $368 billion, has been called “the biggest transfer of wealth from Australia to another country in its history”.

You may have already thought about what we could do with $368 billion. We could certainly spend a quarter of the amount having low cost reliable power from a grid with zero carbon emissions. Modelling from the Australian National University has shown that spending $100 billion to make a national electricity market based on renewables would take 80 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions out of our economy. That’s a lot less money than our government spends subsidising fossil fuel production ($11.6 billion a year), but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to AUKUS.

Of course “compared to AUKUS” is the tough part, because most Australian media, with a few honourable exceptions, doesn’t compare the spending we have to do to make our planet livable to spending on war. The two issues just aren’t in the same box for a lot of commentators who see themselves as mature and serious while they argue for spending more on making war more likely than we have ever spent on trying to stop catastrophic climate change.

So did the Guardian get its Peace and Green Notes columns mixed up? No we did not. The money the Albanese government is spending on war is money that can’t be spent making Australia a safe place to live in. If you join the CPA in the Peace Budget campaign, if you email politicians about AUKUS, if you attend anti-AUKUS actions, you’re not just doing it because you find war unpleasant. You could be opposing AUKUS because you remember the 2019-2020 bushfires, and you don’t want that to be an annual event.

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