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Harsh, hot ironies

Each of the past 12 months from June 2023 to May 2024 has set a new global record temperature for the time of year. That period was also the highest on record, at 1.63°C above the 1850–1900 pre-industrial average!

“WMO [World Meteorological Organisation] is sounding the alarm that we will be exceeding the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency. We have already temporarily surpassed this level for individual months – and indeed as averaged over the most recent 12-month period. However, it is important to stress that temporary breaches do not mean that the 1.5 °C goal is permanently lost because this refers to long-term warming over decades,” said WMO Deputy Secretary-General Ko Barrett.

This leaves room for optimism that we can still save humanity, but it also points to the bleak reality that we are way off track to meet the goals set in the Paris Agreement. To get on track will take an enormous commitment by world governments to phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewables as quickly as possible. At present they are in the pocket of the fossil fuel sector.

World emissions of fossil carbon have just reached an historic new peak of 40 billion tonnes a year. Consumption of coal rose by 1.6 per cent while oil demand rose by 2 per cent last year. The Australian government is contributing to these catastrophic trends. Since coming to office in May 2022, it has approved or extended at least nine fossil fuel projects and two carbon capture projects! The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water has approved the operation of 151 coal seam gas wells in Queensland. The licence incredibly allows Senex Energy to operate the project until 2080.

“Even at current levels of global warming, there are already devastating climate impacts that are taking lives and costing billions of dollars. These include more extreme heatwaves, extreme rainfall events and droughts: reductions in ice sheets, sea ice and glaciers, accelerating sea level rise and ocean heating” the WMO said.

“This string of hottest months will be remembered as comparatively cold but if we manage to stabilise the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the very near future we might be able to return to these ‘cold’ temperatures by the end of the century,” said Carlo Buontempo, Director of Copernicus Climate Change Service.

To quote Julian Cribb, “In one of the harshest ironies of the climate madness now unleashed, hundreds of religious pilgrims died visiting the home of the world’s largest oil company, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco. The Indian capital New Delhi has suffered not only heat deaths from baking nights and days about 50 degrees, but also a growing water crisis afflicting its 25 million citizens. Tourists hiking in the height of Greek summer are perishing.”

Cribb has also pointed to signs that the Earth itself is now adding to the carbon explosion (as both CO2 and methane) from melting tundra, dissolving seabed methane, burning rainforests and grasslands, and the ocean approaching the limits of its ability to remove carbon from the air.

“Already there are clear warnings of increased unreliability in the global food supply, which began during the COVID pandemic. The number of humans facing extreme hunger has more than doubled. … Refugee numbers have tripled from 40 to 120 million in barely a decade. The risk of simultaneous harvest failures in two or more of the world’s food bowls is escalating.”

If we are to have a future we must build an alliance of green and progressive forces, including trade unions, peace activists, and environmentalists to halt the dangerous lunacy of the major parties. Political donations from fossil fuel companies should be banned, and the system made completely transparent.

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