The long-awaited, much-anticipated Final Report of the Garnaut Climate Change Review has now been released. As per its website, the review was set up to: “…examine the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy, and recommend medium to long-term policies and policy frameworks to improve the prospects for sustainable prosperity.” It is an independent study by Professor Ross Garnaut, which was commissioned by Australia’s Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments.
A draft report was released in June, and engendered much discussion in the media, as well as a vocal response from scientists. Here is what I had to say on it at the time:
The Garnaut Draft Review is an extensive document and very much a work in progress. But the key fundamentals are already there. It rightly points out that the scientific evidence for climate change, on which hard economic decisions must ultimately hinge, is already flashing some extremely worrying warning signals: carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change are tracking at or above the top end of predictions made a decade ago, tipping elements such as the Arctic sea ice and polewards expansion of the tropical weather systems are being crossed decades ahead of schedule, and because of amplifying carbon-cycle feedbacks, were are now close to the time at which this ‘diabolical problem’ runs away from us, and which point neither mitigation nor adaptation will be sufficient for us to cope.
Our great natural assets – the Great Barrier Reef, the wetlands of Kakadu, the enormously productive agricultural basin of the Murray-Darling system – will be severely degraded or all but eliminated within the lifetimes of current generations. As Garnaut said, we should have moved on this issue years or decades earlier, when potential impacts were already reasonable well understood and yet greater uncertainty about the extent of the problem existed, compared to today.
By explicitly recognising these harsh realities, the Garnaut Report positions the economic and social arguments within the right frame of reference – one in which urgent action is required, and where forward-looking domestic action from the developed world, especially nations that are exquisitely sensitive to climate change impacts, must be the trigger for international multilateral agreements – which are ultimately the only way to solve the problem, and at the same time spawn the energy revolution of the new century – renewables, not fossil carbon.