Australia must focus on what the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report means for the world’s poor

Campaigns and Advocacy, Climate Change, Media Releases, News article written on the 27 Sep 2013

International aid agency Oxfam Australia is urging the new Federal Government to focus on the implications of the new IPCC report for the world’s poor communities already battling the impacts of climate change.

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases the first instalment of its Fifth Assessment Report, which is based on publicly available scientific research and will cover the physical science of climate change.

Oxfam Australia’s Climate Change Policy Advisor Dr Simon Bradshaw said the report was likely to conclude with even greater confidence than 2007’s Fourth Assessment Report that human activities were overwhelmingly responsible for the increase in global temperatures.

“From low-lying Pacific Islands to drought-prone regions of Africa, many of the communities with which we work are already suffering the devastating consequences of rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns and other climate impacts,” Dr Bradshaw said.

The Fifth Assessment Report will include a dedicated chapter on sea level change. Recent studies have projected a greater rise in sea level this century than previously thought.

Dr Bradshaw said sea level rise, together with extreme weather events and storm surges, was already a major threat to Pacific atoll nations and communities in the Mekong delta, among many other of Australia’s near neighbours.

“Climate change is not a future threat but a real and ever-present danger. Our inaction risks putting prosperity, long-term health and security beyond the reach of millions,” he said.

Recent studies have shown a shift towards more severe and frequent droughts in regions already suffering from food and water shortages. In 2012, 18 million people were affected by a severe food crisis in West Africa caused by factors including drought, a failure of several crops, and sharp rises in food prices.

Dr Bradshaw said the report was also likely to reaffirm that a rapid reduction of greenhouse pollution would help us avert far more severe impacts, reducing suffering and boosting the prospects for the world’s poor and for future generations.

“We must remember that there are no insurmountable technical or economic barriers to resolving the climate crisis,” Dr Bradshaw said. “It’s a question of political will, which needs to now match the public’s demand for action.

“Australia must immediately raise the ambition of its emissions reduction targets, and increase support to vulnerable communities in adapting to climate impacts. We do not expect anything in the final report that could give any grounds for complacency. On the contrary, the need for aggressive action is now stronger than ever.”

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