While Australians were thoroughly distracted by Gladys’s Opera House racing debacle, news that last Saturday in Incheon, Republic of Korea, the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC was approved by the IPCC faded into the background.
‘The IP what?’ you say. That’s exactly the way the Australian government likes it.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks; and to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.
In response to the report, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) is renewing its call for a rapid phase-out of logging of public native forests. They say this will allow the forests to take up the ever-increasing volumes of atmospheric carbon as they recover from past logging.
The IPCC report identifies that human emissions have already increased global temperatures by one degree, and that at current rates temperature rises are set to reach 1.5 degrees by as early as 2030. To limit global warming to 1.5 degrees the IPCC has said that net carbon emissions must be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 and reduced to zero by 2050.
NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh says that forests are the lungs of the earth. ‘They take in our carbon dioxide, storing the carbon and giving us back oxygen; left standing they are part of the solution to climate change.
‘The reality is that logging has run down the carbon storage in vast tracts of NSW’s forest by 40–60 per cent. As logging intensity increases the carbon stored in the trees and soil, along with the forest’s structure and biodiversity, is further diminished.
‘It has been estimated that globally wooded areas soak up a third of the fossil fuels released into the atmosphere each year. If we were to stop deforestation tomorrow the world’s established and regrowing forests would remove half of fossil-fuel emissions.’
Pugh says that stopping logging of public native forests will allow the recovering forests to take up and store huge volumes of atmospheric carbon as they age.
‘This will help buy us time while we reduce emissions from other sectors.’
Logging is not the only factor highlighted by the IPCC, who have also pointed out the need to stop using coal and fossil fuels.
Our government’s persistent romance with the coal and unconventional-gas industries is both obscene and lacking any future vision. Between Adani, Shenhua in Breeza and The Narrabri Project in the Pilliga, we are facing a not-so-slow walk into the gloom.
‘We are facing a climate emergency,’ says Pugh. ‘To address the climate chaos we need to quickly move to obtaining our energy from non-polluting sources, while restoring the ability of our forests to takeup and store increasing volumes of carbon.’