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Climate-change report warns of disaster, says Australian co-author

The final version of the fifth assessment report by Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released on Wednesday, covering climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation. It warns of potentially severe and irreversible damage if global temperatures rise by 4 degrees Celsius or more.

Potential dangers include substantial species extinction, big risks to global food security and the curtailment of normal human activities, such as growing food or working outdoors in some areas for parts of the year.

Victoria University’s Professor Roger Jones was a coordinating lead author for Chapter 2, Foundations for Decision Making, and a lead author on the Technical Summary and Summary for Policy Makers.

“In our chapter, we wanted to address the need for people to understand climate risks within their own decision-making context,” Professor Jones says. “This means dealing with simple to complex decisions that need to account for constantly changing circumstances over long time-frames.

“The core topic was ‘What makes a good decision?’ This involves looking at psychology, ethics, risk management, economics and organisational behaviour. Particularly important is the involvement of key stakeholders – all those who influence or are influenced by a decision. Australia is a world leader in that regard.”

This is the first time the complete report has become available. Its draft, released in March, warned that climate change was set to damage Australia’s coral reefs and mountain-top eco-systems, trigger more extreme events such as floods, storms, droughts, heatwaves and bush-fires, and cause rising sea levels with immense consequences for the nation’s coastal towns and cities. 

The Working Group II Fifth Assessment Report is the largest scientific assessment the world has ever seen. “This is the most transparent assessment so far undertaken,” Professor Jones said. “Our chapter attracted over 1,800 review comments, all of which had to be addressed individually.” These comments and responses are part of the public release.

The Working Group II Report Summary focused on impacts and adaptation at 2 and 4 degrees warming. “A four-degree future would be exceedingly unpleasant,” Professor Jones said, “but even two degrees would see the limits of adaptation neared or exceeded for some of our most sensitive systems, such as the Great Barrier Reef.

“Some people are saying that there is a choice between climate policy and development as an either/or proposition, but this report shows that good climate policy is good development.”

The Synthesis Report from all three working groups, covering the science, impacts and adaptation and mitigation, will be released on 2 November following the final plenary in Copenhagen.

Download the full IPCC Working Group II report.

Available for interview:

Professor Roger Jones
Professorial Research Fellow
Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies
Phone: +61 3 9919 1992
Mobile: +61 434 543 425
Email: roger.jones@vu.edu.au.

Media contact:

Michael Quin, Senior Media Advisor (acting)
Marketing & Advancement, Victoria University
Phone: +61 3 9919 9491
Mobile: +61 431 815 409
Email: media@vu.edu.au

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