Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Can Australia Meet the Paris Climate Challenge?

By Graeme Pearman

We need to accelerate our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Meeting the Paris goal of limiting global warming to 2°C or less will require a massive reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and a much steeper emission reductions trajectory than is commonly assumed.

Much of Australia’s fossil fuel resources – coal, oil and gas – will need to remain safely sequestered in the ground. Energy will become more expensive. Society will adapt by rapidly expanding renewables and becoming more energy efficient.

Opinion on the causes and importance of climate change remains divisive across society. Nevertheless, the scientific evidence is robust. Scientific understanding of the drivers of the climate system has steadily advanced since the 1992 adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The most recent IPCC report in 2013 concluded: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”.

The 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP-21) in Paris in December 2015 was the most recent of a series of international meetings attempting to reach agreement on policies to limit the impact of human activities on climate change. Both of the world’s largest emitters, the US and China, agreed to a course of action.

The main outcomes from the Paris Agreement were:

  • the establishment of a clear...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.