Sydney Law School public lecture looks at climate change

Effective global action on climate change is not only cost effective, but essential as the risks of extreme weather disasters increase with a warming world, a leading IPCC climate scientist argued at a University of Sydney public lecture recently.

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Professor Christopher Field from the Carnegie Institution for Science delivered his verdict on global efforts to reduce climate disasters as part of his Sydney Law School Distinguished Speakers lecture, Climate Change: Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters, on Dec. 5.

“It is really pretty simple. Effective investments in adaptation can help build resilient societies with vibrant economies and healthy environments at the same time that they decrease risks of loss from climate change,” said Professor Field.

Professor Field co-chairs the group of scientists preparing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report on climate-change effects, due for publication in March 2014. The IPCC Assessment Report is widely considered a key measure on global climate change developments, and forms a large basis for international scale efforts to curb climate change.

In his assessment on how countries, cities, firms, and individuals should protect themselves against future extreme weather disasters, Professor Field will point to the latest IPCC Report and explain the key challenge of climate change as “one of managing risks.”

“Mitigating to reduce the risks and adapting to the risks cannot be avoided; both provide many attractive, low-regrets opportunities with multiple benefits,” he said. “Effective action on climate change can be cost effective, especially if it is started early and undertaken worldwide.”

His lecture comes as governments around the world continued to disagree over how best to tackle emission reductions targets at last month’s United Nations climate change negotiations in Warsaw.

“The scientific evidence is clear. Unfortunately, much of the political dialogue has been sidetracked into dealing with irrelevant critiques,” he said.

In addition to being at continuing or growing risk of severe droughts, heatwaves, wildfires and flooding, Australia faces particular biological threats to the Great Barrier Reef from warming and ocean acidification, as well as rising sea levels and severe storms on our coastlines, according to Professor Field.

Despite being at the forefront of some climate change adaptation measures, including the Murray-Darling Basin planning to address water sustainability, Australia lags behind in other areas, as reflected in the country’s recent drop in the Climate Change Performance Index.

“There are serious gaps in adaptation. These gaps can be a consequence of incomplete information, distorted decision-making, or skewed development,” he said.

“All countries have important opportunities to step up their leadership on the climate change issue.”

Professor of Climate and Environmental Law at the Sydney Law School, Rosemary Lyster, who is also Director of the university’s Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, chaired the event.

The Sydney Law School is a market leader in postgraduate legal education in Australia. In addition to their ever-popular Juris Doctor (JD) program, the law school also offers 22 specialist qualifications in law, including environmental law.


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