In the medical environment, the response called to a medical emergency is known as a CODE BLUE.
A code blue is an immediate and intensive interrupter to business as usual. It requires a complete reframe of priorities and activities. EVERYTHING is at stake.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has reported the entire continent Australia received less than 50mm of rain during November. Add this to the 3-year drought that has impacted much of the country and we now have a situation that may present a real and present danger to our society.
The bush has become an environmental tinderbox now overripe to burn out… often in sweeping firestorms and the brand new term that has needed to be introduced: mega-blazes.
Since November, 4 people have died and 680 homes have been destroyed in Australia as a direct result of bushfires.
As I write this, today in New South Wales alone 90 fires are burning with 40 of them uncontained. More fires continue to burn in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland states. It is only early December.
Outside of the bushlands, our agricultural environments, our chains of food production (the source of Australias largest export income) are beginning to falter as lack of rain and falling water supplies bite hard.
Australia’s chief commodity forecaster has recently highlighted the impact of this drought on our agricultural sector with wheat production forecast to fall by nearly 20% for the year through June 2020 (an 11-year low).
And the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences has flagged that production is down nearly 18% from the last estimate in September [ Source: Reuters News].
And as if this is not enough you can add to the mix a forecast for extreme temperatures across the country this summer (accompanied by possible power blackouts in some areas) which will in all likelihood place large numbers of the population (particularly the very young, the very old and those with existing illnesses) at high risk of heat-related medical emergencies.
The Bigger Picture:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing and promoting evidence-based science related to climate change.
It has repeatedly underscored the absolute need to keep planetary warming below 1.5 degrees Celcius. Global temperatures have already risen by 1 degree since we began burning coal during the industrial revolution.
Despite the hard evidence and dire predictions of ignoring their warnings most first-world economies have failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to meet IPCC targets, and in most cases have actually increased them.
According to the UN World Meteorological Organisation, we will now (unless drastic actions are taken) see the world warm by 3-5 degrees C by the end of this century.
A 3-5 degree increase in temperatures will deliver a world to your children where many currently populated areas are uninhabitable for parts of the year. Think regular temperatures of 40 to 50 degrees Celcius.
Seas will rise. Extreme weather events will become normal. Food sources will fail. Water sources will disappear. There will be mass migrations (think 140 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America displaced due to climate impacts by 2050. And this is considered a conservative estimate).
There will be conflict.
In order to keep warming below 1.5 C global emissions will need to be cut in half within the next 11 years.
AND we will need get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 (in every major economy).
AND it will require removing (drawing down) existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere either by slightly sketchy, new carbon capture technologies or by planting billions of trees and other vegetation.
This is mind-blowingly huge. Which is why most governments are unable to get their heads around it let alone undertake the lifechanging and sometimes unpopular actions that are required (think 85-90% of existing carbon reserves needing to stay in the ground). And at the moment it seems unlikely. To change this unlikelihood will require a world interrupting global response. Despite increasing awareness and a growing voice of alarm, there is currently no evidence of such a response.
The IPCC warns that what is required is not tinkering around with power-saving light globes buying ‘green-friendly products, maybe participating in a rally and then sitting back thinking we are doing our bit and the worlds governments will sort it out. We are already way beyond that. We are now in uncharted waters that will require:
Rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”IPCC
Think about it. This is an emergency. The code has been called.
Like it or not, you are on the team.