As a climate scientist watching the most destructive bushfires in Australian history unfold, I felt the same stomach-turning recognition of witnessing an irreversible loss. The relentless heat and drought experienced during our nation’s hottest and driest year on record saw the last of our native forests go up in smoke. We saw terrified animals fleeing with their fur on fire, their bodies turned to ash. Those that survived faced starvation among the charred remains of their obliterated habitats. During Australia’s Black Summer, more than 3 billion animals were incinerated or displaced, our beloved bushland burnt to the ground. Our collective places of recharge and contemplation changed in ways that we can barely comprehend. The koala, Australia’s most emblematic species, now faces extinction in New South Wales by as early as 2050. As one of the dozen or so Australian lead authors involved in consolidating the physical science basis for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report, I’ve gained terrifying insight into the true state of the climate crisis and what lies ahead. There is so much heat already baked into the climate system that a certain level of destruction is now inevitable. What concerns me is that we may have already pushed the planetary system past the point of no return. That we’ve unleashed a cascade of irreversible changes that have built such momentum that we can only watch as it unfolds.
Guardian 15th Oct 2020 read more »