1. Our goal is a safe-climate future – we have no right to bargain away species or human lives
- No species has the right to consciously determine what proportion of all other species on earth should become extinct — as the compromise 2 and 3-degree temperature rise targets do. Lacking the collective will to act in a sustainable manner is no excuse.
- Humans have created the looming catastrophe of global warming and we have the capacity and duty to undo the damage and act in a sustainable manner, to cool the earth back to the safe-climate zone.
- Serious climate-change impacts are already happening, both more rapidly and at lower global temperature increases than projected. As the USA's most eminent climate scientist, James Hansen, told 15,000 of his colleagues at a conference in December 2007, significant "climate tipping" points have already been passed (note 1 below). These include large ice sheet disintegration, significant sea level rises of up to 5 metres this century and devastating species loss. The Arctic will soon be free of summer sea-ice and the Greenland ice sheet is in imminent danger.
- Temperature increases of 2 degrees are effectively already in the system, unless we act dramatically to cut emissions towards zero as quickly as humanly possible. Humanity will no longer have the power to reverse the processes we have set in motion if we pass the "point of no return".
- The IPCC reports are dangerously conservative. A temperature cap of 2–2.4°C, as proposed within the United Nations framework, would take the planet’s climate beyond the temperature range of the last million years and into catastrophe.
3. For a safe climate future, we must take action now to stop emissions and to cool the earth
- The tipping points for large ice sheet and species loss were crossed when we exceeded 300-350 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a point passed decades ago.
- It is no longer a case of how much more we can "safely" emit, but whether we can quickly enough stop emissions and produce a cooling before we hit tipping points and positive feedbacks — such as carbon sink failure and permafrost loss — that will take the trajectory of the earth’s climate system beyond any hope of human restoration.
- Hansen notes that we either begin to roll back not only the carbon emissions but also the absolute amount in the atmosphere, or else we're going to get big impacts (note 1).
4. Plan a large-scale transition to a post-carbon economy and society
- We face a multi-factor sustainability crisis and systemic breakdown.
- The obstacles to implementing climate solutions are political and social in character, not technological or economic.
- Speed is of the essence in constructing a post-carbon economy as quickly as humanly possible.
- An imaginative, large-scale programme comparable in scope to the "war economy" or the transformation of the Asian "tiger" economies is required.
5. Recognise a climate and sustainability emergency, because we need to move at a pace far beyond business and politics as usual
- These imperatives are incompatible with the “realities” of “politics as usual” and “business as usual”. Our conventional mode of politics is short-term, adversarial and incremental, fearful of deep, quick change and simply incapable of managing the transition at the necessary speed. The climate crisis will not respond to incremental modification of the business-as-usual model. Climate policy is characterised by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure.
- There is an urgent need to reconceive the issue we face as a sustainability emergency, that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise.
- Even moderate goals (25-40% below 1990 by 2020) now require immoderate rates of change only achievable by shifting to an emergency footing.
- As Ian Dunlop, the former fossil fuel industry executive and CEO of the Institute of Directors writes: "The stark fact is that we face a global sustainability emergency. But it is impossible to design realistic solutions unless we first understand and accept the size of the problem. “Climate Code Red” is a sober, balanced analysis of this challenge, unadorned by political spin, proposing a realistic framework to tackle the emergency. It should be essential reading for all political and corporate leaders, but particularly for the community. If we are to have a reasonable chance of maintaining a habitable planet, placing our efforts on an emergency footing is long overdue. We only play this game once; a trial run is not an option.'
Beck, A. (2007) “Carbon cuts a must to halt warming — US scientists”, Reuters, 13 December 2007, www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN13267425
Borenstein, S. (2007) “Arctic sea ice gone in summer within five years?”, Associated Press, 12 December 2007, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/pf/33860636.html
Inman, M. (2007) “Global warming “tipping points” reached, scientist says”, National Geographic News, 14 December 2007, news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/12/071214-tipping-points.html
Climate Code Red
The book in a nutshell...Climate policy is characterised by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency, that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.
What people are saying...
"Having read this book ...there is no doubt in my mind that this is the greatest problem confronting mankind at this time and that it has reached the level of a state of emergency. ... [E]ducation of the public is critical to ensure that they understand the dimensions of the tasks and the consequences of failure. This book helps in that educative process. Please read it. "
Professor David de Kretser, Governor of Victoria
Download Professor David de Kretser speech launching the book
'Perhaps the two most outstanding books on global warming to have been published lately are The Hot Topic .. and Climate Code Red. Were I a philanthropist, I would purchase several hundred copies of both and send them to our politicians and policy-makers.'
Robert Manne, The Monthly, August 2008
"The stark fact is that we face a global sustainability emergency. But it is impossible to design realistic solutions unless we first understand and accept the size of the problem. Climate Code Red is a sober, balanced analysis of this challenge, unadorned by political spin, proposing a realistic framework to tackle the emergency."
Ian Dunlop, former international oil, gas, and coal industry executive
"Read Climate Code Red. I wish I had read it sooner; it’s high-calibre work, the best I’ve seen, and I agree completely."
Ken Ward, former deputy director, Greenpeace USA
"Climate Code Red applies an uncommon degree of common-sense to the latest climate science, and is a well- researched basis for building a truly meaningful response. It makes it abundantly clear that greenhouse-gas emissions have to stop entirely, and that even this must sit in a larger plan to manage our destabilised earth-atmosphere system."
Tim Helweg-Larsen, Director, Public Interest Research Centre, UK
"David Spratt and Philip Sutton have provided a valuable and sobering contribution to the policy challenge of climate change at a pivotal moment, with their key insight that the expectation of failure has become the norm in climate policy. Climate Code Red is a signifi cant contribution which should be read by anyone seriously contemplating how to set greenhouse emission-reduction targets.’
Senator Christine Milne, Australian Greens Party
"Having been involved with global warming climate change as a researcher in environmental health for 25 years, I can say that this is without question by far the best book to date on this issue — the first book to have the integrity to say how the situation really is."
Dr Peter Carter, Canada
‘Recent greenhouse gas emissions place the Earth perilously close to dramatic climate change that could run out of our control, with great dangers for humans and other creatures. There is already enough carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere for massive ice sheets such as West Antarctica to eventually melt away, and ensure that sea levels will rise metres in coming decades. Climate zones such as the tropics and temperate regions will continue to shift, and the oceans will become more acidic, endangering much marine life. We must begin to move rapidly to the post-fossil fuel clean energy system. Moreover, we must remove some carbon that has collected in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. This is the story that Climate Code Red tells with conviction. It is a compelling case for recognising, as the UN secretary-general has said, that we face a climate emergency.’
James Hansen, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies
‘This is a frightening but clear-eyed, well-informed, and sober consideration of the weight of evidence and argument on the imminent and quite possibly cataclysmic
impacts of climate change. It is a wake-up call and antidote to the sanitised reporting on the state of the planet and global warming. As a social and environmental psychologist reader, this critical overview is impressive, comprehensive, and convincing.’
Dr Joseph Retter, Queensland