08 February 2021

Matters of fact that we ignore at our peril

by David Spratt

“Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless.”  

That statement, by Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, was the starting point for a presentation I gave on Tuesday 2 February at the "Matters of Fact" public forum organised by the National Climate Emergency Summit as part of its Reset.21 series of public discussions.

On the panel were Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Adviser for the United Kingdom and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist from the University of NSW. The moderator was journalist and university teacher Jo Chandler.

The video of the event is available on YouTube...  


After many requests for copies of the presentation slides, I though the easiest thing was to made them available here. The presentation was based on our report Climate Reality Check 2020, and greater detail and the full set of references is available at climaterealitycheck.net.

The opening slides focus on how our analysis must:

  • be based on the physical evidence in all its forms, something most climate advocacy organisations do not do, preferring to fall into the patterns of reticence exhibited by the IPPC reports. 
  • give emphasis to the high-end risks, because climate disruption is now an existential threat to modern human society, and in such circumstances we cannot "learn from our mistakes" and do better next time.

The example given of the failure to assess such risks is the re-development of an old inner-city industrial area in my city of residence, Melbourne, and the threat of sea-level rises this century, but such cases abound everywhere.

The second last slide also relates to my home State of Victoria. During a second, 12-week period of Covid-19 lockdown in the second half of 2020, which did result in stopping all community transmission, the State Premier, Dan Andrews, gave a media conference every day for more than 100 days, making himself available until journalists had exhausted all questions.   It was an example of changing public understanding by political leadership. 

I could not help but wonder what change would be possible on climate if a similar levels of political commitment and leadership were exhibited by our elected leaders.

Here are the slides...