A group of more than 200 leading Australians, including leading scientists and academics, business and community leaders, former politicians and rockstars have issued an urgent call to action on major threats to humanity’s future, including global warming.
The open letter has been facilitated by the Commission for the Human Future, which is chaired by former Liberal Party leader John Hewson and has brought together experts from a diverse range of disciplines to address challenges facing global society.
The letter calls on governments to work across political divides to develop “a concrete plan for surviving and thriving the mounting dangers that beset humanity.”
The open letter says that the Covid-19 pandemic can be considered a dress rehearsal for addressing major threats like climate change and that governments must act to ensure they are not caught unprepared for a challenge they have been warned about for several decades.
“The coronavirus crisis, with its economic and social impacts, can be seen as a dress rehearsal for what awaits us. Unless we take unified preventative action urgently, we will continue to be caught napping by ten catastrophic threats, including destructive changes in climate, serious shortages of water and other critical resources, pervasive pollution, the growing danger of nuclear war and the mass extinction of species,” the letter says.
“The world, its governments, corporations and people, are unprepared for these risks because we have constantly ignored, in some cases for decades, well-substantiated warnings about them from science. As a result, as surely as the coronavirus followed last summer’s bushfires, we face crisis piling upon unanticipated crisis at an ever-increasing rate.”
Signatories to the open letter include former Governor-General Quentin Bryce, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, former top federal public servant Martin Parkinson and rockstar Jimmy Barnes.
Signatories also include a number of former state premiers, including Bob Carr, Steve Bracks, Geoff Gallop, Carmen Lawrence, and Jay Weatherill.
It also includes a range of academics and subject matter experts, including journalist Stan Grant, entertainer Rhonda Burchmore, academics Marcia Langton, Peter Doherty, Tim Costello and cartoonist First Dog on the Moon.
“Several catastrophic events this year should have given all of us pause for thought. Most of us have surely found ourselves wondering how different things might have been had we taken more interest in what we have been doing to this planet; had our politics been guided by evidence and reason, not prejudice, class warfare and ideology. Now is a good time to be saying ‘enough is enough’,” letter signatory, and former secretary of Treasurer Ken Henry said.
The Commission for the Human Future has previously released an assessment of the risks posed to the long term future of humanity, which listed climate change as one of the greatest existential threats to society.
“The list is long and deadly: climate change, nuclear war, water and food shortages and of course pandemics,” Professor Hewson said. “We are calling on all Australians everywhere to join our call for action. Because we need to act and we need to act now.”
“The coronavirus is a dress rehearsal for what awaits us if governments continue to ignore science, the physical world and the demands of several catastrophic threats such as climate change.”
Letter co-signatory and the first ANU Fellow for the Human Future, Dr Arnagretta Hunter added that things could not operate as business-as-usual once the present challenge of Covid-19 is addressed and that we must use the current period as an opportunity to re-shape society.
“Otherwise we will face catastrophic challenges that we won’t be able to survive,” Dr Hunter said.
“Once the coronavirus pandemic passes, we cannot go back to the way things were. We must act. We must all come together – citizens, governments, industry – and work on solutions to the global challenges we face, which all have the very real threat of wiping out life as we know it.”
The letter is open for additional signatures on the website of the Commission for the Human Future.