The International Monetary Fund has warned the world’s richest nations to have a greater sense of urgency about climate change, a day after the former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, delivered a bizarre speech to a London-based thinktank claiming climate change was “probably doing good”.
The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook (WEO), released overnight, has dedicated an entire chapter to the impact of weather shocks and climate change on global economic activity.
It warns coping with climate change will be one of the “fundamental challenges” of the 21st century and it calls on the global community to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions before they create “more irreversible damage”, saying richer countries must help low-income economies adapt to rapidly increasing temperatures.
Directly contradicting one of Abbott’s arguments that Australia’s contribution to global emissions has been so small it is not worth restructuring its economy to change its energy use significantly, the IMF says nations with developed economies such as Australia – one of the highest per capita emitters in the world – have a responsibility to act.
“Advanced and emerging market economies have contributed the lion’s share to actual and projected climate change,” the report says. “Helping low-income developing countries cope with the consequences of climate change is both a humanitarian imperative and sound global economic policy that helps offset countries’ failure to fully internalise the costs of greenhouse gas emissions.
“Since the turn of the 20th century, the Earth’s average surface temperature has increased significantly. Sizeable swings in global temperatures used to happen over long periods, such as fluctuations in and out of the Ice Ages. However, the speed at which the climate has changed over the past 30-40 years appears to be unprecedented in the past 20,000 years.
“Climate change is a negative global externality of potentially catastrophic proportions and only collective action and multilateral cooperation can effectively address its causes and consequences.”
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