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The book corner: Humanity's Moment

  • 24 March 2023
Dr Joëlle Gergis, an Australian climate scientist, is one of Australia’s lead authors of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report. She is also author of Humanity’s Moment: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope, published by Black Inc.

Based at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes at the Australian National University, Joëlle is at ease distilling massive scientific reports — which run the risk of being technically complex, if not bewildering — into easy-to-understand language.

In Humanity’s Moment she writes, ‘Understanding how climate is changing all over the world is critical for understanding current and future risks to human societies and ecosystems.’ She also stresses the variability of impacts across the globe.

Whether writing about melting sea ice in the Artic, rising sea levels in the Pacific, or extreme weather events experienced around the globe, the author’s intent is clear. This scientist wants readers to be informed by accurate climate science, so that each of us, as individuals, communities and governments can do something — and together create a much-needed social tipping point for climate action.

Working on the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (the first one was in 1990), collaborating with leading scientists from around the world to understand the latest global assessment of climate change and the disturbing impacts and speed of those changes, Joëlle is well aware why mass climate action is desperately needed.

‘It’s not too late to make a difference in terms of the liveability of the planet,’ says Joëlle, who considers it our ethical obligation to do so. The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report indicated that our chance of adhering to the Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming close to 1.5°C is likely to be exceeded in the early 2030s.

'Climate change isn’t just about figures and numbers on a graph. It’s about the people and the places that we love. It’s really making that connection. It’s a deeply personal thing.'

That message was reiterated in the recent AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023, which made international headlines when it was released on 20 March this year. The report was based on the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, and supported by almost 200 countries. Aimed at governments and policy makers, it contains a dire warning: failure to act now to contain greenhouse gas emissions will lead to irreversible damage.

In an interview some months ago that was part of 100 Climate Conversations, Joëlle said, ‘one