Australia's leading climate scientists have written to the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, urging him to adopt an emission reduction target for Australia of 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

This target would be a minimum requirement for Australia's contribution to an effective global climate agreement that would aim to limit atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to an equivalent concentration of no more than 450 parts per million.

"Failure of the world to act now will leave Australians with a legacy of economic, environmental, social and health costs that will dwarf the scale of national investment required to address this fundamental problem," says the letter signed by leading researchers from the nation's top university and research institutions. "There is no time to lose."

The target is consistent with the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, compiled by hundreds of climate scientists. The report concluded that Earth's climate is warming rapidly and that we are now at least 90 percent certain that this is mainly due to human activities.

To avoid catastrophic effects on climate, water supplies, food security, habitat loss and species extinctions, the IPCC report concluded that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by at least half below their 1990 levels by the year 2050. To limit average global temperature rises to below 2°C, global emissions must peak and decline before 2015, the report said.

The government is due to receive the Garnaut Climate Change Review on September 30. In December, the Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, will join her counterparts in Poland to discuss national and international emission targets in the run-up to negotiating the successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

The letter's signatories have played important roles in past IPCC reports, as either lead or contributing authors, or section reviewers. All the current Australian Research Council Federation Fellows in climate science and the directors of key university climate change research centres are included on the signature list, including Professor Matthew England and Professor Andy Pitman, the joint directors of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre. It also includes the two Australian climate scientists to have occupied the most senior roles in the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), namely Dr John Church, Immediate past Chair of the Joint Scientific Committee of the WCRP and Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, Immediate Past Executive Director, WCRP.

For more on this story visit the Faculty of Science News

Read the full letter to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Media Contact: Dan Gaffney | 0411 156 015 |

The Business of Climate Change - watch the video