1.6 billion reasons the game just changed

The positions of the US and China have been used as an alibi for inaction on climate change in Australia and elsewhere. That argument has just been turned on its head.

China joined the United States in announcing significant action on climate change this week, delivering a game-changing moment in the fight to stop global warming.

The two superpowers are collectively home to over 1.6 billion people, just under a quarter of the world’s population. There is little doubt we will look back on this week as a game-changer.

Due to their size and influence, the positions of the United States and China have been used as an alibi for inaction. That argument just turned on its head.

China and the US set the agenda for the world, and that agenda is strong action to limit climate change, starting now. Countries that don’t act are going to be outliers, and risk becoming increasingly isolated and disadvantaged as the world moves on.

The announcements by the superpowers come as Australia heads into an expected mild winter, following an abnormally warm autumn and another angry summer.

It is clear that climate change is already making extreme weather worse, and the actions announced by the United States and China show these major players are taking the issue seriously.

Results of a Lowy Institute poll, released today, add to the sense of momentum. They show the majority of Australians are in favour of action on climate change and there is increasing public concern about the issue.

Expect to see things escalate from here on in.

Amanda McKenzie is chief executive of the Climate Council, an independent community-funded non-profit organisation with the mission to provide authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change.