The drift in the progress to a low-carbon world by mid-century is alarming.
US President Joe Biden's climate envoy John Kerry warned in Europe this week that if the present Paris commitments on emissions reductions were delivered by those 195 countries that signed, the world would still experience about 3.7 degrees warming by 2050.
This is well in excess of the "soft" Paris objective of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
The purpose of Kerry's trip is to "work with European allies to strengthen global climate ambition".
They are all now working towards making the next Conference of the Parties (COP26), to be held in Glasgow in November of this year, an urgent and meaningful commitment to accelerate emissions reductions.
More than 110 countries have already accepted the challenge of more urgent action, pledging to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Some are going further by increasing their 2030 commitments - the EU a 55 per cent, and the UK a 68 per cent reduction.
Indeed, it is hoped that through the course of this year we will see healthy competition between at least the major players (the US, UK, EU, and China being the most important) in terms of both emission reduction commitments, and detailed transition strategies.
In this respect, Biden's election is a climate game changer, and Kerry is the person to drive it.
It appears that Kerry is intent on making climate the peak of what has been a most illustrious career in congress, as a presidential candidate, as secretary of state, and now as Biden's climate envoy with cabinet status.
It should be a national embarrassment that against these global efforts, Australia is a clear laggard on climate action.
The 2020 Climate Change Performance Index gave it the lowest rating of the 57 counties ranked. And it ranked 176 out of 177 countries assessed on climate action in the 2020 Sustainable Development Report.
Australia is failing in its international responsibilities, as the highest per capita emitter among developed countries, and ranking as the fifth or sixth-largest emitter when account is taken of its role as the second-largest exporter of fossil fuels, mostly coal and LNG.
Australia's position is even more difficult to understand when it is recognised that it has enviable natural endowments of sun, wind, lithium and graphite, and the technologies to develop and exploit them, both domestically, and as an exporter of renewable energy. We should be leading, not lagging, the world
You might reasonably ask why the Morrison government is being so irresponsible, still playing political games with climate commitments denying the urgency of decisive action, kicking the essential transitions down the road?
Having moved on from holding up lumps of coal in the Parliament, Morrison's latest stunt is being reluctantly dragged towards a formal commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050, which he would then offer as we move towards COP26, while maintaining the modest Paris commitment of a reduction of 26-28 per cent by 2030.
So far Morrison has got to: "Our goal is to reach net-zero emissions as soon as possible, and preferably by 2050."
However, such a 2050 net-zero commitment would be hollow without at least doubling the 2030 commitment, if Australia is to meet the Paris objectives on global warming, and its global responsibilities.
The inadequacy of the present 2030 target is demonstrated in the second report of the Climate Target Panel, of which I am a member along with Will Steffen, Lesley Hughes and Malte Meinshausen.
If the Australian government persists with the existing 2030 target, then the emissions reduction effort beyond 2030 will need to be 10 times compared to the 2020-30 effort.
It must reach net-zero by 2037, if Australia is to pull its weight in the Paris process.
These numbers were generated using the government's data and model.
Australia is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events, a situation that will definitely get worse.
The costs of inaction are becoming alarming, as is the squandering of the significant opportunities that would flow from adopting a globally significant leadership role in terms of growth, new industries, regional development and jobs.
At some point, it is hoped that Morrison and his government will be jolted by these realities.
John Hewson is a professor at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, and a former Liberal opposition leader.