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Government ignoring climate change while the planet burns

January 6, 2015 by Kirsten Tona in News with 12 Comments

bushfiresBy 2070, Australia’s average temperature will rise by anything up to five degrees Celsius, our rainfall will be lower and our sea levels will be higher. Why is the Australian Government not more prepared for this?

It is a sometimes uncomfortable paradox of democracy that while governments – elected – come and go, much of the real work of the state is done behind the scenes by unelected bureaucrats and institutions.

But, there are times we have reason to be grateful for that. While the current Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, is on record as saying that the arguments behind climate change are “absolute crap”, Australia’s premier scientific body, the CSIRO, has been quietly beavering away, using proven scientific methodologies to produce realistic models of what climate change may look like in our country.

And the news is: hotter, and drier.

Temperatures will go up, rainfall down. Ocean acidity levels will rise, as will the incidence of certain extreme weather events.

Real figures

Global sea levels rose by about 17 centimetres during the twentieth century, and are projected to keep rising, as are ocean acidity levels. And the recently completed 2014, was the third hottest year on record.

Air and ocean temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950. The Climate Change In Australia website uses 24 of the world’s best models to predict what Australia might look like in 2030, 2050 and 2070. The best projections have average temperatures rising by 1–2.5 degrees within 50 years, if carbon emissions are brought under control, soon. The worst projections say average temperatures in Australia will rise by 5 degrees Celsius within 50 years.

Climate change is real, and here to stay.

Climate Change In Australia is an initiative of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), in partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, through the Australian Climate Change Science Program.

Governments come and go, and party policy is based on a wide range of political factors; strong scientific research being merely one. Or should we say, occasionally one. But the CSIRO and the BOM have to deal with the evidence. And they have to try, current government and party policy notwithstanding, to educate the public about their findings. To this end, they have produced an unfeted, but extremely useful, set of reports, analyses, even posters. But…who has been educated? Have you seen these projections? Where are the news stories?

How much public money was spent on this very important set of projections, and why are the public not being given these posters, being referred to this website? If you are planning where you and/or your children/grandchildren are going to live in the future, wouldn’t you want to see this?

Lima Conference

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has returned from Lima trying to defend her party’s policies on climate change.

Julie Bishop, Peta Credlin

Left: Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. Right: Tony Abbott’s Chief Of Staff, Peta Credlin.

There is some controversy around her attendance at Lima, a precursor to a more important conference being held in Paris, at the end of 2015. Reports say that when Bishop first proposed attending the Lima talks, the “prime minister’s office” rejected her request. (“The prime minister’s office” is often, in journalist-speak, used as code for “Peta Credlin”.)

It is said that Bishop was furious about this, and took it to a full meeting of Cabinet, where her attendance was approved. However, “the prime minister’s office” then insisted she only attend the talks under the tutelage of known climate skeptic, Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

Siamese fighting fish

Now it is being widely reported that Peta Credlin and Julie Bishop have had a massive falling-out. (Although, it must be noted, Bishop herself denies this).

But climate change, the melting of the icecaps, rising sea levels, reduced rainfall and global warming are surely too important to be left in the hands of those who would ignore the science in favour of political grandstanding. Or in the hands of their advisors, who frequently concentrate on the sale of the message rather than the predicament of the people. Or…in the hands of the Murdoch press, who are encouraging the populace to blame the alleged rift between Bishop and Credlin on Tony Abbott, no longer, it seems, news.com.au’s blue-eyed boy.

Newspeak

In 2003, George W. Bush, then President of the USA, was advised by notorious Newspeaker Frank Luntz to emphasise the notion that the science of climate change was unsettled, uncertain. Not because it really was uncertain, but because that was what the public already believed.

In a quite shockingly cynical memo, Luntz told Bush Snr: “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science… Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community.”

He wrote: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”

Realspeak

The CSIRO does not think there is no consensus on the science of climate change. The CSIRO thinks climate change is already happening. So do the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Climate Change Science Program. So too, it seems, does Julie Bishop.

But Peta Credlin doesn’t. And if she doesn’t, Tony Abbott doesn’t. And so, our commitment to emission reduction and other important planks in the platform of preparing for continuing climate change, is left in the hands of people who are unelected, or who seem to care a lot more about being elected, than about actually governing.

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About Kirsten Tona

Kirsten Tona is a writer living on Birra Birra (Sydney Harbour), on the continent currently known as Australia.

View all posts by Kirsten Tona →

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12 Comments

  1. Eddy JokovichJanuary 21, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    The site was operating on the day the post appeared, 6 January 2015. We have no details about why the site cannot be accessed but, if it has been removed, it would be consistent with the Government’s actions and attitudes on climate change issues.

  2. John TruemanJanuary 21, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I am currently living in the States, in Florida, where there are also many who would prefer to ignore the science, mostly the older retirees.
    But I was born in Australia and my daughter, who still lives there, directed me to this article.
    Thank you very much for all this information for you are correct, it is very difficult to find any real figures publicised on the internet about Australia’s future.

    However I have found a problem with your article:
    The website Climate Change In Australia which you say is a joint initiative of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology is no longer accessible. All the hyperlinks simply lead to the following-
    http://sites.securepaynet.net/redirect_0.html
    which seems to mean that the website has been finalized, by which I mean it is not temporarily down for maintenance. It has simply gone.
    Were you aware of this? Do you know how long after publication of this blog it happened? If it was due for maintenance and comes back up, that is one thing, but if it was taken down as a result of getting many hits due to its publicisation here, well that is a horse of a very different color.
    From what I have seen of Australia’s current leadership, thankfully from a distance, they would be more than capable of censoring their scientists this way.

    Is it possible for your journalist to find out what has happened to the site and report back? It is strange timing, to my mind.
    I will keep an eye on your blog. Thank you again for the information. As damning as it is, we do need to know this. I have grandchildren who will grow up in Oz and I worry for their future but as you say, we can’t plan if the facts are being kept hidden from us by a cynical (and, dare I say, stupid) government

  3. Tanya T.January 21, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Not only have I not seen the figures on this Climate Change in Australia website, but the site has disappeared. I know it was still up a week or two ago, because a friend sent me this article, and she had seen the website. She recommended I should look at the poster, but I didn’t get around to it until today and guess what. It’s not there. The whole website is gone.

    That seems really suspicious to me. You are right that there was no general publicity for this ‘Climate Change’ initiative, and we have a climate denialist PM. As soon as an article comes online with links to the website, the whole thing disappears. That is very odd indeed.

  4. Eddy JokovichJanuary 9, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    The reference to the Frank Luntz’s memo can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2003/mar/04/usnews.climatechange

  5. Jasmina BrankovichJanuary 9, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Thank you, Kirsten. I spend many moments wondering about the world in which my six-year old is growing up.

    It’s great to have all this research in one place, for reference.

  6. David HollisJanuary 8, 2015 at 10:48 pm

    You need years of study to work for the CSIRO. To be a politician you only need to know how to lie.

  7. Julien WilsonJanuary 8, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    The predictions on the poster are horrifying. No wonder Abbott and Hockey decided to take an axe to the CSIRO’s funding. This information flies in the face of all the propaganda they are trying to sell to the Australian people, and the rest of the world. It would appear from the attached article below that CSIRO have been encouraged by this federal Government to divert their focus from climate change to the efficiency of the coal, gas, oil and mining industries.

    http://m.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/csiro-closes-sites-and-cuts-research-as-result-of-budget-20140527-392ba.html

  8. Susan ChacroftJanuary 8, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    The CSIRO predicts that the additional results in Australia of a temperature rise of between only 1 and 2 degrees Celsius will be:
    Southward spread of malaria receptive zones.
    Risk of dengue fever among Australians increases from 0.17 million people to 0.75-1.6 million.
    10% increase in diarrhoeal diseases among Aboriginal children in central Australia.
    100% increase in number of people exposed to flooding in Australia.
    Increased influx of refugees from Pacific Islands.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_global_warming_on_Australia

  9. JenniJanuary 8, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    This is an excellent example of the duplicity that is a stain on our parliamentary process. Local council bodies and community groups are being left with the choice to ignore this information or put in place plans for the future at the expense of the locals with no Federal funding and limited State support.

    While a great deal of climate denial from our Federal government is sheer adamant refusal to change their minds it is also a weapon to wield. If they say there is no issue and prepare no ‘real’ future based policy for changes, then they don’t have to fund it.

    At the same time, they KNOW local councils and some state bodies will be forced to put policies and funding into place at the direct expense of ratepayers, etc. Instead of our taxes being used to plan for our future, they are being used to fund big business that has a vested interest in climate denial. We are additionally being forced to pay AGAIN at a local level for something that should be federally funded and administered. Great piece – look forward to reading more of your work.

  10. GraemeJanuary 8, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks for that analysis. ‘Spose we gotta strategise and slogan back. It’s the climate that is unsettled, not the science.

  11. JANE MACJanuary 8, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    Also would you post a link to that memo from Frank Luntz? That’s something else people should see. He is very creepy, I’d never heard him. But he’s been right in there manipulating us. You’re absolutely right about all these unelected people behind the scenes. Ones like the CSIRO scientists I’m okay with, they have to be trained for a long time before they get to where they are. In a real field, that is, science. But these backroom advisors, they set the agenda for a democracy without ever showing their faces. Remember Sarah Hanson-Young outing Morrison’s advisor in Parliament? Sounded like she was seriously asking Australia to find out more about him. Was it Paris Aristotle? How about an article on him?

  12. JANE MACJanuary 8, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    It really is scary, but hiding from the facts is plain stupid. That memo is disgraceful, but typical, from Bush’s advisor, and also the fight between Juile Bishop and “the prime minister’s office” – lol, that means Peta Credlin? I didn’t know that. I’ll read more skepticly now 😉
    That our future is in the hands of these cretins is very depressing. Double Dissolution would have a lot of support, if Labor came out and had a firm and realistic stance on climate change. By ‘realistic’, I don’t mean politically realistic, I mean scientifically realistic. The only way that will happen is if the public begins to understand how serious this matter is. The poster mentioned above is a good start, I would like to put it up in all my classrooms. The kids deserve to know what they are in for.
    By the way, the poster was mentioned in the Facebook post I got this from as well, but I had to search the “Climate Change In Australia” site for it. Could you please hyperlink it in the article? It’s very useful. Here:
    http://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/documents/resources/Climate_change_poster.pdf

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