Alice Springs, Australia residents watch a bush fire blazing near homes, in September 2011. Picture: Chloe Geraghty / The Advertiser

By Oliver Milman   
16 June 2013

(The Guardian) – Floods, bushfires, and this year's scorching summer heatwave have raised awareness of the dangers of climate change, but an "infantile" debate over the validity of the science has cost Australia precious time, according to a key Climate Commission expert.

The commission, an independent body that advises the government on climate science, has updated its 2011 The Critical Decade study to analyse the latest findings on climate change and Australia's response to it.

The report is likely to be the Climate Commission's last major contribution if, as expected, the Coalition wins power at the 14 September election. Opposition leader Tony Abbott has signalled that he will scrap the commission , along with the carbon price, if he becomes prime minister.

The commission's updated analysis states that evidence of a "rapidly changing climate has continued to strengthen over the last two years", including, importantly, the link between climate change and extreme weather events.

"It is clear that the climate system has already shifted, changing conditions for all weather," says the study. "While extreme weather events have always occurred naturally, the global climate system is hotter and wetter than it was 50 years ago. This has loaded the dice toward more frequent and forceful extreme weather events."

In Australia, this has manifested itself in an increase in the duration and frequency of heatwaves, such as this year's .

The country is now also more prone to "extreme fire weather", especially in the densely populated south east, changing rainfall patterns and increased coastal flooding from sea level rises.

The report warns that this climate shift "poses substantial risks for health, property, infrastructure, agriculture and natural ecosystems", with Australia largely "ill-prepared to cope" with frequent extreme weather events.

However, the report states that the last two years has seen an increased understanding of the challenges posed by climate change and also the action, such as leaving the majority of buried Australian coal resources untouched, required to help the world stay below the internationally agreed temperature increase limit of two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

"Extreme weather events tend to focus the mind and change the narrative around climate change," Professor Will Steffen, of the commission, told Guardian Australia.

"The IPCC report that linked extreme weather events to climate change in 2012 was a breakthrough as previously scientists were loathed to link the two. I've certainly noted that when I go up to Queensland, people are fed up cleaning up a once in a 100-year flood and then doing it again next year. People are starting to ask what's going on."

Steffen said that Australia had made progress in its bid to reduce emissions but that vital time has been wasted in the questioning of the validity of climate science.

"I'd love for us to be at the point where Nordic countries are, where the science is accepted in a bipartisan way and the debate is around how to get emissions down," he said.

"I think we've lost valuable time with an infantile debate over the science, which has delayed the inevitable work of getting to the solution. There have been attempts to undermine the science. The science has been attacked and scrutinised and it's stood up." [more]

Climate science debate has cost precious time, expert warns


  1. Anonymous said...

    "infantile" well-describes climate change deniers, anti-science fools and the superstitious.

    These categories are amply populated with a vast majority of Americants who think that a cornucopia of resources still wait to be plundered while they breed like rabbits and await the Crapture.

    They perceive no contradiction in lifestyle or the need for a magical rescue from the mountains of toxic wastes they intend to leave behind.

    Such infantile beliefs are all-too common, preached from the Senate floor and the pulpits of America.

    They're marking their own "time", hoping to hasten their supposed rescue from the Magical Sky God while wasting everybody else's.

    America needs a religious exemption - no candidate is to be permitted into any position of authority or appointment if they accept the superstitions of religion, deny the credibility of science and the scientific method for research, evidence and investigation or fail to serve the whole of the public interest.

    Nor should any candidate meet the minimal qualification of office if they have failed to achieve a minimum score of 85 IQ (see, or have ever exhibited "moral ineptitude", "moral idiocy" or "moral imbecility".

    Such minimal qualifications should be rigorously enforced immediately among America's electorate, with the expected many failures removed from office and their positions left VACANT until the next (s)Election.

    Since this would effectively be the same thing as their current holding office in situ, nobody should really notice any impact with the only exception being that stupidity would suddenly be absent from both the Congress and the Senate and from the many appointed Cabinet positions.

    America might actually get something done. Maybe.

    However, I suspect we'd soon discover (in about 4 hours), that the intelligent criminals of sly persuasion, who have managed to escape detection of "more [sic] ineptitude" would swiftly assume "the position" in the vacuum created, nullify the law (as Congress often does) exempting themselves from the minimum requirements, and assume further "control" of the shipwreck of the American Republic.

    Therefore - it is "infantile" for us to expect much to change, UNLESS we utterly abandon this failed experiment that we have proven we "cannot keep" and start afresh. ~Survival Acres~  


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