House of Representatives Speech- Climate Scientists Australia

Many members and senators would be aware that today eight world-leading scientists from Climate Scientists Australia visited Parliament House. Those scientists are all leaders in their respective fields: Professor Dave Griggs and Professor Neville Nicholls from Monash University, Professor Nathan Bindoff from the University of Tasmania, Professor Matthew England and Professor Andy Pitman of the University of New South Wales, Professor Lesley Hughes of Macquarie University, Professor Roger Jones of Victoria University and Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University.

Many members and senators would be aware that today eight world-leading scientists from Climate Scientists Australia visited Parliament House. Those scientists are all leaders in their respective fields: Professor Dave Griggs and Professor Neville Nicholls from Monash University, Professor Nathan Bindoff from the University of Tasmania, Professor Matthew England and Professor Andy Pitman of the University of New South Wales, Professor Lesley Hughes of Macquarie University, Professor Roger Jones of Victoria University and Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University.

This was a bipartisan event. The scientists were jointly invited to parliament by the member for Moore, who is the Deputy Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, and by me. The scientists spoke to more than 40 government and opposition members and senators at a very interesting lunchtime briefing, which included short presentations by Professors Bindoff, Nicholls and Hughes and many very challenging questions from those present. The scientists also held individual meetings with some 15 members and senators this morning.

The scientists from the Climate Scientists Australia group did not come to Canberra to talk about policy specifics or comment on competing party positions. That is not their agenda; their aim is to provide the best quality science information to Australian decision makers, including those of us here in the Commonwealth parliament. They describe their role as being ‘an independent group of senior scientists who hope to improve decisions on climate related issues in Australia by encouraging better use of the science’.

How we meet the problem posed by dangerous climate change is a question for the Australian parliament and for other decision makers. But the message from scientists around the world is clear: urgent action is needed. The science is clear and it is compelling. The evidence puts entirely beyond doubt the effects of climate change and the fact that those effects are real and are occurring now. The effects of climate change will be to increase the severity and frequency of many natural disasters including bushfires, cyclones, hail storms and floods, to place increasing pressure on or urban water supplies and to cause major declines in agricultural production. By the end of the century, the Great Barrier Reef will face catastrophic destruction and there will be severe health impacts felt across the population as a result of climate change.

Australia is one of the countries with the most to lose from climate change. Everybody knows that we are one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, yet, on a per capita basis, we are among the largest carbon emitters in the world. This is not some theoretical problem. It is predicted that there will be a 92 per cent decline in irrigated agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin by the end of this century if there is no mitigation of climate change. Australia’s environment and economy will be one of the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now.

We heard today from the climate scientists about the catastrophic impact climate change will have on the Great Barrier Reef, with the potential bleaching and the eventual loss of this natural wonder at an estimated cost to the economy of $37 billion. We heard that some climate change is already inevitable. We not only need to mitigate but we also need to adapt to that inevitable change in climate and warmer temperatures.

Climate Scientists Australia is supported by another organisation, ClimateWorks Australia, of which I am a director. ClimateWorks Australia is a philanthropic organisation which was launched in September by the Deputy Prime Minister in Melbourne and is a partnership between Monash University and the Myer Foundation. ClimateWorks Australia aims to provide practical solutions dedicated to a sustainable and prosperous low-carbon economy, and I am very pleased that ClimateWorks Australia was able to bring this group of eminent climate scientists to Parliament House today.

As we prepare to debate the government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation and as the government prepares to represent Australia’s interests at the Copenhagen conference in December, it is vital that, as far as possible, we use the best available scientific information. We need to move away from the continual ill-informed questioning of the science and false and confrontational representations of the debate as between those for and those against. We need to close the gap between the available scientific knowledge and the debates in this parliament. The visit of the climate scientists has helped to close that gap. The best quality science information is always to be welcomed.