Quality science, not alarmist hyperbole, must inform debate
SERIOUS climate change debate is not the place for alarmist hyperbole and sophistry. Australians need to come to grips with the issue through quality science and rational argument, which is why a new CSIRO/Bureau of Meteorology analysis is welcome. While more than 90 per cent certain that greenhouse emissions have caused most of the global warming observed since 1950, the report's balanced approach enhances its credibility.
Temperatures in Australia, it notes, have increased by about 0.7C since the 1960s, with some areas experiencing warming of 1.5C to 2C. Sea levels are rising between 1.5cm and 3cm per decade in the south and east, and between 7cm and 9cm in the north, it says - a trend far short of the deluges predicted by some. Greenhouse gases are blamed for half the fall-off in winter rainfall in southwest Western Australia, while heavy increases in rainfall in northern and central Australia and decreases across the south and the east are also noted.
For years, The Australian has promoted intelligent discussion on climate, recently providing a platform to commentators as diverse as climate change father James Hansen and economist Bjorn Lomborg, who accepts the theory of climate change but argues that cutting carbon would be more costly than living with the problem.
The Australian, like the CSIRO, has also long accepted the probability of anthropogenic climate change. And while supporting an Emissions Trading Scheme, to be undertaken in tandem with action by the rest of the world to reduce carbon, it would be senseless to jeopardise the nation's prosperity by moving ahead of our competitors. Australia produces only 1.5 per cent of the world's greenhouse emissions, a contribution that will fall to 1 per cent by 2030 as economic growth in China and India accelerates. Aside from heavy job losses and economic meltdown, there would be much to lose environmentally if Australia scaled back coal mining, minerals processing and heavy industry. Undoubtedly, the shortfall would be made up immediately by nations with less rigorous environmental standards.
CSIRO executive director Dr Megan Clark correctly points out the value of scientific observation and hard data, the hallmarks of the new report, which is based on some of the most accurate meteorology records in the world. The report is a useful resource to inform sensible debate.