Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Climate Change

10:46 pm

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In last night's adjournment debate, I was speaking about the Climate Commission's recent report on extreme weather in Australia. Tonight I thought I might look at some of the international experience in relation to the issue of climate change. Late last year, the World Bank released a report entitled Turn down the heat: why a 4ºwarmer world must be avoided. The World Bank is not an organisation renowned for melodrama; instead, it has a reputation for conservative, sober analysis. It is remarkable, then, that World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim opens the report with these words:

It is my hope that this report shocks us into action. Even for those of us already committed to fighting climate change, I hope it causes us to work with much more urgency.

Many of the findings of this report are shocking and reflect the national findings of the Climate Commission on a global scale. For instance, the five hottest summers in Europe since 1500 all occurred after 2002. In 2010, Russia experienced its own week-long heatwave. In July 2010, Moscow temperatures reached 38.2degrees centigrade at its principal weather station. The daily maximum in that month is usually 24.1 degrees. According to the World Bank, the Russian heatwave of 2010 cost 55,000 lives and resulted in estimated economic losses of some US$15 billion. The 2012 drought in the United States of America reportedly affected 80 per cent of that country's agricultural land. As this report by the World Bank states, it is 'unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming'. A recent study concluded that more than 97 per cent of all peer reviewed scientific literature endorsed this position.

Photo of Bob CarrBob Carr (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

What percentage?

Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That was 97 per cent, Senator Carr, and I know you have a genuine—

Senator Bob Carr interjecting

Yes, and I know you have a real interest in this. You may not be aware that I have said before in this chamber that the earth's climate has changed in the past but that the current rate of warming is unprecedented in human history. The principal reason for the warming climate is greenhouse gas emissions. The most significant of these is carbon dioxide. There is now more carbon dioxide in the air than there has been at any other point in the last 800,000 years. What were previously considered extreme weather events are now occurring with such regularity that it points towards a long-term trend in global climate. These events can no longer be written off as outliers, anomalies or accidents born of extraordinary circumstances. We should instead consider them signs of something more serious.

We must continue to make the argument that our planet is warming and we must act. We must continue to support the work of our leading climatologists, scientific academics and academies because we know that complex problems require expert advice. We must do so, aware that denialists rely on a kind of feckless relativism that equates all opinion in this area—sees it as all equally valid. That is the sort of postmodernist drivel that equates Madonna with Mozart or Danielle Steel with Shakespeare. It is a cynical politics that relies on a sneering anti-intellectualism that is ultimately anti-science and anti-enlightenment. I say that we must combat this with calm reasoned argument that restores people's belief that action is not only possible but effective and, indeed, essential—essential to creating the next economy and essential to ensuring our nation's future prosperity.