Labor welcomes Minister for Science, Karen Andrews’, meeting today with Australian scientists, including CSIRO and the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre, in response to the bushfire crisis, but calls for real action to result from the meeting.
Minister Andrews’ comments that debating the existence of climate change is a “waste of time” are of concern and Labor urges the Minister to defend Australians scientists who have consistently warned of the effects of climate change on natural disasters.
The Minister should take the opportunity of today’s meeting to do the following:
• Provide funding certainty to the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. Funding is set to expire at the end of June 2021. The Centre is building disaster resilient communities across the country by bringing together all of Australia and New Zealand’s fire and emergency services authorities with leading experts across a range of scientific fields.
• Heed the warning of CSIRO scientists on climate change. As The Australian reported earlier this month, “At a meeting of the Australian Government Disaster and Climate Resilience Reference Group in late 2018, CSIRO senior climate scientist Dr Pep Canadell warned senior mandarins from two dozen government departments and agencies that a warming planet would trigger a rising likelihood of “angry summer” events associated with severe heatwaves, power blackouts and fierce bushfires.
• Confirm she has listened to CSIRO scientists. Minister Andrews has frequently deferred question and used obfuscation to avoid attributing climate change to human activity, such as this interview and this one.
Her go-to response is that she is listening to the scientists, but she must continue to listen while also making a determination on the impact of climate change and develop a plan to deal with the ramifications.
Minister Andrews needs to clarify if she agrees with CSIRO scientists who state unequivocally that “recent warming can only be explained by human influence” (CSIRO, State of the Climate 2018, p.22)
• Review the staffing cap at the CSIRO. The Government’s arbitrary staffing cap has seen jobs cut at the CSIRO, with others placed on insecure contracts and conditions. This will hold back science and innovation, including climate change action and mitigation.
Until the Minister for Science pushes back on the Government’s War on Science, Labor has concerns that today’s meeting may simply be another photo opportunity.