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Canberra fiddles while Australia burns

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the effects of climate change are having a devastating impact on present and future Australia, Kirsten Tona reports that the Abbott Government continues to ignore the evidence.

By 2070, Australia’s average temperature will rise by anything up to five degrees Celsius, our rainfall will be significantly lower and our sea levels higher. This data comes from the CSIRO, not from the-sky-is-falling conspiracy theorists, so … why is the Australian Government not preparing?

It is a sometimes uncomfortable paradox of democracy that while governments – elected – come and go, much of the real work of the state is done behind the scenes by unelected bureaucrats and institutions.

But, there are times we have reason to be grateful for that.

While the current Prime Minister of Australia is on record as saying that the arguments behind climate change are “absolute crap”, Australia’s premier scientific body, the CSIRO, has been quietly beavering away, using proven scientific methodologies to produce realistic models of what climate change may look like in our country.

And the news is: hotter, and drier.

Temperatures will go up, rainfall down. Ocean acidity levels will rise, as will the incidence of certain extreme weather events.


Global sea levels rose by about 17 cm during the 20th century, and are projected to keep rising, as are ocean acidity levels.

Air and ocean temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950. The Climate Change In Australia website use 24 of the world’s best models to predict what Australia might look like in 2030, 2050 and 2070.

The best projections have average temperatures rising by 1-2.5° within 50 years, if carbon emmissions are brought under control, soon. The worst projections say average temperatures in Australia will rise by 5° within 50 years.

Climate change is real, and here to stay.

Climate Change in Australia is an initiative of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology in partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, through the Australian Climate Change Science Program.

Governments come and go, and party policy is based on a wide range of political factors, strong scientific research being merely one. Or, should we say, occasionally one.

But the CSIRO and the BOM have to deal with the evidence. And they have to try, current government & party policy notwithstanding, to educate the public about their findings.

To this end, they have produced an unfeted, but extremely useful, set of reports, analyses, even posters.

But … who has been educated? Have you seen these projections? Where are the news stories?

How much public money was spent on this very important set of projections, and why are the public not being given these posters, being referred to this website? If you are planning where you and/or your children/grandchildren are going to live in the future, wouldn’t you want to see this?


Meanwhile Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in Lima trying to defend her party’s policies on climate change.

There is some controversy around her attendance at this, a precursor to a more important conference being held in Paris, at the end of 2015. Reports say that when Bishop first proposed attending the Lima talks, the “prime minister’s office” rejected her request. (“The prime minister’s office” is often, in journalist-speak, used as code for “Peta Credlin”).

It is said that Julie Bishop was furious about this, and took it to a full meeting of Cabinet, where her attendance was approved.

However, “the prime minister’s office” then insisted she only attend the talks under the tutelage of known climate skeptic, Trade Minister Andrew Robb.


Now it is being widely reported that Peta Credlin and Julie Bishop have had a massive falling-out. (Although, it must be noted, Bishop herself denies this).

But climate change, the melting of the icecaps, rising sea levels, reduced rainfall and global warming are surely too important to be left in the hands of those who would ignore the science in favour of political grandstanding.

Or in the hands of their advisors, who frequently concentrate on the sale of the message rather than the predicament of the people.

Or … in the hands of the Murdoch press, who are encouraging the populace to blame the alleged rift between Bishop and Credlin on Tony Abbott, no longer, it seems, news.com.au’s blue-eyed boy.


In 2003, George W. Bush, then President of the USA, was advised by notorious Newspeaker Frank Luntz to emphasise the notion that the science of climate change was unsettled, uncertain. Not because it really was uncertain, but because that was what the public already believed.

In a quite shockingly cynical memo, Luntz told Bush Snr: “The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science … Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community.

He wrote: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field.”


The CSIRO do not think there is no consensus on the science of climate change. The CSIRO think climate change is already happening. So do the Bureau of Meteorology, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Australian Climate Change Science Program.

So too, it seems, does Julie Bishop.

But Peta Credlin doesn’t. And if she doesn’t, Tony Abbott doesn’t. And so, our commitment to emission reduction and other important planks in the platform of preparing for continuing climate change, is left in the hands of people who are unelected, or who seem to care a lot more about being elected, than about actually governing.

This article was first published on Newpolitics.com.au as Government ignoring climate change while the planet burns and has been reproduced with permission.


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  1. philgorman2014

    Wilful ignorance coupled with actions amounting to treason characterise the Abbot government.

    In a genuine democracy the economy serves the people, and the people are soveriegn. The government is duty bound to serve the interests of the people. When it serves other masters to act against the interests of the people it commits treason.

    The government’s active rejection of nearly all effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emmissions and its shutting down of the agencies dedicated to action are in themselves grounds for a charge of treason.

  2. rangermike1

    You put your left hand in, you put your left hand out, you put your right hand in and you shake it all about.. Peta Credlin training our boy Tones in speech making. You bet you are, umm you bet I am, what a bloomin misfit we have as PM. Can’t he just get one thing right for once ?

  3. halsaul

    Excellent post philgorman2014 – agree with all that you say. Just watched SBS 1 – “the years of living dangerously” – re climate change – America mostly. Apparently shale gas leaks methane into the atmosphere hugely and is much more dangerous than carbon for warming the planet. As usual Big Corps. in Petrol/gas, backing the disinformation campaign. Anonymous donors galore. Same old tricks, do these people think money will save them…I despair.

  4. Kaye Lee

    It all comes back to the fact that we elect politicians rather than representatives. The science is irrefutable. The way forward is being continually refined so it requires a government who will listen and be advised by those best able to help us with risk management. That means advise from all scientists including economists, social scientists, urban planning authorities and engineers in combination with climate scientists, meteorologists, geologists…with ALL of us doing our best to help them by individually reducing our environmental impact.

    This must be a team effort. Forget Team Australia led by Abbott. That either means flying billionaires and businessmen around the world with implicit government sanction to their shady dealings or making us fearful of anyone of other than Judeo-Christian heritage which is the silliest term I have ever heard.

    Team World has to tackle this problem. If the Abbott government obstructs Paris 2015 as they have Warsaw, Bonn, Lima, Brisbane G20 and everywhere climate change has been discussed, they will face enormous international backlash. The international press already view Abbott as a source of amusement but they are also loudly commenting on our failure to act as responsible global citizens. Julie Bishop may be happy to castigate Obama about his defence of the reef in local media…try that at Paris and you will get eaten alive Jules.

  5. Evan

    I absolutely dislike the inference that “Canberra” is responsible for this situation. As a former resident of Canberra it is unfair to, as it were to lay the blame for this at the feet of the residents of that city. The blame should be seen as the policies of the incumbent government and not those servants of the public of Australia who work so hard to ensure that our system and services continue to be provided regardless of the incumbent government.

  6. Michael Taylor

    Evan, I know where you’re coming from – having spent many years there in the Public Service – but I think most people will know what the article means by ‘Canberra’.

  7. eli nes

    it is common sense that 1 billion white europeans got rich on cordite and coal. we sustain our wealth with oil. 6 billion cannot follow the same route without renewables. QED???

  8. stephentardrew

    Logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic, logic,

    Yeah we can trust dumb bum opinion.

    Whassat the planet is dying.

    Oh you are the joker aren’t you?

    Geeze it’s getting hot.

    Why do I feel like a toad?

  9. Mr Shevill Mathers

    Sadly, the current government abolished the departments, scientists and science minister who are experts in the filed of climate change etc. and surrounded themselves with non scientific anti-global warming ‘experts’ (drips under pressure)

  10. CMMC

    Sci-Fi fans like me are seeing a distinctive ‘Philip K.Dick’ dystopia emerge from the ruin of the Abbopocalypse.

  11. Möbius Ecko

    CMMC I’m seeing more of a Duck Dodgers dystopia from Abbott.

  12. Valerie Merritt

    While I agree with your sentiments and argument, I take offence at you blaming Canberra. I have lived in four of Australia’s States and territories and consider residents of Canberra to be highly politically and environmentally aware. They are certainly highly informed and educated.

  13. Michael Taylor

    Valerie, surely you don’t think the article meant the people of Canberra. Surely not.

    I would have thought the people of Canberra would have been used to similar headlines by now and know what they meant.

    But yes, the people of Canberra are politically astute. I’ll agree with you on that one. I lived there myself for ten years and was impressed with their astuteness.

    However, one thing I did find disappointing was that I’ve never lived in a city where I’ve seen so people people throw lit cigarettes out of car windows. Even after the devastating Fire over a decade ago, I’d see idiots throw their cigarettes buts out of the window on hot, windy, dry days.

  14. Keith

    Valerie, public servants in Canberra have been placed under much pressure by the abbott gang. The term “Canberra” is directed at the inept abbott gang.
    In relation to climate change negligence of the highest order is being perpetrated by the abbott gang. This year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and two major US Agencies have deemed 2014 to be the warmest since records have been kept. But, deniers are still doing mental summersaults disputing this information.

    If we haven’t reached the edge of huge climate tipping points, we are already there. It behoves us to take real action now. Anthropogenic climate change has already killed thousands of people through drought, floods and heat stroke. A Chinese University paper has stated that 740,000 people have died in China from coal emissions.

    Some warning bells have already been sounded; the rapid extinction of animal and plant species, and the methane blowouts at the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia being warning signs.

    We are already within range of a speeding car, are we going to jump?

  15. donwreford

    The reason politicians are adverse to our planet warming and others, is the equation of time and speed, since the end of the agricultural to industrialization, time has been seen as a obstacle, to be over come by speed, this problem is seen as such events as truck drivers exhausted by driving their loads to optimum speed and the danger of this activity often ending in death, we are using our resources to maximize profit, the idea that future generations will be rescued by science, science is limited in as much to impress the world we are advancing as a cohesive bond of humanity, whereas we should look at the limits of science and reflect that science can not even create a black box that works for the recovery of planes and the information therein.

  16. Keith

    donwreford, we were told in the 1980s that climate change was a matter to be dealt with as soon as ever possible (Naomi Oreskes).
    Millions of dollars have been spent to slow down such a notion. Yes it is about profit; but whether you are a pauper or billionaire, in the end the result will be the same if no attempt is made to mitigate against CO2 and methane emissions. Its more a case of when; not if, when the sixth extinction happens with a business as usual scenario.
    The science is now overwhelming.

    Reflect on these photos.


  17. Kirsten Tona

    @Valerie Merrit and @Evan:
    I used the term “Canberra” here as a metonym for “the government”, and was, of course, making a wordplay on the saying: “Nero fiddles while Rome burns”.
    Really, there is no offence intended to Canberra citizens. In fact, Evan, you mention—quite rightly—”those servants of the public of Australia who work so hard to ensure that our system and services continue to be provided regardless of the incumbent government…” and if you look at the second and third pars, you’ll see I specifically point out that it is the public servants, bureaucrats and administrators that are fighting the good fight in this, and more praise to them for it; without them, the incumbent government would be able to create even more catastrophic scenarios.

    Hope that clears it up.

  18. Anomander

    You can’t trust scientists.

    Everyone knows they only going into science for the huge salaries, the fame, glory, fast cars, science groupies and the incredible working conditions like spending all those fabulous years in salubrious laboratories meticulously performing tests, trying to disprove their hypotheses. Let’s not mention the easy way the secure funding from one year to the next, plus the joy of putting their work under constant scrutiny from their colleagues in the proven peer-review process, as well as all the plaudits, acclaim and praise showered upon them by the mainstream media whenever they publish a paper that contradicts the narrative the media barons want to tell.

    Contrast this against the abysmal life of the poor politician, whose very modest salary commences at a paltry $200,000 per annum, and the the tiny allowances they receive to run their busy offices, travel and eat at public expense and spend so much time performing the vital task of running the country. http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/02/11/part-time-pollies-which-is-australias-laziest-parliament/?wpmp_switcher=mobile

    Or even worse, won’t someone please think of the mining magnates, forced to live overseas in tiny mansions located in tax havens, having to spending so much of their valuable time shuffling money around through tax shelters and minimisation schemes. All the time battling against ‘vested interests’ like the public an those extremist Chardonnay/latte swilling, leftist, greenie do-gooders – hell bent on preventing them from earning an honest day’s living digging-up finite resources in remote and inhospitable locations, battling unreasonable unions and their demands for a supposed living wage. You’ve gotta feel sorry for them having to spend so much of their time schmoozing politicians, paying exorbitant bribes and doing deals just to make ends meet.

    Yeah, those untrustworthy scientists have got it bloody good, I tells ya!

  19. Tanya

    I genuinely loled, Anomander.

    BTW, — AIMN & Kirsten Tona, you mentioned a website—Climate Change in Australia. I Googled it but could not find anything under that name, except a handful of broken links. You seem to imply here that the LNP current government has done all it can to keep the CSIRO’s work away from the public, especially that particular website. Now, suddenly, there are a couple of articles up about it, and …. the website has been taken down!

    Am I the only one who finds this suspicious? When was the article first published, because presumably the website was available then.

  20. Michael Taylor

    That’s right, Tanya. The CSIRO links worked when the article was first published – and they were working up until three days ago – raising suspicion that the government may have removed them.

  21. John Trueman

    Yes, I too was about to comment on the fact that the Climate Change In Australia website was down.
    Google it, and the website appears alright, with several subheadings. But every one of them leads to this:
    which, as you will see, shows it is not simply down for scheduled maintenance or anything as innocent as that.

    It seems very odd timing, I agree with Tanya.

    When was this article first published? How soon after that did the website disappear?
    And what do we plan to do about it? If, as Michael Taylor suspects, the government has removed the website because the article brought too much traffic to it, surely we can not sit back and allow such censorship?

    I suggest a petition. Calling for the website to be reinstated and for the government to not interfere with the published findings of reputable scientific bodies.

    It is an outrage. The people of Australia have an absolute right to the results of taxpayer-funded scientific research.

  22. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    In a democracy, how can Peta Credland, an unelected individual, be allowed to influence policy to the detriment of a majority of people?

  23. stephentardrew


    You know nothing.

    If we took a way all the science based discoveries in your life you would be living in a mud hut reading by fire light.

    You know that house, car, roads bridges, sewage, electricity, public transport, cloths, food, books, medical care, drugs blah, blah blah and what have politicians and denailists got o show. Greed, gross inequality and a planet going to crap.

    Great comparison don’t you think.

    Good luck with the anti-science drivel.

  24. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Anomander – I fear that sarcasm is lost on idiots. Tony’s foot is so firmly stuck in his mouth that even if he wanted to change policy, he could not make the words come out!

  25. Just Saying

    Good question, concerning the power of Peta Credlin.

    And remember: she is married to Brian Loughnane, who was Chief of Staff to Downer, Howard and John Moore (when he was Defence Minister); and has been Federal Director of the Liberal Party since about 2003.

    That’s an awful of of power for an unelected couple to have.

    I might add that their marriage is widely rumoured to have been engineered by Senator Kaye Patterson, who, imho, has a lot to answer for. I suspect Patterson has always been way too close to America; since her university days, during which she was awarded a fellowship to study in the U.S. before returning to Australia and mentoring many who went on to hold power. As were certain other Australian political, managerial, academic and journalistic figures.

    On an entirely unrelated note: the CIA are known for their programs placing their own people as academics in foreign universities, to look out for, then mentor, potential political talent. They have funding to offer scholarships etc for their favoured few to do post-grad study at U.S. universities and be taken up by CIA-aligned professors, before returning to their country of origin with a, shall we say, an agenda favouring American interests in the region. Not that that is relevant in any way to the hold Credlin has over Abbott and Patterson has over Credlin, I am not suggesting anything untoward there. That would, of course, be unthinkable.

  26. Michael Taylor

    John T, watch this space!

  27. Anomander

    Rosemary – Tony must be a contortionist with his foot in his mouth and his head stuck up his arse.

    Kinda explains why he has no ability to communicate, is deaf to all criticism being leveled at him by ordinary Australians and he has no vision.

  28. corvus boreus

    Thank you, Sarah McCoy. The flame is maintained.

  29. Harquebus

    It is becoming apparent that climate change may not be linear but, exponential. This shortens dramatically our window of opportunity and may have closed it already. What this means is, it will get hotter faster.

    I came across the climatechangeinaustralia website some months ago but, it didn’t work. A blank page. I mentioned it in my regular correspondence to politicians and journalists and very soon, it was back up. I was surprised to see it has been taken down which, must have been recently. Thank you Sarah for the link.

    The only practical and viable solution to climate change, pollution, resource depletion and scarcity is population reduction and control. A subject not considered by politicians nor MSM journalists. Exponential growth is slowly at first and then faster and faster, killing the environment and ourselves.

  30. Kaye Lee

    “Population reduction and control” sounds very dictatorial to me. As has been mentioned before, education and the emancipation of women, coupled with a reduction in poverty and an increase in better health, leads to a decline in birth rate.

  31. Harquebus

    @Kaye Lee.
    As long as it is voluntary as a society and not enforced naturally, it doesn’t matter but, it must be done. Nature’s enforcement is unforgiving.
    We don’t have time to spare. How long do you think this education thingy will take?

  32. Win jeavons

    I have heard some ‘purists’ object to the use of carbon as shorthand for GHG’s and it is true that water vapor does act as one, but note that CO2 and methane are both carbon compounds.

  33. Pingback: Despite overwhelming evidence, Australia’s government in denial about climate change « Antinuclear

  34. Annie B

    I was intrigued, so I googled “Climate Change in Australia” …….. and up came this :


    Which is interesting – to say the least. Part of which is :

    ……” A range of material is available for download, including a technical report, summaries, brochure and poster. The technical report, developed by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, presents estimates of projections for climate variables such as temperature, rainfall, evaporation and wind.”

    The ” technical report ” developed by the CSIRO is :

    http://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/technical_report.php ……. with a long list of reports to read, most of which are .pdf’s. …. would be a lot of good stuff on that one.

    They must have thought better about taking down a website / page which obviously jiggers up the inimitable comment “climate change argument is absolute crap” made by a certain bod we all know and distrust.

    It’s all a bit late for them now, isn’t it ?

  35. Andreas Bimba

    Great work Kirsten.

    I would like to thank Julia Gillard and the ALP for having the courage to introduce the carbon tax even though she was pushed into a corner about not even calling it a tax. Remember Alan Jones’ appalling attacks on her. The carbon tax was also well designed and implemented with little drama, it also proved to be very effective during the short period it existed before our neo-con traitors removed it. The carbon tax cost the ALP a lot politically because of all the lies spread by the neo-cons and the climate change deniers but it was the right thing to do for Australia and the planet. I have never had any trust in the concept of emissions trading as I am convinced it is too vulnerable to rorting, it would be very difficult to police and would provide too much revenue for unworthy consultants. Money corrupts and complexity breeds mistakes.

    I would also like to vote for Phil Gorman’s comment about genuine democracy and treason as being one of the best made on the AIMN site.

  36. Annie B

    @ Andreas Bimba ……….

    Well said and agreed, on all points you have made in your post.

  37. Pingback: The week that was, in nuclear and climate news | Nuclear Australia

  38. Pingback: This week: Australian nuclear and climate news « Antinuclear

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