Australia’s climate change action grinds to a halt

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Australia’s climate change action has effectively ground to a halt with the budget revealing big cuts to research and renewable energy, moves that critics say sets policy back to the 1990s. Budget papers show funds for climate change-related programs will shrink from $5.75 billion in the current fiscal year to $1.25 billion by 2014-15 and to $500 million by 2017-18. The government will spend more on its national blood program than climate change on all but the first of those four years.

Graeme Pearman, a scientist who led CSIRO’s atmospheric research team for a decade until his retirement in 2002, said the government had adopted an “extreme” ideological approach in all but rejecting global warming as an issue despite ever-mounting evidence of the threat posed by more frequent extreme weather.

Greens leader Christine Milne said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had never accepted the science of climate change and his government’s view would not have been out of place in the late 1990s.

“The pretence that they had some commitment to reduce emissions is gone,” said Senator Milne, citing cuts that include $111 million to CSIRO’s overall budget, $10 million from the Bureau of Meteorology, and the merger of the Australian Climate Change Science Program with another unit.

“They’re doing everything in their power to destroy action on climate change and shore up the vested interests of the coal-fired generators and the old order of Australia.”

Mark Butler, the opposition spokesman for climate change, said: “While it barely seemed possible, [Tuesday night] saw Tony Abbott backslide even further on Australia’s fight against climate change,” 

Todd Lane, president of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, said the loss of funds would reduce the ability of scientists to research weather and climate, and many young researchers would likely leave Australia.

“It will take us a decade to recover,” Dr Lane said.

Dr Pearman, formerly of the CSIRO, said the issue is not just a federal one, with state governments also ignoring climate risks.

“Previously all the state governments had climate change strategic plans,” Dr Pearman said. “Where the hell are they these plans now? They don’t seem to be on the agenda at all.”

Read the full article in the Sydney Morning Herald.


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