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The straight-forward climate question Josh Frydenberg will not answer

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Climate Code Red

Climate warming has been a factor in the Darfur crisis. Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farra

Is climate change an existential risk to Australian society and the world community? It’s not a difficult question, but one that climate minister Frydenberg has failed to answer.

The response should not be too challenging. An Australian Senate report released on 17 May this year, after an inquiry into the implications of climate change for Australia’s national security, found that climate change is “a current and existential national security risk”.

It says an existential risk is “one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development”.

The report was not opposed by the government Senators on the inquiry committee.

Mark Crosweller, the Director General of Emergency Management Australia, Sherri Goodman, an expert witness from the USA, and the former senior Shell executive and emissions trading advisor to the Howard government, Ian Dunlop, put the issue of existential climate security risks on the inquiry’s agenda.

On current trends, following the Paris Agreement, the world’s peoples may face catastrophic warming within a generation or two, with large parts of the planet uninhabitable and major food growing regions ruined by drought or rising seas.

The Paris commitments set Earth on a path of more than 3°C of warming, and up to 5°C when climate-cycle feedbacks are included.

Yet, a decade ago, leading security analysts in the United States warned that 3°C of warming and just a half-metre sea-level rise could lead to “outright chaos” as relations between nations broke down. Even the World Bank says “there is no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible”.

Following up on the Senate report, Adam Bandt MP asked the Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, the following question in writing on 21 May:

  1. Has (a) he, (b) his ministerial office, or (c) his department, read the report: What Lies Beneath: the Scientific Understatement of Climate Risk (David Spratt and Ian Dunlop, Breakthrough, September 2017).
  2. Has (a) he, (b) his ministerial office, or (c) his department, made any assessment of the propositions made in the report, particularly in respect of existential risk.
  3. Has his department sought advice or assessment from external organisations such as the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, or university climate specialists, on the report; if so, what was the nature of this advice, and can he provide it.
  4. Has his department considered the implications for policy-making of climate change being an existential risk to human civilisation.
  5. Can he indicate whether the Cabinet has considered the Government’s duty of care and fiduciary responsibility towards Australian citizens in light of the more severe risks raised in the report.

Most questions in writing to ministers receive responses within a few days, and there is a protocol that they should be answered within 60 days. So with 48 days having elapsed, the clock is ticking.

It is a matter of fact that both the minister and his department received the report What Lies Beneath, and it is very likely that his department sought advice on it.

The first duty of a government is to protect the people. A government derives its legitimacy and hence its authority from the people, and so has a fiduciary duty to act in accordance with the interests of all the people with integrity, fairness and accountability.

In the climate arena, this duty has been recognised in several quarters, including by Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority Executive Director Geoff Summerhayes.

So what’s the problem?  Perhaps the minister does not want say “no”, climate change is not an existential risk, because the evidence is to the contrary, and he does not want to say “yes”, because that would imply a duty of care that his government has chosen not to exercise?

Source: Climate Code Red. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • john

    He can just say ” My department takes this report very seriously and we are making investigations meanwhile the Government is implementing policies to ensure Australians are protected from shocks like the electricity bills, which shot up under Labour, but the NEG will turn the tide and bring down electricity bills for every rate payer. We have allocated $500 Million dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef the only Government to take any action on this national treasure; our Direct Action policy has been the worlds most successful and delivered the cheapest mitigation in the world against the Labour Parties Carbon Tax that put up Electricity Prices for struggling tax payers”

    I bet you hear something like the above any time soon.

    • DevMac

      We make sure Australians are protected from shocks, like electricity bills, that they can comprehend and vote for. Larger, more complex, threats, such as the breakdown of food production resulting in an explosion of the cost of basic food items, that people feel insulated from and don’t even consider as possible, we have no policy on such things.

      • Joe

        No need to worry about food…we”ll just import the stuff. Our Coal exporting dollars will cover the bill? Yes, I’m being sarcastic

        • David Spratt

          Going to be a little difficult to import the stuff when nobody else has surplus food to export.

          • Joe

            Hi David, apart from my little backyard vege / Tomato patch I’m no food growing expert. But I think you’re onto something. With the global climate change comes the change to food growing around the planet with more intense droughts and floods to turn things on its head. Here in Australia our thin coastal strip has most of the country’s best soils but we increasingly build over the top it. Does it not also make sense to grow our food close to where people live. And yet in south west Sydney a new airport is to built at Badgerys Creek on reasonable quality food growing land….lost forever.

          • Crankydaks

            Ah, so the problem is population growth, not climate change then?

    • Joe

      …written and produced by…the Rupert?

  • Ken Fabian

    Every MP should be asked to make their positions clear. They should be asked, with diversionary dodging not acceptable.

    Especially I would like to see those who equivocate asked whether they have addressed their doubts and criticisms to The Chief Scientist, The Australian Academy of Sciences, The Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO. If not why not? If not, who are they treating as their preferred source of expert advice?

    No doubt in my mind that rejecting the science is fundamental to the positions the LNP, both factionally and collectively – and if that isn’t dangerously irresponsible as well as just outright loopy I don’t know what is.

    What makes it especially loopy is that such rejection never has been about the quality of the science; it was always about economic alarmist fear of having to take responsibility. ie doubt about the science was and is a ‘line’ to take to justify an otherwise untenable opposition to responsible responses. I wonder if those who have been gullible enough to actually believe their own BS – those for whom it is not a ‘line’ but a belief – are actually seen as fools, useful fools but still fools, by the hard headed, soft ethics captains of commerce and industry they are so desperate to please.

    • Farmer Dave

      Spot on, Ken! +100. All candidates for office need to be asked these questions.

  • MaxG

    He does not care about Australia, why care about other nations…?