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Thursday, 13 February 2003
Page: 11843

Mr BILLSON (3:10 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Would the minister advise the House if the government is aware of criticism of the climate change scenarios—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Cowan. The member for Fowler is skating on very thin ice. The member for Cowan is well aware that, while I did not hear his interjections, and while they were in response to interjections that were no less responsible from the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, both will desist.

Mr BILLSON —As I said, would the minister advise the House if the government is aware of criticism of the climate change scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by former Australian Statistician, Mr Ian Castles? Would these criticisms significantly affect climate change policies and what are they?

Dr KEMP (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank the honourable member for Dunkley for his question. I am aware of the criticisms that Mr Castles has made. Ian Castles is the former Australian Statistician and a man with a long and distinguished career dealing with issues of economic growth. Ian Castles has raised a number of issues in relation to the methodology used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Special report on emission scenarios, a key assessment of future economic paths and associated emission scenarios through to 2100.

This report from the IPCC is the basis for modelling the long-term effects of climate change. It led the IPCC to the conclusion that global warming from 1990 through the 21st century to 2100 would range from a 1.4 to a 5.8 degree Celsius increase in global temperature. Mr Castles contends that the assessment is based on unrealistically high emission scenarios, which are in turn the result of implausibly high economic growth rates in the developing countries. These come about, according to Mr Castles, from the use of inappropriate market exchange rates rather than the correct use of the purchasing power parity approach in comparing income levels in different countries.

Australia has facilitated the discussion of Mr Castles' analysis at the IPCC. I am happy to report that the intergovernmental panel has extensively discussed Mr Castles' criticisms at a recent workshop in Amsterdam and is proposing to organise some further meetings on the issues later in the year. The key objective of this is to ensure that our understanding of the threat posed by climate change is based on sound analysis and sound science. Global climate change is a serious issue. Australia is keen to ensure continued and enhanced high standards of scientific integrity, credibility and usefulness of the IPCC as the authoritative, international source of advice on climate change issues.

Whether Mr Castles is correct or not, it is important that we recognise that there is no argument that Australia will be affected even by small changes in temperature. Leaving aside the question of the impact of global climate change on the current drought, the Bureau of Meteorology has concluded, for example, that the more severe impact of the current drought arises from the relatively higher temperatures during 2002 compared with earlier droughts such as those of 1982 and 1994. In fact, figures from the bureau show that the average daytime maximum temperatures during 2002 were at record levels. In fact, they were 1.22 degrees higher than the long-term average, compared with the previous record of 0.91 degrees.

This illustrates that even very slight increases in temperature put great pressure on our communities and producers, our ecosystems and species and increase instances of skin cancer. The government are going to continue to work very closely with industry to ensure that Australia makes its contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases, and we have already put in place a $1 billion program. Measures already taken under that program will be reducing Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by some 60 million tonnes of CO2 by 2010, which is equivalent to taking the entire Australian car fleet off the road. In contrast, we are yet to see any sensible proposal by the Labor Party, which is approaching the end of seven years in opposition with no sign of any cogent policy whatever.

The SPEAKER —Member for Wills!

Dr KEMP —The contrast is—

The SPEAKER —Member for Wills!

Dr KEMP —that the Labor Party is concerned with empty symbols, with the signing of international agreements—

The SPEAKER —I have no choice but to warn the member for Wills!

Dr KEMP —and it has not a single constructive policy to help Australia reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Our government will continue to take a responsible attitude internationally and to ensure that our policies are based on sound science.