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CSIRO steers clear of Senate inquiry on emiss -

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PETER CAVE: Australia's pre-eminent scientific organisation, the CSIRO, has decided against making
a submission to the Senate inquiry on climate policy.

But four of its most experienced climate change researchers are taking part, although they've made
it clear their submissions are personal and not endorsed by the CSIRO.

They say the Government's emissions reduction targets need to be tougher to avoid dangerous global
warming. One has told The World Today the issue is simply too important not to speak out.

The inquiry, which is holding its first public hearing today, was set up by the Coalition and the
Greens.

The deputy chairwoman, Greens Senator Christine Milne, says the Prime Minister should heed the
warnings of the scientists.

From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: This is the Senate inquiry the Government didn't want.

RICHARD COLBECK: Welcome ladies and gentlemen. I declare open this first hearing of the Senate
Select Committee on Climate Policy.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Despite their very different positions on climate change and how to deal with it,
the Greens and Coalition senators combined forces because together they have a majority in the
Senate.

What they have in common is that they disagree with Labor's plan, albeit from opposite ends of the
argument. The chair of the inquiry, Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck set the scene.

RICHARD COLBECK: Can I say at the outset it's really a disappointment, I think, that the government
decided not to proceed with these terms of reference at the outset.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And that was enough to set things off.

SENATE MEMBER: I thought we were trying to deal with it in a constructive way.

RICHARD COLBECK: Well if you let me finish what I'm saying Senator you'll find that I'm trying to
raise it in a constructive way.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Notably absent from the 8,000 submissions to the inquiry is one from Australia's
national science agency, and one of the world's biggest research organisations, the CSIRO.

The reason, it says, is the terms of reference for the inquiry went to matters of policy. And the
CSIRO's long standing public comment policy is not to comment on policy matters.

But four eminent CSIRO scientists have spoken out, telling the inquiry the Government's targets for
cutting greenhouse emissions are inadequate. They stress their submissions are personal and not
endorsed by the CSIRO.

Dr James Risbey's been researching climate change for the past 20 years. He's described Labor's
targets as 'Russian roulette with the climate system with most of the chambers loaded'.

JAMES RISBEY: So these targets are the equivalent to a very high likelihood of putting us into a
realm of climate change where dangerous consequences would be quite likely.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: You've taken a big step to speak out. Is that because of the strength with which
you hold your views?

JAMES RISBEY: I think we have responsibility to speak out. The enquiry has asked us whether the
emissions targets are adequate in terms of the potential consequences for the climate system and
that's not a political question, that's a scientific question. That's only a question that the
scientists can answer, those who work on what are the consequences of emissions for the climate
system.

And so if we don't speak out about that then there is no one who's placed to do that and I think
it's our responsibility to say what the consequences are so that at least we can take decisions
about what to do, knowing what the potential consequences might or might not be.

So it's not one of those things that feels like an option; it feels like we really need to say
these things. That's what the science is telling us.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Dr Michael Raupach and two other CSIRO scientists have made a joint submission,
again stressing it's a personal submission.

They argue the Australian targets won't achieve climate protection; that if they're not
strengthened, Australia is at high risk of permanent damage from climate change.

MICHAEL RAUPACH: We concluded that global reduction targets need to be of the order of five - 10
per cent by 2020 and 70 - 80 per cent by 2050 in order to give the world a 50 per cent chance of
avoiding two degree warming, which is a benchmark for avoiding dangerous climate change, and
therefore that Australia's targets need to be stronger than they are at present.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Greens Senator Christine Milne says it's critical to the debate for the CSIRO
scientists to go public.

CHRISTINE MILNE: Mr Rudd said that this was the moral imperative of our time. He said he wants to
be able to look his grandchildren in the face. Well he will not be able to look them in the face if
he doesn't listen to the scientists when they tell him that his scheme will not avoid catastrophic
climate change.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Senator Milne says the inquiry had hoped to hear from Treasury officials first
thing this morning but that Treasury's withdrawn for now, telling the inquiry they wouldn't be
available to appear until the very last of the eight hearings at the end of the month.

CHRISTINE MILNE: It looks to me as if the Government is not prioritising evidence in relation to
its scheme; it's got other things on its mind.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Does it really matter if it gives evidence today or in two weeks time?

CHRISTINE MILNE: It does matter to this committee that first up we get a sense of the economics of
climate change; the assumptions that underpin Treasury modelling, the thinking that Treasury has
put into the basis of its targets, its compensation, all of those provisions.

It is essential they turn up at the beginning, not at the end.

PETER CAVE: Green Senator Christine Milne, our reporter there was Alexandra Kirk.