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Notice given 19 March 2008

382  Senator Allison: To ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister—With reference to the Prime Minister’s commitment to undertake ‘evidence based policy in terms of producing the best outcomes for this nation’ in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Lateline program on 8 November 2007, a central theme repeated by ministers of the Government:

(1) Is the Prime Minister aware of fast growing scientific evidence that climate change is accelerating rapidly, as indicated, among other evidence, by the 23 per cent growth in spring melt of Arctic Sea ice between 2006 and 2007 and by an increase in the rate of mountain glacier melting from 30 centimetres per year between 1980 and 1999 to 1.5 metres in 2006.

(2) Is the Prime Minister aware that, increasingly, climate scientists doubt dangerous climate change can be avoided unless abrupt reductions in carbon emissions occur in the near future, as reflected, among other evidence, by the theme of an upcoming Australian Academy of Science (AAS) conference ‘Dangerous climate change: is it inevitable?’.

(3) Is the Prime Minister aware that, in the view of climate scientists, climate change can not be halted unless critical reductions are made in carbon emissions in order to attempt to reduce the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide from current levels (of near 450 parts per million (ppm)) to about 350 ppm.

(4) Does the Prime Minister realise that, by analogy to a medical condition where precise doses of antibiotic need to be administered in time to counter bacterial infection, the runaway climate crisis cannot be mitigated unless critical emission reductions are made in time.

(5) Is the Prime Minister aware of the danger that, should urgent measures on mitigation not be undertaken, carbon feedback effects from warming oceans and drying biosphere can result in a climate catastrophe, which has happened several times during the recent history of Earth due to solar radiation peaks.

(6) Is the Prime Minister aware that current rates of carbon dioxide and temperature increases are 1 to 2 orders of magnitude faster than those which occurred during the last glacial termination, between 14.5 and 11.5 thousand years ago.

(7) Is the Prime Minister aware of the consequences of inaction, including extensive droughts, storminess, acidification of the oceans, collapse of the marine food chain and the flooding of extensive low-lying agricultural regions and coastal cities caused by rising sea levels, leading to forced evacuations of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

(8) How does the Prime Minister view the consequences of these developments compared to the cost of fast-tracked conversion from carbon-emitting utilities to clean energy applications, including solar-thermal, photovoltaic, wind, hot rocks, hydrogen and other techniques.

(9) What is the difference in outcomes between the previous Government’s denial of climate change and the current Government’s apparent reluctance to follow the minimum mitigation measures recommended by the interim Garnaut report, which include emission reductions of between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050.


 (10) Will the forthcoming Treasury report on the economics of climate mitigation also consider the economics of major droughts, storms, rising sea levels and the damage to international trade systems consequent on runaway climate change.

(11) Given that Australia is a net exporter of coal and has one of the highest per capita carbon pollution rates, is the Prime Minister willing to undertake immediate steps to promote Australian leadership in the world’s attempts to stem the looming climate crisis.

(12) Given the Prime Minister’s undertaking that ‘my door will always be open to men and women of goodwill who want to participate in making our country even greater in the future’ in his election victory speech on 24 November 2007, is the Prime Minister willing to: (a) consider the evidence raised in the critical AAS meeting on 9 May 2008; and (b) accept a delegation of active climate scientists, in order to obtain direct advice regarding the fast deteriorating state of the atmosphere and its consequences.