From the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth report, 2013, produced by more than 800 scientists:

“Human influence on the climate system is clear.

It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

It is virtually certain that there will be more frequent hot and fewer cold temperature extremes over most land areas … as global mean temperatures increase. It is very likely that heat waves will occur with a higher frequency and duration.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, October 23, 2013:

“These fires are certainly not a function of climate change — they’re just a function of life in Australia.”

There has been an unedifying squabble between Abbott and his allies on the one side and climate functionaries and environmentalists on the other on whether the extensive NSW bushfires are a sign of climate change.

In our view, there comes a time when there has been enough arguing, and a rational assessment of the available evidence demands strong and effective legislative action from our government. Climate change is one such policy area.

There is a strong body of evidence that anthropogenic climate change is occurring and that, among other things, it will cause more frequent and extensive bushfires in Australia. It is clear that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would result in less severe consequences for the climate.

Today, Bernard Keane is calling it in Crikey. Australia must address climate change. We must substantially reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. If we squib this task, we are simply handing a heavier burden (and much greater costs) to future generations.

Abbott wishes to remove the carbon price and instead hand out cash grants to hand-picked companies that promise to reduce (or absorb) emissions. Australia’s carbon price is flawed, but it is a far superior policy instrument to reduce emissions.

Whether the NSW bushfires were caused, or exacerbated by, climate change is difficult to answer definitely. The point is, if we do not address climate change, we will see more of these types of fires. As NSW smoulders, that should be enough to prompt a serious reconsideration of Abbott’s climate policy.

Crikey Calling is independent media for independent minds – in handy podcast form! Join the Crikey crew for a lively (if somewhat wonky) look behind the scenes of politics and power in Australia.

The Abbott government has only been in power for seven weeks, but the shine is already gone. Join Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane and deputy editor Cathy Alexander for a look at what’s gone wrong, and what has happened to transparency. Stream it or download here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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