Speech in Parliament on Climate Change Scepticism

1.30pm | November 21, 2016

It’s 2016. We shouldn’t be devoting an hour of time in this chamber to debating whether climate change is real. We should be devoting a month to exploring ways to address it. I believe in climate change. So do my Labor colleagues. We believe in it because tens of thousands of qualified scientists, over dozens of years have measured it, and experimented, and modelled it. Climate change is real.

I know Senator Roberts keeps on asking people in this chamber to provide “empirical evidence”.

In the words of Moulder and Scully – it’s out there. Mountains of it. And that evidence doesn’t stop being ‘empirical’ just because you disagree with it.

A 2013 survey of scientific papers found that of the 4000 recent papers that expressed a view on climate change, 97% thought that it was real and caused by humans.

4000 is a lot, so here are the twenty most cited peer reviewed papers to start off a reading list about climate change and its effects. 

Ecological responses to recent climate change
Walther, Post,  et al
NATURE, 2002

A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems
Parmesan and Yohe
NATURE, 2003 

Extinction risk from climate change
Thomas, Cameron, et al
NATURE, 2004

Fingerprints of global warming on wild animals and plants
Root et al
NATURE, 2003

Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate model
Cox, et al
NATURE, 2000

Climate change, coral bleaching and the future of the world's coral reefs

Causes of climate change over the past 1000 years
Crowley, TJ

Climate change, human impacts, and the resilience of coral reefs
Hughes, et al
SCIENCE, 2003 

Global response of terrestrial ecosystem structure and function to CO2 and climate change: results from six dynamic global vegetation models
Cramer, et al

Biological consequences of global warming: is the signal already apparent?

Timing of millennial-scale climate change in Antarctica and Greenland during the last glacial period
Blunier, and Brook

Predicting the impacts of climate change on the distribution of species: are bioclimate envelope models useful?
Pearson, and Dawson

Interpretation of recent Southern Hemisphere climate change
Thompson and Solomon

Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain
Pounds, Fogden, and Campbell
NATURE, 1999

Transient climate change simulations with a coupled atmosphere-ocean GCM including the tropospheric sulfur cycle
Roeckner, et al

Range shifts and adaptive responses to Quaternary climate change
Davis and Shaw

Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change

Global water resources: Vulnerability from climate change acid population growth
Vorosmarty, Green, Salisbury, and Lammers
SCIENCE, 2000 

Signature of recent climate change in frequencies of natural atmospheric circulation regimes
Corti, Molteni, and Palmer
NATURE, 1999

Tropical origins for recent North Atlantic climate change
Hoerling, and Hurrell

You could read any of the ICCP Working Party’s reports. There’s a few of them. 

Or, if you’re worried that it is all a conspiracy by the UN, or a “cabal of international bankers” here are some early papers:

On the influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground
London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, 1896

The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influce on temperature
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1938

The general circulation of the atmosphere: a numerical experiment
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1956

Thermal Equilibrium of the Atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity
Manabe and Wetherald
Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 1967

Atmospheric carbon dioxide variations at Mauna Loa Observeratory, Hawaii
Keeling, Bacastow et al
Tellus, 1976

If there’s not enough empirical evidence there, the problem isn’t with the evidence.

The thing is, there is a climate conspiracy – but it’s not a conspiracy by the tens of thousands of scientists who have contributed to our current understanding. It is a conspiracy by climate denialists to muddy the waters of what is now a very clear scientific consensus.

Back in 1995, a Republican strategist, Frank Luntz, was encouraging Republican members to "challenge the science" by "recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view."

Ten years later, he was still at it with a 2001 memo that said "the scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science… you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate".

He’s not the only one. And the flood of misinformation has not abated. International organisations like the Heartland Institute actively propagate false or misleading information about climate change.

We should not allow debate about climate change in this country to be derailed by misinformation the way that it has been in the United States and elsewhere.

We are lucky enough in this country to have the leaders of both major parties in agreement that climate change is real. The difference is that the Prime Minister seems unwilling to actually do anything about it.

For Labor, though, it is a critical issue, and one that we are proud to take a stand on.

The policies we took to the last election constitute a real response to climate change:

  • Committing to 50% renewables by 2030, and funding agencies like ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to get us there;
  • A plan for transitioning away from coal, and supporting workers and businesses who need to bear the brunt of that change,
  • A domestic emissions trading scheme that will bring Australia in line with its international obligations, and drive the long term transition our economy needs.