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Nobody Mentioned It, But Do We Stand To Lose Our Best Defence Against Climate Change?

Good luck, Australia. We're going to need it.

10/05/2017 5:33 PM AEST | Updated 11/05/2017 2:36 PM AEST
Chris Hyde via Getty Images
The increasingly eroded Gold Coast coastline. It is just a few km from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, which exists to help us manage problems like this, but whose funding is set to run out.

You've probably never heard of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. We hadn't. And after reading the 2017 Federal Budget, the indications are we never will again.

Here's why this matters.

The NCCARF, in its own words, "works to support decision makers throughout Australia as they prepare for and manage the risks of climate change and sea-level rise".

This means it's Australia's only government-funded body which takes established climate science, assesses the likely impacts of climate change, then tells us what the heck we should do about it.

You can see examples of NCCARF'S excellent work here, here or here. It provides solid, practical advice and strategies for dealing with things which affect so many Australians -- like more intense heatwaves and bushfires, and increased coastal erosion.

But buried in the 2017 Budget papers is an indication that the NCCARF's funding is set to be cut off.

UIG via Getty Images
Here's a lovely picture of a Tasmanian forest to make you feel good about the world.

Budget Paper No. 2 confirms confirms that its modest funding of $600,000 will continue for another year.

The Government will provide $0.6 million in 2017‑18 to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. This measure supports existing online platforms that inform decision makers seeking to adapt to changes in climate.

And then? Well down on page 57 of the Environment Portfolio Budget Statements, the funding looks like it dries up after the end of the 2017/18 financial year. No more NCCARF. It may merge with the CSIRO, or it may just be lost.

"I think it's got another year to find a funding mechanism that is stable, that's my reading of the situation," NCARFF Director Professor Jean Palutikof told HuffPost Australia.

HuffPost Australia contacted the office of Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg for clarification on NCCARF's future. The Minister told us:

"The Government is bringing the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, CSIRO and the Department of Environment and Energy together to get maximum benefit from the significant expertise across these three bodies as well as help people use research to take decisions.

The partnership builds on the success of NCCARF in developing CoastAdapt which is helping council and businesses identify, assess and respond to climate risks in the coastal zone.

Through the partnership the Government is committed to enhancing CoastAdapt."

If you're wondering what CoastAdapt is, you can click here for an explanation of how CoastAdapt takes NCCARF's research and presents it to various stakeholders. Whether any merged entity fully replicates the functions of NCCARF cannot yet be known.

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O'Shanassy told HuffPost Australia that NCCARF was now "a research facility without funding for research".

"The budget commitment is for $600,000 next year with CSIRO to maintain an online database of specific parts of its research. It has no funding after that."

As Prof. Palutikof explained, private sector bodies like insurers, infrastructure operators and people working in agriculture are now doing this sort of work because they take the threat of climate change so seriously.

"These people will now work in isolation. There will be no organisation to draw these things together," she said.

Auscape via Getty Images
It would have been a terrible cliche to put a pic of bleached coral here, so for no particular reason here's a pic of a grand ctenotus lizard instead. These little guys live in the deserts of WA.

More broadly, this was a budget in which the term "climate change" barely rated a mention.

"There's nothing on climate change and very little on the environment. It's like someone's gone 'Control Alt Delete' and the whole thing's disappeared from the budget papers," Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young told HuffPost Australia politics editor Karen Barlow.

Gemma Borgo-Caratti, the National Director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, said "the Budget ignores climate change which in turn handballs Australia's biggest problem to the next generation to deal with".

Greenpeace Asia Pacific said "the Turnbull government has continued to ignore climate change and the need to fund renewable energy at a time when the country is demanding leadership on the most serious threat of our age".

Ho New / Reuters
We couldn't resist. Just one.

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie had a really interesting take. She told HuffPost Australia that the problem is that "climate change is still characterised as an environmental issue, not an economic issue".

"I think the lack of mention of climate change in the biggest economic moment of the year is revealing of the national thinking.

"We need to reconceptualise our thinking on climate change so we're putting front and centre its impacts on the social fabric, the economy and the environment."

Ironically, that's exactly what the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility does. But not, it seems, for much longer.

COMING SOON TO HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA: THE PODCAST SERIES "BREAKING THE ICE"

WHO are the climate scientists? How are they coping with the stress of researching the most controversial topic on earth? Breaking The Ice is a series of intimate conversations with the PEOPLE behind the climate science.


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