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David Karoly Says Government Wants To Destroy The Body That Gives It Climate Change Advice

There is currently just one climate scientist on the Climate Change Authority. There may soon be none.

16/06/2017 11:45 AM AEST | Updated 16/06/2017 12:48 PM AEST
David Karoly
He sees dark times ahead, and not just because he's looking through sunglasses.

Does the government take its own climate change advice seriously? Does it even want a body whose role is to give it expert advice?

These are the questions being asked by Professor David Karoly, a climatologist at the University of Melbourne. There's a tiny bit of background to this story so we'll help you along with a short list.

1. The federal government has a body called the Climate Change Authority.

2. Founded in 2012, the CCA is the body that advises the government on climate change mitigation initiatives.

3. In other words, it tells them WHAT TO DO about climate change. For several years now, the CCA has done this job well. And for a while, the government listened.

4. Of late, the CCA and the government have not been getting along so well. In 2016, it produced a report called the Special Review of Australia's Climate Goals and Policies. The government turned its nose up at that, rejecting many key recommendations.

5. Resignations followed. Among them was economist John Quiggin, who quit the CCA in March this year. Here's a sample of his disgruntled, almost despairing resignation letter:

"The government's refusal to accept the advice of its own Authority, despite wide support for that advice from business, environmental groups and the community as a whole, reflects the comprehensive failure of its policies on energy and the environment.

These failures can be traced, in large measure, to the fact that the government is beholden to right-wing anti-science activists in its own ranks and in the media.

Rather than resist these extremists, the Turnbull government has chosen to treat the vital issues of climate change and energy security as an opportunity for political point scoring and culture war rhetoric."

6. The Climate Change Authority now faces a new crisis that could effectively strip its credibility to the bone. The CCA could have no climate scientists on it.

7. Right now, there is just one climate scientist on the Authority. As mentioned, he is the eminent climatologist Professor David Karoly of the University of Melbourne. His five-year term ends on June 30. He fears he will not be replaced by a climate scientist.

8. Wait. The Climate Change Authority could soon have no climate scientists on it?

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What???

9. HuffPost Australia asked the government to clarify whether Prof. Karoly's position would be filled by a climate scientist -- or indeed by any scientist -- when his term expires.

10. A spokesman for Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said only that "Government appointments to the CCA will be made consistent with the CCA's legislation".

11. We were not intimately familiar with said piece of legislation, so we looked it up, and discovered that there's no requirement for a climate scientist to be on the CCA. Which means Frydenberg may choose not to appoint one.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Josh Frydenberg.

12. One more time. The body which advises the government on what to do about climate change may soon have nobody with expertise in climate science -- the very subject which underpins the body's existence.

13. For the record, the other current CCA members include businesspeople, a natural resources expert, an energy expert and a CEO -- Shayleen Thompson -- who is a climate change policy expert. But does the body have any real teeth?

14. Here's what does David Karoly told us about the future direction of the CCA in Episode 4 of Breaking The Ice, HuffPost Australia's podcast series about the people behind the climate science:

"The policy of the current government is that the climate change authority should be dissolved. And that seems to be what they're trying to do.."

15. Naturally, we put that statement to the government for comment. Are they indeed trying to dissolve the CCA? They told us:

"We continue to fund the CCA on a year by year basis."

16. So that's about the shape of that. People who've been on the Climate Change Authority say the government is hostile to climate science. The government ignores many of the Authority's key recommendations.

Meanwhile the government will neither confirm nor deny anything about its future -- including the crucial issue of whether a climate scientist will be part of the nine member board after June 30.

Oh, and if you'd like to hear our entire interview with David Karoly, we think it's well worth a listen. Just one warning: It includes a terrible #dadjoke right at the beginning.

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