At a time when science should be guiding government policy, important climate research is under attack.
The Guardian reported on October 16 that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) climate forecast program has been scrapped, despite the importance of its work being recognised by the World Meteorological Organization.
The CSIRO was a pioneer in climate research, particularly with finding the links between rising greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. But government funding cuts gutted the organisation, resulting in hundreds of job losses.
Leading Australian climate scientist David Karoly said pressure to find private funding means that important climate research and “public good” science is less likely. Famously, CSIRO scientists accidentally invented wireless internet in 1992 while doing unrelated public good research.
Successive governments have ignored calls from climate scientists to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep warming below 1.5°C. While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese talked up Labor’s inadequate 43% emissions reduction target to prove that his policies are different to those of the coal-loving Scott Morrison government, he openly refused to support a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects.
The federal government opened up almost 47,000 square kilometres of Australia’s coastal waters for oil and gas exploration in August.
In response, more than 100 scientists signed an open letter calling on the government to “heed the scientific evidence on climate change” when considering proposals for new coal and gas projects. “Any new coal or gas project will dangerously worsen climate change, which is already having major impacts for many natural systems.”
Labor’s approach is at odds with the majority who want real climate action. Tellingly, Labor scraped into government with one of its lowest primary votes ever — the huge upswing in votes for the Greens and so-called teal independents showed the mood for change.
Part of the reason for the major parties’ climate inaction is the dirty money they receive from corporate interests. Fossil fuel companies donated about $1.8 million to Labor and the Coalition last financial year. "Donated" is a euphemism, considering how much these companies receive in return from dodgy fast-tracked approvals and subsidies, including $12 billion in tax breaks to fossil fuel companies last year.
But activists are fighting back against the oil and gas companies. Last month, Tiwi Traditional Owners successfully challenged the approval for Santos to drill for gas in the Timor Sea, forcing the fossil fuel company to vacate the Barossa gas field.
People around the world are gearing up to protest the COP27 climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, which has been widely denounced as an opportunity for the Abdel Fattah el-Sisi regime to greenwash its human rights abuses. There are about 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt, including journalists, academics and human rights and environmental activists.
Street marches pressuring governments to act on the climate crisis — a feature of previous COP summits — would likely be met with violent repression, due to Egypt’s ban on protests. However, the carefully cultivated, greenwashed image the Egyptian regime will present at COP27 cannot silence global calls for immediate climate action.
Green Left has always heeded the calls of climate scientists and supports grassroots activists fighting for action to tackle the climate crisis. We don’t accept corporate donations, which means we publish news and analysis without the influence of the powerful fossil fuel lobby.