Australia's National Party senator Ron Boswell yesterday decided to take on some of Australia's leading climate scientists. Ron who is concerned about the increasing costs of green initiatives has repeatedly clashed with climate scientists in the past, but in an unusually strong attack yesterday, he accused them of living in a ''Pollyanna world'' and putting jobs in jeopardy by calling for deep cuts to the country's greenhouse gas emissions.
He called on them to be practical as thousands of jobs were on the line.
However, Professor David Karoly, who worked with the UN's peak scientific body on climate change, replied that dangerous climate change in Australia would have serious long-term consequences. He said it could include loss of life from increased heat waves and bushfires.
Mike Raupach, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), told Senator Boswell that not cutting greenhouse emissions would lead to decline in rainfall and water in the Murray-Darling Basin. It could further lead to the collapse of the Great Barrier Reed and coastal communities losing their lands to rising sea levels. Senator Boswell expressed surprise when Dr Raupach informed his that sea levels had already risen.
The scientists were making a case for cutting emissions beyond what the Australian government's climate change policy envisaged. However, it was not the Rudd government's policy along that they were at odds with but also Senator Boswell. Former CSIRO scientist Graeme Pearman called for cutting emissions by 30 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020.
Dr Raupach, and two of his CSIRO colleagues, also made a submission to the inquiry. They said the government's targets were not upto those required from developed countries and would fail to provide even a limited degree of protection from climate change. They however, stressed that they were making their statements in their individual capacities and not on behalf of CSIRO.
Australia's native vegetation is being cleared at a rate amounting to a $2.4 billion annual loss of stored carbon, the Senate climate change inquiry was told yesterday.
Dr Raupach told the inquiry that Australia was still logging native vegetation at a rate amounting to 60 million tonnes of carbon a year. He added that global climate change had reached a point where it ''feeds on itself'' due to less carbon being absorbed by oceans and forest. He said that Australia must aim for a 90 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 to contain the risk and stop its per capita carbon use which is presently growing at the current unsustainable rate of 2 per cent a year.
Australia's climate change minister, Penny Wong, yesterday defended her government's policy against criticism leveled by a Chinese delegation over emission targets. The criticism was echoed by a senior Chinese delegate at a joint Australia-China climate conference at the Australian National Universtiy in Canberra.
Professor Jiahua Pan of the Chinese delegation told the conference that the Australian government's 2020 cmission cuts targeted at 5 per cent and 15 per cent before 2000 levels were ''insufficient''. The UN climate negotiations is debating emission cuts for developed countries between 25 and 40 per cent.
Responding to the criticism, Senator Wong said the government's strategy recognised the need for urgent action on climate change. She said the government was in the process of putting forward a comprehensive scheme to effect a very substantial reduction to cut Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Professor Stewart Franks, from the University of Newcastle, told the senate inquiry that the UN's scientific evidence on human caused climate change was "all rubbish".