Australia — A cloud hangs over the future of the Climate Commission, with the federal coalition again vowing to scrap the independent science body if Tony Abbott becomes prime minister.
The commission has released a report showing climate change is exacerbating extreme weather like bushfires, cyclones, heavy rain, drought and the heatwaves that scorched Australia earlier this year.
The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather report claims the global climate system is warmer and moister than 50 years ago, with the extra heat making extreme weather more frequent and severe.
In response, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council said it was important people understood emergency crews wouldn’t be able to protect communities from increasingly violent fires and floods.
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said it was a wake-up call for those who thought action to cut greenhouse gas emissions could wait.
“Increasing greenhouse gas emissions is like loading the dice for more extreme weather events in the future,” he said.
The past summer was Australia’s hottest, capped by the longest and most extreme heatwave on record.
The southern part of the country – including key food-growing regions – is becoming more drought-prone, while the northwest is getting wetter.
Chief climate commissioner Tim Flannery warned that while one-off events do occur, record-breaking weather was becoming more common as the climate shifts.
But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on Wednesday renewed his pledge to do away with the Climate Commission, and said Professor Flannery would soon be without a job.
“When the carbon tax goes, all of those bureaucracies will go and I suspect we might find that the particular position you refer to goes with them,” he told the Macquarie Radio Network.
“It does sound like an unnecessary position given that the gentleman in question gives us the benefit of his views without needing taxpayer funding.”
Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said it was another extreme policy from Mr Abbott, who in the past had labelled the science of climate change as “crap”.
“Frankly, all of his policies are in line with that view,” Senator Milne told reporters in Canberra.
Mr Combet said Mr Abbott should “pull his head out of the sand” and listen to the experts.
But opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt defended the coalition’s position, adding he agreed with the science on climate change.
A coalition government would merge the departments of environment and climate change, as previously stated, and achieve real environmental outcomes instead of building an “ever-growing bureaucracy”.
“We have also been consistent in stating that we would no longer continue with the Climate Commission, Climate Change Authority, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Energy Security Council,” Mr Hunt told AAP in a statement.
The Greens said the coalition’s policy was effectively putting lives at risk, considering the work the Climate Commission did forecasting bushfires, floods and droughts. The commission’s report drew on the latest research and observations from bodies including the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and Australian and international universities.