climate change

Apr 4, 2012

The Climate Commission: one year on

Australians are concerned about climate change and they think Australians should take action to reduce carbon emissions, says the Climate Commission in its first "year in review" report, released yesterday.

Amber Jamieson

Freelance journalist in New York

Australians are concerned about climate change and they think Australians should take action to reduce carbon emissions, says the Climate Commission in its first “year in review” report, released yesterday.

The seven-page end of year report is fairly general, but outlines that many Australian businesses are already preparing for a carbon price and many communities. It names the Illawarra region as particularly proactive in bringing together businesses, politicians and community groups in helping to combat climate change.

The aim of the Climate Comission is engage to provide independent and authoritative information for the general public on climate change issues. The Commission has held 15 public forums, 15 business and local leaders forums and launched 10 reports in its first year (the commission was established last February). A significant 92% of feedback from attendees said they found community forums good or very good.

A wide cross section of Australians have been attending the Climate Commission forums — which have been held at 11 regional centres — with the report noting: “We have heard from thousands of Australians, including steel workers, reef tour operators, sugar mill owners, car factory workers, local councillors, state government officials, business and industry leaders, school students and teachers, doctors, and farmers.”

“After travelling around Australia, it quickly became clear that the political and media debate is not the whole picture. For the most part, we found that people want more than talk and they’re ready for action,” said  Chief Commissioner Tim Flannery.

“Many businesses have already planned for a carbon price and we’ve been impressed by the number of companies that are embracing clean energy solutions that make sense for their bottom line and the climate. We’ve also heard concerns in the business community about regulatory uncertainty.”

The Climate Commission is made up of its chief Tim Flannery, Roger Beale, Dr Susannah Eliott, Gerry Hueston, Professor Lesley Hughes and Professor Will Steffen.

Part of the Climate Commission’s terms of reference state: “The Commission will not comment on policy matters nor provide policy advice or recommendations.”

And you can see the Commisson battle to keep the policy out of the science matters — obviously difficult when one of its aims is to help explain carbon pricing — in its end of year report:

“There is considerable confusion in the community about the Australian government’s carbon price and the progressive move to emissions trading, and also about the Opposition’s plans for direct action on climate change. Many businesses indicated that regulatory certainty is particularly important to their decisions on investing in the future.

Although the Commission does not advocate any particular policy position, it has sought to explain how carbon pricing encourages reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and drives investment in cleaner energy and energy efficiency.”

The end of year review comes as a Galaxy poll of 1051 people, paid for by the Institute of Public Affairs, recently found that 31% of respondents saw Flannery as reliable. In contrast, 24% found him unreliable. The majority — 45% — were uncommitted.

The Commission says it hopes to focus on social media in the coming months (you can find it on Twitter at @ClimateComm) as part of furthering its community engagement.


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11 thoughts on “The Climate Commission: one year on

  1. Stephen

    It’s not worth getting so heated about it. The science of global warming looks pretty sound, but ‘carbon pricing’ will never be anything more than a proxy for business-as-usual on a planet with unlimited capacity for indefinite population growth. The Platinum Age, Prof Garnaut used to call it, before the GFC that is. As for Prof Flannery, better he should stop debauching himself and get back to his tree kangaroos.

  2. Patrick Nolan

    Very telling stats on TF in the article Amber. My sense of it is that these numbers point to the actual underlying sentiment on Carbon Pricing vis Direct Action. The difference being that the Public know what Carbon Pricing is but not how it will abate emissions – they neither know what it is or how it will abate missions. How that will play out is the interesting question.

    My take on that is that incumbency will prove decisive and the first system established will also establish Australia’s operational response to Global Warming. The two step implementation of, first the pricing and then the ETS, is an interesting strategy. The first step – pricing pollution emissions, I believe, will work well. I’ve seen first hand ‘a price’ put on inert waste to landfill in NSW by the Labor party – starting at $10 a tonne levy in 96′ and rising to $82 this year under the Liberal Party. In ’96 waste diverted from landfill was from memory around 26% and in 20012 it’s 87-90%.

    It was by any standards very successful but importantly it created and new industry which is healthy and vibrant today. We now reprocess, buy, sell and use what we once buried. What it did not do and still doesn’t do, is compensate those who are out of pocket or fund clean waste technology as the Federal Carbon system does.

    It’s the ETS which is unpredictable. The Quary Lobby and the Energy Merchants have a very big game going here so leading the Coalition – even blessed by the RC (they never were fans of science) to the Direct Action fizzer was a doddle. Global Warming is an unfortunate by product of that coal and oil and it has to be negated as a hinderance to business.

    As Gillard and Abbot sit at the poker table the big money is on Abbot but Gillard has both the deal AND the cards. It will be instructive.

  3. Fran Barlow

    Scott said:

    [Come on mike. Not so long ago, it was consensus that peptic ulcers were caused by stress. A couple of brave researchers, Australians no less, found that it was bacteria that is the most likely cause, and won a nobel. Consensus has been wrong before.]

    All this means is that the old medical-scientific consensus has been replaced with a new one. What is different is that instead of acting as the deniers have and accusing the scientific community of fraud, a desire to return to the usages of the early holocene, or socialism or one world government or making outlandish claims, the dissident researchers proposed an alternative explanation that would fit the data and then set about establishing controlled experiments to back it up. That is what scientists do.

    There’s nothing wrong with scientific consensus. It’s a starting point for insight. Science would be quite impossible without at least some consensus — even one that came to be refuted. So neither the existence of a consensus nor its refutation means that any new consensus is of no value — still less a fraud or indicative of malfeasance. The point of a consensus is to challenge scientists to either refine it or refute it using methods that others can follow and refine or refute.

    The problem is that the deniers are not skeptics or scientists in the proper sense of the term at all. They cherrypick data, make up stuff, misdirect and blur the lines between the science, public policy and popular belief. That’s dishonest on a very large scale.

    Hoebee Eldert said:

    [Secondly, can we please refer to the tax impost as a carbon-dioxide tax, not a carbon tax.]

    Simply bizarre. You appeal for specificatory rectitude and fail to note that the price on CO2e is not a tax ‘impost’. The first thing that should be done is to call it a price on carbon-based emissions. It’s not called “a carbon dioxide” price because the sweep of the pricing regime is on all anthropogenically sourced greenhouse gas emissions, expressed as CO2e {i.e. equivalents}. While the major variant gas emssion falling within the specification is CO2, there are others: CH4, O3, NOx and some others. “Carbon” pricing is a justified piece of ellipsis. Your objection betrays both your ignorance of the policy and the provenance of your complaint in Akerman and Bolt’s trolling orbit.

  4. Mike Flanagan

    Further to yours’ and my comments above I like to take the opportunity to make the following observations.
    Firstly the public discourse seems to have descended in to a confused debate between the actual science of GHG emissions and its’ implications and how we attempt to resolve the problem.
    We have been advised by physicists since before the First World War about the implications of creating an imbalance in our atmosphere of GHGs. This science has been under review and much discussion for a hundred years. Governments and Universities have questioned the original proposition and have devoted large amounts of funds and resources to prove or disprove it. None of this research has disproved this thesis. There have been many questions about the science around the periphery and they are being progressively eliminated with each piece of research that becomes available. So far none have refuted the original proposition. It is hard, if not impossible, to rationally argue against this science. Furthermore Philosophers, for over a hundred and fifty years, have questioned the efficacy and our intergenerational responsibility in relation to our exploitative and imperious attitude to the planets resources and eco systems.
    The acceptance of the science then opens the question as to how we resolve the dilemma that science shows we are creating. That I believe is certainly open to debate.
    Stern, as an economist, in his IPPC report identifies the GHG imbalances as “a failure of the markets” and then proceeds to develop a thesis that lets the market resolve the problem through an ETS. I have my doubts. Having shown that the problem created is a result of the failure of the markets I find it hard to accept the same people have any reason to resolve the issue. Markets are determined by the immediacy of making money and doing so in a very limited time frame. It is therefore hard to imagine the ‘market’ has any motivation or instinct to attend to our ethical responsibilities to the next generation. I suspect Stern has actually done a major disservice to his own proposition in accepting that the culprit could remedy the scientific dilemma and created a major political and public debate that acts as a diversion from the essential requirements to take some action as science advises us.
    Accepting the political reality that we need to both move on from our current emissions standards and the requirement to educate and enlist the public, I see the ETS as only stage 1 of numerous staged and faceted attempts to address the problem.
    Much of the contradictions in Sterns’ proposal for an ETS are being used by the contrarians, deniers and vested interests to obscure and confuse the science in the public discourse. All of the vested interest’s sites identify ‘confusion’ as a means of delaying and obstructing any political action to resolve the problem. None of them discuss the implication to the national budgets to the requirements to attend to recovery and adaptation costs that scientific reports are projecting.
    Whilst many of us can identify flaws in the manner in which we will have to adapt to a carbon constrained world it is indisputable that GHG emissions are having a major impact on our prospects to maintain our way of lifestyle and should be addressed with alacrity. We will make mistakes on the way but that is a repetition of our past history in most of our major shifts in economics and philosophy.

  5. kd

    The actual physical/chemical mechanism for the greenhouse effect is quite well understood (based on the same scientific phenomenon that much of our civilisation depends on). As opposed to the peptic ulcer/stress hypothesis, which was a guess with no well understood mechanism to describe it[1].

    So what I’m saying is that you you can try out a non sequitur to support your argument, but it’s unlikely to help.

    [1] And as a former sufferer of H. pylori infection, I can tell you that diagnosis is still rather patchy.

  6. Mike Flanagan

    Thanks Scott. But what about risk management mate? And I have yet to find any CREDIBLE research that refutes the consensus.

  7. Scott

    Come on mike. Not so long ago, it was concensus that peptic ulcers were caused by stress. A couple of brave researchers, Australians no less, found that it was bacteria that is the most likely cause, and won a nobel. Concensus has been wrong before.

  8. Mike Flanagan

    Hoebel Elbert;
    And does Berkeley, Harvard, and numerous other international universities let alone MET departments and Defense Departments throughout the world all crave to agree with the Australian Government?

  9. Rich Uncle Skeleton

    Firstly as I climate-warming skeptic and professional meteorologist

    You run a catering company.

    I want to urge that any information that the Climate Commission receives from the Bureau of Meteorology, or the CSIRO should be treated with skepicism as both are government instrumentalities bound to “run” the government’s line.

    An absurd conspiracy theory that besmirches two of our finest scientific institutions. Both are independent institutions free of government interference. A real meteorologist would know that.

    Secondly, can we please refer to the tax impost as a carbon-dioxide tax, not a carbon tax.

    A politically motivated meme.


    Firstly as I climate-warming skeptic and professional meteorologist, I want to urge that any information that the Climate Commission receives from the Bureau of Meteorology, or the CSIRO should be treated with skepicism as both are government instrumentalities bound to “run” the government’s line. Only independent scientific data should be obtained.
    Secondly, can we please refer to the tax impost as a carbon-dioxide tax, not a carbon tax. Anyone wishing to speak authoritavely on this topic should at least be very correct on CO2, not carbon in the wording of the tax.

  11. Mike Flanagan

    Thanks Amber. A good piece but we all have to have some scepticism to anything about the ETS generated by the IPA. Their main funder’s modus operandi is to confuse the debate and the populace on the subject of GHG.

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