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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

ABC AM Programme

Tuesday, 26 July 2005, 08:12:00 am

Government releases report on climate change

Tony Eastley:
Aspects of Australia's future climate do not look good. According to a new government report we should expect higher temperatures, more droughts, severe cyclones, storm surges and rising sea levels.

The report suggests climate change is inevitable and looks at how it will affect Australia's ecosystems, its agriculture, towns and cities, water and electricity.

The Federal Government has been criticised for not signing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, but the Minister for the Environment Senator Ian Campbell says the report is about dealing with short-term risks and won't stop the Government from trying to prevent future greenhouse gas emissions.

David Mark reports.

David Mark:
The Climate Change Risk and Vulnerability Report starts from the central premise that Australia will face some degree of climate change over the next 30 to 50 years, a fact acknowledged by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell.

Ian Campbell:
It's becoming obvious that climate change is occurring, that there is human-induced climate change through greenhouse gas emissions.

There could be more cyclones, there could be more storms, there could be more floods, there could be* the sort of drying we've seen in the Murray Darling Basin could become something that's more usual rather than an historical irregularity as we might think it as at the moment, that our reef systems are vulnerable.

There are a whole range of things that we can learn from this report and it can help us adapt. We have to call it as it is and we have to as a nation recognise that there's a lot of benefit from taking early action.

David Mark:
The report is described as a framework for managing future climate risk. It suggests more severe and frequent cyclones and storm surges increase the threat to cities and towns like Cairns, Darwin, Townsville and Broome, not to mention the inner suburbs of Australia's larger cities.

The agricultural sector will have to turn to new crops and livestock that can handle the new environment.

Water stresses will increase, ecosystems and biodiversity are at risk and specific areas like the Murray-Darling Basin will be hit hard. But Senator Campbell says it's not an alarming picture.

Ian Campbell:
I think it could be painted as alarming, but the reality is that these changes will happen over time, they're talking about a 30 to 50-year time span. What we need to know as a nation, what the state governments need to know, what the emergency services need to know, town planners need to know is where are these risks the most likely to occur in the short term, how do we take action to guard against those vulnerabilities, how do we change the way that we've been operating in the past to ensure that we're safe and secure in the future?

David Mark:
The Australian Government has been criticised for not doing enough to prevent climate change. It's one of just two OECD countries along with the United States not to sign the Kyoto Protocol that sets targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But Senator Campbell says the report does not absolve the Government from inaction.

Ian Campbell:
It is an incredibly important issue and there are incredibly strong reasons for taking comprehensive, effective global action to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions.

But what this report's telling us is even if we were able to stop all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere tomorrow through some miraculous international agreement and inventions and so forth, new technologies, that we're still going to have climate change because of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 50 years.

That's built in, there's climate change built into the system already, we need to deal with it while we're also working internationally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Tony Eastley:
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell with reporter David Mark.

Commonwealth of Australia