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US, British science academies: Climate change is real
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 27, 2014

Climate body says Australia emissions target 'not credible'
Sydney (AFP) Feb 27, 2014 - The Australian government's climate change agency warned Thursday that Canberra's five percent emissions reduction target was "not credible" compared with other countries and called for it to be tripled.

The Climate Change Authority (CCA) said Australia risked losing its competitive edge if it did not accelerate emissions reduction strategies.

Instead of the current commitment to lower greenhouse gas emissions by five percent of 2000 levels by 2020, it said Australia ought to target a minimum reduction of 15 percent.

Doing so would only slow annual growth in average per person income by 0.02 percent, the authority said in a new report.

"The five percent minimum (at) present isn't credible in terms of the task that has to be done and the timeframe," said CCA chairman Bernie Fraser, a former Reserve Bank of Australia governor.

CCA is an independent body set up by the previous Labor government and which the new conservative administration is trying to abolish.

The report said Australia's five percent target -- due to be reviewed by the government by April 30 -- was weaker than that of "many other comparable countries".

In the United States the target was a 17 percent reduction on 2005 levels by 2020, Britain was aiming for a 34 percent off 1990 levels and Norway was targeting a 30-40 percent decrease from the same period.

The world's heaviest emitters, China and the US, were both "stepping up their efforts on climate change", the report added, with initiatives including investment in renewable energy, tightening of vehicle emissions standards and local emissions trading pilot schemes.

"A target of 15 percent for Australia would be more in line with the targets being pursued by such countries," the report said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott once described the science behind man-made climate change as "absolute crap" and dismisses any link between global warming and increasing frequency of events such as drought and wildfires.

He abolished the previous government's independent climate change watchdog, the Climate Commission, soon after assuming power last September and has introduced legislation to axe the Climate Change Authority as well.

His is the first Australian post-war administration not to have a science minister.

One of Abbott's key election promises was to repeal a corporate pollution tax aimed at the nation's worst emitters, to be replaced with a controversial "direct action" plan of planting trees, sequestering carbon in soil and paying businesses incentives not to pollute.

Australia is among the world's worst per capita polluters due to its reliance on coal-fired power and mining exports.

US and British scientific academies said Wednesday there was a clear consensus that climate change is real and will have serious disruptive effects on the planet.

The US National Academy of Sciences and Britain's Royal Society said they were making the joint declaration in hopes of moving the public debate forward -- to the question of how the world responds, instead of whether climate change is happening.

"It is now more certain than ever, based on many lines of evidence, that humans are changing the Earth's climate," the joint publication said.

"The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, accompanied by sea-level rise, a strong decline in Arctic sea ice, and other climate-related changes."

The academies cautioned that science inherently cannot settle every detail and that debate remained on some specifics, including how much climate change is linked to extreme weather events.

But it said scientists were "very confident" that the world will warm further in the next century and that a rise by just a few degrees Celsius would have "serious impacts" that are expected to include threats to coasts and food production.

Amid a bitter winter in several parts of the world, the academies stressed that global warming is a "long-term trend" and that day-to-day weather can still be unusually cold or warm.

Climate change is already widely accepted by scientists.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations-backed group of scientists, said in a report in September that it was more certain than ever that humans were causing rising temperatures and that heat waves, droughts and other threats would intensify.

But there has also been a backlash, including in the United States where industry-friendly conservative lawmakers have questioned the science as they oppose laws to curb carbon emissions blamed for climate change.

A separate study released in Washington by the Global Legislators Organisation, a London-based global group of lawmakers focused on development, found that legislation was "progressing at a rapid rate" around the world. But it also pointed to reversals, including efforts by Australia's new conservative government to roll back a carbon tax.

The group said national legislation was vital to reaching a UN-backed goal of sealing a new treaty on climate change at a 2015 meeting in Paris. The report found that 61 out of 66 countries studied had passed laws to promote clean energy.


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