A group of prominent Australian scientists has warned climate sceptic MPs against wasting time and parliamentary resources on an inquiry into the evidence of human influence on climate change.
The scientists have sent a letter to West Australian MPs Dennis Jensen and Chris Back, offering to brief them on the latest science instead.
The letter was sent by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and co-signed by 12 others, including Professor Will Steffen from the Australian National University and Professor Lesley Hughes from Macquarie University.
Dr Jensen and Mr Back supported a motion at the federal Liberal council meeting last month, which called for a parliamentary inquiry to examine the evidence of climate change before the Government signs up to post 2020 emissions targets.
The motion was ultimately referred to the party’s policy committee, dodging a potentially damaging public debate.
The Federal Government is expected to announce its emissions targets for beyond 2020 at some point before July 20.
Despite the motion being referred to a committee, the 13 scientists said they wished to provide a summary of the latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to sceptical MPs to convince them of the urgent need for action.
“[The IPCC] are talking about the fact we will see very serious impacts if we go beyond 2 degrees Celsius in terms of average global temperature,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.
“We will see impacts on ecosystems, we’ll see impacts on fisheries, we’ll see impacts on agriculture and we’ll see impacts on people and health and so on.”
Dr Jensen, a physicist by training said he was doubtful of some of the IPCC’s models and predictions — especially about global temperature.
“The models have actually proved quite lousy in terms of predicting global average temperature trends,” he said.
“For instance in the last decade-and-a-half the global average temperature hasn’t warmed anything like the majority of the models projected.
“Over 97 per cent of the models that feed into the IPCC technical reports have either overstated or significantly overstated the warming trend that was expected.”
But Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said that was a short-term perspective.
“When you look at the literature, there’s been no hiatus,” he said.
“There’s random variability around the upward signal of temperature.
“It’s just like the stock market. If you look at that it’s going up and down but it’ll have a trend — that trend is what we’re watching.
“[It’s] not whether it’s going up or down over a period of 10 years — it’s a long-term signal.”
Dr Jensen said he was not alone within the party, and that there were “at least” 10 MPs who shared his view that the Government should not sign up to emissions cuts without a parliamentary inquiry.
He and Mr Back said they would accept the briefing, but would not be lectured to.
“As a person with a scientific background, I am always interested in hearing the views of a range of people across the spectrum and to that extent I’m happy to meet with them — but I would be hopeful that they will understand your wish to consult widely,” Mr Back said.
“I would expect them as scientists to realise that a person like myself will continue to take on a broad range of perspectives on any issue. It’s central to science.”
Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said it was important to “listen to the experts”.
“Everyone’s got an opinion, but it’s not the science,” he said.