John Menadue. Getting back on the front foot.

The tide is turning on climate change. It is going out on Tony Abbott and Rupert Murdoch. They will never admit it but the efforts of the Rudd and Gillard Governments will be vindicated.

It is time for the ALP to really go onto its front foot on climate change. In recent months they have been extraordinarily quiet. It is not good enough to rely on the failures of the Abbott Government. The ALP needs to develop and prosecute its own policies.

People in South Australia must be extremely worried about recent bushfires and now predicted heavy rainfalls. But we are hearing little from the ALP about climate change. The Opposition’s Shadow Minister for The Environment, Climate Change and Water, Mark Butler, comes from South Australia.

The evidence on the dangers of climate change is mounting almost daily. Australians are feeling and sensing that weather patterns are changing significantly. The climate change deniers, like Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, Maurice Newman, Dick Warburton and Rupert Murdoch, will surely find that their denial has been unwise and damaging to our national interest.

Tony Abbott tells us that one of his great political successes has been the abolition of the carbon tax. His opposition to the tax was one of his ‘signature policies’. Increasingly we are coming to see that he has misled us. The carbon tax and the associated emissions trading scheme were necessary and good policies.

The evidence on climate change is mounting month after month after month.

Last week the Australian Bureau of Meteorology told us (see link here) http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/annual/aus/

  • 2013 was our warmest year since records began in 1910. 2014 was our third warmest year. The 2014 spring was the warmest on record. Our mean average temperature in 2014 was 0.91 degrees above the 1961-1990 average.
  • Globally, 2014 may be the warmest year on record. No year since 1985 has observed a below average global mean temperature and all of the ten warmest years have occurred since 1998.
  • In Australia there was near average rainfall in 2014, but it was dry in the East and along the West coast.
  • Sea surface temperatures have remained high around Australia, with all five years between 2010 and 2014 within the eight warmest years on record.
  • There was extreme heat and significant warm spells.
  • There were significant bush fires, particularly in early spring.

Despite Tony Abbott and Rupert Murdoch and the deniers, public opinion is shifting. In a survey released in 2014 the Lowy Institute showed the first increase in public concern over climate change in six years.  Almost two thirds of respondents said the government should be giving leadership on climate change.

The international climate change conference in Peru late last year showed an increasing willingness by countries to take action on climate change.

Despite attempts by Tony Abbott to sideline climate change at the G20 meeting in Brisbane, the presidents of the US and China signed a major agreement to combat climate change.

In the fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s most eminent climate scientists overwhelmingly agreed that climate change is a serious and developing problem.

Pope Francis will weigh in in a few months’ time with the first ever Vatican teaching on climate change.

But here, the Australian Government is rolling out its pay the polluter Direct Action Plan and trying to wind back the renewal energy target.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in October last year outlined his plans on competitiveness in agriculture and how farmers needed to adapt to climate variability. But there was no mention of climate change. This is quite remarkable as there is probably no group in Australia that is likely to be more affected by climate change than Australian farmers. But tagging along behind the Liberal Party for the sake of a few ministerial posts, the National Party is failing to provide effective leadership for rural Australia.

The tide is turning on climate change.

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