The science is in, again. The latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that it is ''extremely likely'' (a 95-100 per cent certainty on its probability scale) that humans have been the dominant influence affecting the warming of the Earth's climate system since at least the 1950s. Those who choose to keep denying the science can bury their head in the sand or argue minor points in a conclusive judgment.
The rest of us will consider what to do about it, because this is really the crux of the debate. What will we, as individuals, as a nation, as a global community, really do to alter our behaviour and mitigate the effect on our planet's warming? As the head of the World Meteorological Organisation said, this ''should serve as another wake-up call that our activities today will have a profound impact on society, not only for us but for many generations to come''.
Beyond its dubious Direct Action proposals, the Abbott government has little stomach for climate change initiatives. It is more focused on ensuring businesses continue unimpeded by what it tritely calls ''green tape'', the regulation arising from all things environmental. There is an urgent need (and wide community support) to take politics out of the climate issue, and for independent organisations to provide impartial, transparent and effective commentary and advice. That is all the more necessary now that the Abbott government has moved to dismantle the institutions that gave credence to the Rudd and Gillard governments' climate-related policies and emissions-reduction initiatives. A day after it was sworn in, the new government closed the Climate Commission, led by Professor Tim Flannery, and ordered legislation to be drafted to end the Climate Change Authority. In less than a week, Professor Flannery raised $900,000 as 20,000 donors demonstrated the community wants a credible and independent advisory organisation on climate change.
Other countries are doing far more than we are in implementing policies to cut emissions. Australia is now out of step with the major movers in the industrialised world. Even China is experimenting with carbon emissions trading schemes and relying more heavily on gas and renewable energy sources than coal. The Abbott government is trying to mute the issue by suffocating the institutions that could aid change.
The danger is manifold: in the long term, the risk in doing nothing is dire; in the short term, the opportunities lost will be enormous as our economy risks being hamstrung by old-style business practices. The best companies are already capitalising by making profound practical changes and measuring efficiencies.
As for the organisations that could best inform the public about climate change, they need to reframe the message. Instead of berating individuals about what they ''must'' do, they should focus on what could be gained economically and what opportunities will be lost if nothing is done.