A report set to shape how Australia adapts to climate change assumes Australians accept and understand the science when many of us still don’t get it, a federal government body says.
Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency secretary Blair Comley has criticised the Productivity Commission’s draft report on the unavoidable barriers faced by Australian households, businesses and governments in adapting to a changing climate.
Mr Comley said the commission’s draft report was overly “sanguine”, as it implied Australians broadly acknowledge the effects of climate change and are considering them in their plans for the future.
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“I would argue that acceptance of the science is not widespread, either due to outright rejection or because while not rejected, it’s not sufficiently internalised by key decision makers to practically influence their decision making,” Mr Comley told the Climate Adaptation in Action Summit in Melbourne on Tuesday.
He said discussions with many people who didn’t deal with climate change in their daily business had revealed that the issue, even if it was accepted as significant, was “implicitly absent” from their decision-making.
The draft report, released in April, also failed to consider the impacts of political and technical “path dependency” on making changes to adapt to the uncertainties of climate change, Mr Comley said.
For example, the decision to invest in a coal power station, which carries a 30-40-year asset life, would have significant long-term impacts on policies and infrastructure investments which couldn’t be easily changed, he said.
“There are many things that look technically possible but may be very hard for a government to enact in practice,” he said.
“Once a government has made a decision… it can be very hard to reverse that decision.”