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Estimates Reply – Minister Ferguson


Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Tags: Climate Emergency, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - I want to reflect on a couple of things I raised with Mr Ferguson in his capacity as Minister for Science and Technology. Does Mr Ferguson, as the minister for Science, take the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report with the gravity they command?

I asked the minister whether he could summarise the key findings of the IPCC report. I referred to that report, and would like somebody to disprove me, as the biggest report on the planet. When you have the Secretary of the United Nations referring to the IPCC's report as a code red for humanity, speaking about the fact that the report must sound a death knell for coal and fossil fuels before they destroy our planet and stating clearly that we have to combine forces to avert climate catastrophe, he is not over egging it.

He is just reflecting the incredible seriousness of the findings that our international scientists are reporting. It does not give them any happiness to do that. They do not like the job they are doing of identifying the increasing heating of the planet, of clarifying the damage it is doing to every single global system - atmospheric, terrestrial and marine.

I have never met a climate scientist who takes pleasure in reporting the findings they are observing from experimental research and modelling of future projections of greenhouse gas emissions and investigating the impacts they are having already and will increasingly have on humans and all life on earth. There is no doubt that scientists, and the 11 000 scientists who wrote the letter that called for urgent and strong action from all global leaders, understand the gravity and they are desperately trying to communicate it to us.

It is a fair question to ask the minister for Science, who attended Science Meets Parliament and has more opportunity than most people in Tasmania to summarise the key findings. I would have expected a few comments on an urgent wake up call for us all, a need to take further and stronger actions, a requirement for Tasmania to do everything it can in every single sector, a need to end native forest logging so that we keep our carbon stores in the ground and a need to have comprehensive and detailed adaptation planning, which we are clearly not doing in Tasmania.

A mix of those would have been a welcome response from the Minister for Science and Technology. Instead, despite the fact that the Chair of the committee kept interrupting, seeking to shut me down, to turn off the heat from the Minister for Science and Technology, Mr Ferguson admitted that he has not read the Summary for Policymakers. That may be acceptable except he is not intending to do it anytime soon. He has closed his mind to reading the simplified summary report, the summary of the summary report. It is about two pages long and he cannot be bothered.

He is not interested in reading any summarial documents about the biggest planetary report delivered. The Chair of the committee called my description of it as the biggest report a 'subjective assessment'.

There is nothing more important to life on earth than an understanding of how our planet is heating and what we have to do to wind it back as fast as possible. We do not get a second go at this. In his contribution just before, Mr Street was attacking Labor about infrastructure bills and he said, 'We've seen the problems when we build infrastructure for the now and not for the future'. I will turn it back on Mr Street and the Liberals. We see exactly what happens when we set pathetic state climate action plans for the now and not for the future, when we do not set sectional targets for the future, when we do not look at innovations and targets to transform our society so that we prepare ourselves for an inevitably much bleaker and harder climate to live in. That is what we have to do now. That is what we have to do immediately.

The Greens are not going to stop talking about this. Mr Ferguson can put his hands on his ears as much as he likes but he has a very important job. The first job for the minister for Science is to listen to the scientists, to listen to our world-class scientists from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, the University of Tasmania, the ACE CRC, the new Climate and Land Extremes (CLEX) research body. These are globally important and globally acclaimed research organisations. The scientists within them are the best in the world.

We need a minister for Science who is not only prepared to listen to them but to read what they have written. Tasmanians have contributed to that global research. We laud them for other things and this Government, this minister, is so happy to invite them to parliament and pump himself up around them so he should listen them instead of using them for a PR exercise. It does him very badly and it does not advance Tasmania's interests.