Minister criticised for likening global warming to Y2K
The World Today
Reporter: Gillian Bradford
14 September 2006
ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has drawn furious criticism from the Opposition parties today by suggesting that the alarm surrounding global warming is similar to the predictions about Y2K at the turn of the century, which went nowhere.
Senator Campbell says it’s not useful to use extreme language to talk about the threat of global warming or people will switch off and think that there’s little that they can do.
But both the Labor Party and the Greens say the science behind greenhouse gases is real and the world should be alarmed.
From Canberra Gillian Bradford reports.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Senator Ian Campbell is now on his way to Zurich for a meeting on climate change and one of the proposals he’ll put to that UN conference is that people need to be encouraged to do more small things that can make a difference.
Senator Campbell says if you tell people drastic action is needed many households will think there’s little they can do.
IAN CAMPBELL: If you make it too alarmist people will switch off. I saw that when I was handling the Y2K issue in Australia.
If you sort of talk about doomsday scenarios people will switch off and they won’t start taking sensible, affordable action.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Both Labor and the Greens are appalled by Senator Campbell’s comments.
The Opposition’s Environment Spokesman is Anthony Albanese.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well the Minister is wrong to trivialise the threat of climate change and he’s certainly wrong to compare it to the Y2K bug which was about what happened when the clock ticked over on one day at the millennium.
This is the most serious challenge facing the global community, and it’s about responding to a threat that will last for generations.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Australian Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, says the Environment Minister has his head in the sand.
BOB BROWN: What a foolish man he is that he won’t face up to the reality of climate change, of global heating.
The Australian populace knows about it and I’m afraid he might think it’s alarmist to talk about global warming. He should see a lot of more of Al Gore. The Prime Minister should see Al Gore’s film. It’s scientifically based. It’s what the Greens have been talking about for decades now.
We’ve simply got to look at reality. It’s not alarmist. We’re looking at the real science which says our planet is heating. It’s due to carbon dioxide and other gases. It’s being produced out of human industry. It’s up to us to turn that around.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Does he have any point when he says if you start talking as though this is the end of the world and drastic action is needed that many people will just switch off and think there’s nothing they can do?
BOB BROWN: He’s got his head stuck in the sand. And he says, "if I bring my head out of the sand and look at reality, I’ll get alarmed".
Well Senator Campbell, it is an alarming situation, and we have to face up to that. In fact Britain’s chief meteorologist says it’s more alarming than terrorism. Well this Government makes an art form of alarming the populace about terrorism and we need to be alert to that.
But when it comes to the huge economic penalty, the huge environmental penalty, the huge lifestyle penalty coming to our children through global warming, the Minister says, "let’s not talk about that in real terms, that’s alarmist".
GILLIAN BRADFORD: Both Labor and the Greens are also concerned Senator Campbell has become a strong advocate of disposing of the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, by pumping it deep into the sea bed.
Anthony Albanese again.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It’s not very practical if we’re putting all our eggs in that basket while ignoring renewable energy and the potential that it has to make a difference as well as looking at other issues including how to make our transport more efficient and more greenhouse friendly.
GILLIAN BRADFORD: The Greens’ Bob Brown also thinks the geo-sequestration is just not practical in Australia.
BOB BROWN: Well the first thing for Senator Campbell to come to grips with is that the 35 coal fired stations in Australia are nowhere near the north-west shelf.
They’re nowhere near these big holes under the ocean. In other words, they can’t be fitted with the technology. It’s very expensive, even if it was available, and that’s many, many years away even if it happens.
ELEANOR HALL: Senator Bob Brown ending that report by Gillian Bradford in Canberra.