Political leaders have little to lose in ignoring climate change
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Political leaders have little to lose in ignoring climate change

The federal government's response to the latest alarming update from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is as depressing as it is predictable.

Instead of seeing potential opportunity to lead the nation and the world towards a more sustainable future, the Coalition has delivered a defensive, dismissive response to the world's leading scientists, in effect telling them climate change is not Australia's chief concern.

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Well might the politicians and fossil fuel lobbyists shrug with indifference at the stark forecasts presented by the IPCC.

By 2050, the year cited as a definitive point of no-return for potentially catastrophic consequences including the loss of Great Barrier Reef, most of them will either be past caring about any fall-out from their short-sightedness or dead.

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Rising temperatures, water shortages and increasing food prices will be of much greater concern to the young and the poor than to those well insulated by parliamentary pensions.

It is instructive to contrast their attitudes with the generation that went before; the so-called "greatest generation" who fought Fascism and Japanese aggression; built the Snowy Mountains Scheme, abolished the White Australia Policy and came nearer than any other group of Australians to putting in place a welfare state.

Those heroes have been supplanted by a selfish mob who don't seem to to care about the world they will be leaving behind.

The arguments, counter claims and obfuscations so regularly trotted out by the climate change sceptics are almost invariably the product of the self-interest that comes from being heavily invested in the status quo.

While the deniers are entitled to their point of view, including Tuesday's claim by one columnist "climate alarmism is utter nonsense, the reef won't `get it'", they have little or nothing in the way of science on their side.

Most of what the sceptics say is little more than wishful thinking buoyed up by the knowledge they won't have to live with the consequences one way or another.

How else can Prime Minister Scott Morrison's perverse assertion the IPCC report did not "provide recommendations to Australia" be explained?

Given it has warned just five to 10 per cent of known fossil fuel reserves can be burnt and that "the rest will have to stay in the ground" the way forward is clear.

The future is about renewables and finding smart alternative ways to power our future. If there are hundreds of millions of dollars apparently available to subsidise the development of mines in the Galilee basin, the IPCC's report would suggest redirecting that money into supporting renewable technology would make for a better investment.

That transition is one of the greatest challenges we have faced. It offers the opportunities to develop technologies we could take to the world.

But the climate change debate is not about what is in the short term interests of the current crop of political and industrial leaders; it is about the future we want to create for our children.

They are the ones who, come 2050 and beyond, will judge us on what we did and, more importantly, what we did not do.