I am an academic with a level of expertise in politics, public policy and criminology. But I am not a climate scientist, therefore when considering the issues that arise in the climate change "debate" I listen and heed the views of those with proven research-based knowledge in the science.
It is also why I pay little, if any, attention to the politically motivated utterances of some former and serving politicians, or the views of self-proclaimed climate experts such as Lord Christopher Monckton. These people are not climate scientists and hence do not have the in-depth knowledge required to contribute meaningfully to the climate debate.
My decision to be guided by world-leading experts on matters I know little about is not unusual. The vast majority of people worldwide do so, consciously and unconsciously, on a daily basis.
If we are sick, we go to a doctor for a diagnosis, and hopefully a cure. We do so because doctors are experts in their field.
When people drive across a bridge, they do so confident that it will not collapse. Their confidence comes from the knowledge that bridges are built to the specifications of expert engineers.
When travelling by plane, passengers feel self-assured they will arrive at their destination safely because experts build planes and expert pilots fly them.
People take an elevator to the 30th floor of a skyscraper without a second thought, as they know experts designed and constructed the lift and the building.
I could go on listing the multitude of things people do with confidence every day because the application of expert knowledge allows them to do so.
Of course, there are times when something goes wrong. People reading this article may be thinking: what about the doctors who misdiagnose a disease, what about the planes that crash and bridges that collapse, and don't some building have serious structural problems?
Such events certainly occur, but - when compared to the millions of flights that take place safely every year throughout the world, the many millions of buildings that do not collapse, the bridges that safely carry trillions of cars each year and the millions of people who have not died because they were vaccinated - the successes overwhelmingly outweigh any failures.
So why have the warnings of approximately 90 percent of the world's leading climate scientists from over 150 countries been so easily brushed aside?
Is it because the shrill voice of self-interest dominates the debate? Have the concerns of lobbyists and political donors, who enjoy privileged access to policy-makers, held sway over the expert opinions of climate scientists?
The voices of climate scientists need to be heard by the broader Australian community, and it is the responsibility of governments, the opposition and minor parties to ensure that they are. Public office is a public trust, and as a result all parliamentarians are bound to act first and foremost in the public interest.
The time has come for a climate forum to be held, similar to the Bob-Hawke-initiated tax summit; one that all Australians can observe. What we do not need any more is the discounting of expert advice for party-political reasons. Nor do we need a forum held in private, or one that is stacked to achieve a particular outcome.
I make the suggestion for an open forum because I firmly believe in the wisdom of the Australian people. They will listen to, and can be persuaded by, sound evidence-based arguments. Consciously and unconsciously, people trust experts - but they need to be given the opportunity to hear the views of climate scientists
The voices of climate scientists need to be heard by the broader Australian community, and it is the responsibility of governments... to ensure that they are.
It is possible for Australia to come together to hear the science-based opinions of the climate experts and work through, as a nation, how we can best address the complex and often competing interests that surround the debate.
In doing so, we need to include those Australians who will be most disadvantaged by any significant policy change. These Australians have genuine concerns that must be heeded. But they will also have sound ideas on how the public good and their concerns can be addressed simultaneously.
There are several reasons why Australia has not made the progress it is capable of in relation to climate policy. One is the scandalous way the issue has been politicised by several political parties for over a decade. This needs to stop, and stop now.
The Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, and the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, are ideologically opposed on most issues - but congratulations to Mr Andrews who rose above partisan politics to publicly thank the Prime Minister for the level of co-operation that is taking place between his state and the Commonwealth in fighting the devastating Victorian bushfires. We desperately need more of this attitude and approach in Australian politics.
I am an optimist, so I believe we can come together as a nation over climate change. Given what is at stake right now and in the future, why wouldn't we?
- Dr Colleen Lewis is an adjunct professor at Monash University's Faculty of Arts.