MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—In the run-up to national elections on 21 August, the country's top science body, the Australian Academy of Science (AAS), has weighed in on the climate change debate with a report backing the mainstream scientific view that human-induced climate change is real and that a business-as-usual approach to carbon emissions will lead to a "catastrophic" four- to five-degree increase in average global temperatures.
The report is intended to counter rising skepticism here about global warming.
According to surveys, the percentage of Australians who believe climate change is largely due to human activity dropped from 52% in 2008 to 44% in early 2010. Among politicians, 30% do not believe climate change is human-wrought. Events of the past year have fueled public skepticism, says Michael Raupach of CSIRO Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research in Canberra and co-chair of the report's working group. These include the investigation into leaked e-mails from University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC's) gaffe about rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers, and the failure to achieve a strong outcome at the Copenhagen climate conference last December. (This elaboration is ScienceInsider's based on common perceptions.) "I was frustrated by the press denigrating the IPCC and that equal voice was given to those with no expertise in climate science," says Kurt Lambeck, a AAS former president who commissioned the academy's report last December.
"Our goal was to provide a scientifically rigorous document for the nonspecialist with a frank discussion on the certainties and uncertainties," AAS President Suzanne Cory said at a press briefing to release the report on 16 August. Authored by a nine-member panel, the report consists of seven questions and answers laying out the evidence for human-induced climate change. "Like any other area of science, climate change science develops through debate. Our report draws the distinction between genuine debate and smokescreens," Lambeck says.