Australia

Government accused of hiding full extent of climate change

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The Climate Council says the federal government has slashed climate research funding, censored reports showing the extent of the damage and released emissions data around Christmas when the public is distracted.

The Australian Government has been accused of going to "extraordinary lengths" to hide the full extent of climate change from the public, according to a new report. 

The Climate Council's Climate Cuts, Cover-Ups and Censorship report found the government had slashed climate science funding, rejected advice from climate bodies, and weakened the nation's climate science capability by cutting jobs at the CSIRO. 

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie said the report's findings were shocking. 

Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie says the federal government has been dishonest with the public about climate change.
Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie says the federal government has been dishonest with the public about climate change.
AAP

"I think most Australians would be outraged if they knew the full story," Ms McKenzie said. 

"The Coalition Government has slashed climate science funding, censored important information and repeatedly made false claims." 

The report was released the day after the first leader's debate between Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten ahead of the 18 May federal election

Environmental policy has been a defining issue of the campaign to date, with coal-mining protests and debates over water buy-backs occupying much of the discussion.

The Climate Council's head of research Dr Martin Rice said the government had also been known to deliberately release climate information at the busiest times of the year and block other information from being released altogether. 

“The Federal Government has repeatedly tried to avoid scrutiny by releasing greenhouse gas emissions data just before Christmas or on the eve of football grand finals when fewer people are paying attention,” Dr Rice said. 

"The Federal Government censored a UNESCO report on climate change and World Heritage sites, convincing the UN agency to delete all references to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef."

Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison will have a leaders' debate in Perth on Monday night.
Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison will have a leaders' debate in Perth on Monday night.
AAP

While the debate around climate policy continues, the Climate Council's Professor Will Steffen said the test of good climate policy was simple.

"It must be aligned with the science, it must be clear and effective, and it must deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions consistent with the Paris targets," Professor Steffen said.

"Our current policy fails on all three counts."

Australia recently experienced what the Climate Council called its 'Angriest Summer' in history.

Ms McKenzie said the effects of climate change were clear in the nation's increasingly extreme weather conditions. 

“Heatwaves have become hotter and last longer, while droughts, intense rainfall and bushfire conditions have become more severe,” Ms McKenzie said.

“As Australians experience escalating consequences into the future, they are likely to view this period of missed opportunities and failed leadership with deep dismay."

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WATCH: Australia Street: How important is climate change policy to you?
WATCH: Australia Street: How important is climate change policy to you?

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