Australia's Spy Agency Identified Climate Risk 40 Years Ago; The Government Protected the Coal Industry Instead

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tags: climate change, environmental history, Australian history

The report was stamped CONFIDENTIAL twice on each page, with the customary warning it should “not be released to any other government except Britain, Canada, NZ and US.”

About 40 years ago this week, the spooks at Australia’s intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (ONA), delivered the 17-page report to prime minister Malcolm Fraser.

The subject? “Fossil Fuels and the Greenhouse Effect.”

Michael Cook, the agency’s director general, wrote in an introduction how his team had looked at the implications of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “with special reference to Australia as a producer and exporter of coal.”

Cook wrote: “Scientists now agree that if such emissions continue it will some time in the next century lead to a discernible ‘greenhouse effect’ whereby the Earth’s atmosphere becomes measurably warmer with related climatic changes.”

The agency had several warnings for the Fraser government, but central to the concerns was the potential for the country’s coal exports to be affected.

Those concerns from high levels of government show that from the beginning, the country was seeing the climate change issue through the prism of its fossil fuels.

There were “potentially adverse implications” for the “security of Australia’s export markets for coal beyond the end of the century.”

About 16 years after the ONA report, the Howard government signed the Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions. John Howard, who was treasurer when the ONA report was released, later refused to ratify that Kyoto deal, saying it would damage the country’s industries, including coal.

Read entire article at Mother Jones

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