Data Deliberately Delayed on National Climate Change by Government

Last Friday, what were you thinking about? Excited by the long weekend? Did it begin Friday itself, or the following Monday (SA)? Are you an AFL fan? Or is League your game? Either way: a Grand Final was front and centre to your mind, I would wager.

Photograph: K. S. T./ BY 2.0

I'd double down that you were not even aware the quarterly National Greenhouse Gas Inventory was released.

Did you know it showed that C02 pollution was at its highest since 2011? And that this crested on a continuing rise in annual emissions from 2013 to now? Didn't? You could be forgiven, as it was a peculiarly bad time to release such a report. Fairly obviously liable to go unnoticed.

And there was no reason why it should have been published on the edge of a long weekend with two prominent sporting events upcoming on the Saturday and Sunday consecutively. Except if it was an attempt to purposely veil the information from the public. In which case it was a stroke of dizzying obfuscatory mastery.

Melissa Price

The relevant documents, in fact, reached the then assistant Energy Minister Melissa Price (pictured) as early as 9 August. It came with a comment by Rob Sturgess, Assistant secretary of the Department of Environment, "Gday. Not sure how busy you are this week … but attached is the quarterly update."

Seven full weeks before the official release last Friday. They must have been very busy indeed after all! With what — perhaps they'll detail that during the Australian Open final.

Any road, the same documents were re-sent 6 September to the new Morisson Government's fresh Environment Minister: Melissa Price. Two weeks more intervened before it was thought best to make them public.

More unnervingly — it isn't a one-off. Climate Council acting chief Dr. Martin Rice: "The Federal Government not only delays releasing climate information, it also tries to bury it. We've seen emissions data quietly released on Christmas Eve, or on a Friday evening, at a time it's least likely to attract attention or scrutiny."

Waiting deliberately for a distraction to draw attention away from the release of climate change data is par for the course for the current government.

And how does that data bear on Australia's international committments made in Paris? The Prime Minister remarkably thinks it irrelevant.

"What we're seeing though is a business-as-usual approach, a technology-driven approach, which will see us, I think, more than meet our targets out to 2030."

Business-as-usual? The situation that's so bad that almost everybody's agreed a coherent, effective and long-term plan for supply security and reliability is desperately needed? Or does he mean bankrolling multi-million dollar life-extensions for dying coal-fired power plants?

Either way: business is bad at the minute. And keeping at it as is will very definitely preclude meeting the emission reductions committed to ever at all, leave aside "at a canter" and on time.

The "technology-driven" aspect to his statement is about "clean" coal — lliterally the most expensive way we could possibly produce power today.

And while pursuing that line might ultmately enable Australia to keep up its emission target, it would align poorly with the ostensible pronouncements that this government's main aim is to drive down electricity prices for consumers. You can't increase the cost of production and simultaneously push down retail purchase prices. I have nieces at primary school who know that.

Carrying on the way we've been going won't work. Why would it? How could it?

Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy: "Emissions are rising and there's no national plan to turn it around. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that if we don't have a plan, we're not going to meet our emission target."

She's bang on.

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