Today it was confirmed that Australian government officials pressured a prestigious international body to silence the truth about the risks of climate change for the Great Barrier Reef.
Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen, one of the scientists the Australian government tried to silence, shares his response below:
Last year I was asked to review an international scientific report on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage sites and tourism. I reviewed a case study on the Great Barrier Reef, focussing on the increasing risks to tourism from climate change.
Overnight the report was released – but mysteriously, the Great Barrier Reef chapter had been cut completely. I was astonished, given we’ve just witnessed the worst coral bleaching event in the Reef’s history.
Australian officials have now confirmed to The Guardian that they asked the report authors to remove any reference to the Great Barrier Reef, or any Australian world heritage site. No sections about any other country were removed.
As a scientist, I’m angry. As an Australian, I’m disgusted. As a Climate Councillor, I’m now asking for your help.
Today you will hear me on the TV and radio waves as we ask the government to answer these allegations, which are deeply troubling.
I’ve spent a lot of my career working internationally, and it’s very rare to see something like this. Perhaps in the old Soviet Union you might see this sort of thing happening, where governments would quash information because they didn’t like it. But not in western democracies. I haven’t seen it happen before.
Information is the currency of democracy. When governments attempt to suppress or pressure scientific information, we must speak up. To me, this is about more than one report, and more than the Reef.
Sadly, we can’t just rely on governments to provide independent scientific information. We experienced that first hand when the Climate Commission was abolished by the Abbott Government.
Since then, we’ve only seen the government step up their attacks on science – gutting funding for CSIRO, climate research, renewable energy investment and more.
A strong, independent voice for science is more important than ever.
If you believe the public deserve to hear the facts; if you believe the government has no right to silence scientists, then please help fund the Climate Council’s ongoing work.
Prof. Will Steffen
P.S. You can read the censored UN report chapter about the Great Barrier Reef here.
Image Credit: XL Catlin Seaview Survey