AUSTRALIAN government officials have admitted to pressuring UNESCO to censor a scientific report on the Great Barrier Reef in an extraordinary development overnight.
The international report, released overnight, profiles the impacts of climate change on other major tourism drawcards like the Statue of Liberty, Venice and Stonehenge but any reference of Australia was scrubbed from an earlier draft.
“These allegations are extremely troubling, and the Government must respond to them,” Climate Councillor Professor Will Steffen said today.
Professor Steffen was invited to review a case study on the Great Barrier Reef for the report. However, the section was cut at the last minute, in the midst of our election campaign, without explanation.
Report authors have told the Guardian they were pressured by government officials to remove any mention of Australia. There were smaller sections on Kakadu and the Tasmanian heritage-listed forests.
Environment department officials have confirmed they asked for all mention of Australia’s heritage sites to be removed. Australia is the only inhabited continent that is not featured in the report.
“Given Australia has probably done as much, or more, research than any other country on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage sites, and that the Great Barrier Reef has just undergone the worst coral bleaching event in its history, it beggars belief that Australia would not even rate a mention,” Professor Steffen said.
“To argue that this is about tourism doesn’t make much sense. No other country requested sections to be removed from the report.
“Information is the currency of democracy, and the idea that government officials would exert pressure to censor scientific information on our greatest natural treasure is extremely disturbing.
“We can’t hide the impacts of climate change on our reefs. Nor on our farms, water supplies, or our health. Suppressing scientific information is an extremely dangerous road to take, and one that is completely at odds with our Western democratic principles.
“The scientific evidence is clear and compelling. Climate change is driving increasingly serious impacts across our society, and the only way we can deal with it is to rapidly and deeply reduce emissions from fossil fuel use, which is the root cause of climate change.”
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