Cunningham Lecture 2010: What if mainstream science is right?

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About the Speaker

Professor Ross Garnaut AO FASSA, is a Vice-Chancellors Fellow and a Professorial Fellow in Economics at the University of Melbourne as well as a Distinguished Professor of the Australian National University. In December 2009, Professor Garnaut was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from the Australian National University.

He is currently Chairman of the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Program Limited (Singapore) and its nominee Director on the Board of Ok Tedi Mining Limited (Papua New Guinea). In addition, he is a member of the board of several international research institutions, including Asialink (Melbourne), the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (Jakarta) and the China Centre for Economic Research at Peking University (Beijing).

Professor Garnaut is the author of numerous books, monographs and articles in scholarly journals on international economics, public finance and economic development, particularly in relation to East Asia and the Southwest Pacific.

In addition to his distinguished academic career, Professor Garnaut has also had longstanding and successful roles as policy advisor, diplomat and businessman. He was the Senior Economic Adviser to Australian Prime Minister RJL Hawke from 1983 to 1985 and subsequently served as the Australian Ambassador to China (1985 to 1988).

In September 2008, Professor Garnaut presented the Garnaut Climate Change Review to the Australian Prime Minister. This review, commissioned by the Australian Government, examines the impact of climate change on the Australian economy and provides potential medium- to long-term policies to ameliorate these. In November 2010 the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency commissioned Professor Garnaut to update his 2008 Garnaut Climate Change Review, and the final report was presented to the Australian Government in May 2011.

The rout of knowledge and analysis in Australian climate change policy

The integrated wisdom of mainstream science and mainstream economics identify large risks to established patterns of human civilisation from unmitigated or weakly mitigated climate change. These risks are important in all countries, and greater in Australia than in any other developed country. They have been more elaborately analysed in Australia than in most other countries, and our community has had access to large amounts of reliable information on the risks. And yet Australia has been and is an important brake on international progress on mitigation policy. There is political failure of fateful dimension. This lecture defines the failure and seeks to illuminate the causes of this unhappy reality. It suggests possible ways out of the impasse, and discusses factors which will determine whether these ways will be taken.

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