Tony Abbott still doubts planet is getting hotter

TONY ABBOTT has restated his sceptical views on climate change, and suggested the world may be getting cooler, as the Australian Academy of Science released a new report warning of the future impact of global warming.

The Opposition Leader said he accepted "that climate change is real", but he did not back away from his view, based in part on the work of the Australian climate sceptic Ian Plimer, that the world is getting colder.

Asked by the ABC's Four Corners if he still disputed that humans are responsible for climate change, Mr Abbott said: "Sure, but that's not really relevant at the moment. We have agreed to get a 5 per cent emissions reduction target."

He suggested he harboured doubts about the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body charged with collating global warming research.

"I certainly think that there is a credible scientific counterpoint but, in the end, I'm not going to win an argument over the science, I'll leave that to the scientists," he told Four Corners. "I have pointed out in the past that there was that high year a few years ago, and … if you believe the various measuring organisations, [the temperature] hasn't increased, but again the point is not the science, the point is how should government respond and we have a credible response that will achieve a 5 per cent reduction by 2020 and the government doesn't."

Mr Abbott was referring to global temperatures in 1998, which coincided with a heat-inducing El Nino cycle, and by some measures was slightly hotter than 2005.

Neither the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, nor Mr Abbott, could say when Australia's greenhouse gas emissions needed to peak if the country was to achieve its minimum agreed emissions cut of 5 per cent by 2020.

The Coalition has pledged to meet the commitment principally by paying farmers to absorb more carbon dioxide into the soil, though it insists that its payments do not constitute a "carbon price".

The Labor Party will also attempt to soak up more carbon in the soil, but says its preferred mechanism for cutting emissions is still an emissions trading scheme, which it will consider introducing in 2013.

The renewed argument over the science of climate change comes as a study of 300 federal, state and local government political leaders, by the University of Queensland, suggests sharp differences in beliefs and understanding around global warming between the Coalition and Labor parties.

Coalition MPs were less likely to believe climate change is happening, and showed less trust in scientists, although the results reflected only those who decided to take part in the survey. Forty-one federal MPs, 101 state MPs and 69 local government representatives took part.

The results showed 38 per cent of Coalition politicians believed the world was getting warmer because of human-induced carbon emissions, compared with 57 per cent of non-aligned politicians, 89 per cent of Labor politicians and 98 per cent of Greens.

"This difference is unlikely to have occurred by chance," said Dr Kelly Fielding, of the university's Institute for Social Science. "What it shows is that a much higher proportion of Liberal-National politicians are uncertain in their views, whereas on average the Labor politicians are more likely to agree with the statements made by scientists."


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