Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (19:50): I want to do a shout out tonight—a big shout out—to scientists, especially the world's global climate scientists. Given some of the tragedies we have seen in recent weeks, some of the worst natural disaster and weather events on record, both in the Atlantic and the US and in our own backyard here in Asia, tonight I want to say thank you to the scientists who study and understand our weather and climate systems and try to predict these terrible natural disasters. I want to recognise tonight the important work that you do and tell you that the work that you do is valued.
I would also like to acknowledge tonight that the war on climate science—a war declared by some politicians—has had its victims. I know that many of you now see the climate debate as a moral crisis, rather than just a scientific crisis. I know that you see it as a political problem rather than a scientific problem. And I know that, over time, you've faced denial, censorship and intimidation and you've been attacked and undermined, especially by some cynical, short-sighted politicians. I understand that you may think that politics has failed you and our communities and our environment and our economies. But I wanted to highlight tonight that, if there has been a silver lining from the recent tragedies and natural disasters we've seen—natural disasters that have been unprecedented, in many respects—it's that the great work that has been done by climate scientists and scientists at the weather bureau has helped save many, many thousands of lives.
The Economist this week published an interesting article saying how extreme weather events had quadrupled since the 1970s. While we have seen a significant increase in these extreme weather events, natural disasters, the number of people who have died from these events has decreased significantly since the 1970s. Many of the lives that have been saved, despite the increasing number of catastrophes, come from the skills and expertise of our meteorologists and climate scientists. We have a much better ability to predict where and when extreme weather events will strike and the intensity with which they will strike. This better forecasting ability has led to better early-warning systems and better planning controls, it has allowed better building standards to match likely conditions and, overall, it has saved hundreds and thousands of lives. I reiterate: climate scientists and meteorologists have saved hundreds and thousands of lives.
Climate scientists help us with understanding what type and magnitude of changes we need to be expecting and planning for—commonly called mitigation. They both model and observe the climate and they adopt increasingly sophisticated models and computer systems to make accurate predictions of what we are likely to face in the short and long term. It is impossible to underestimate how important the ongoing work of these climate scientists is. Unfortunately, only last year here in Australia, we saw CSIRO, under the leadership of Larry Marshall, fail to value the work of these climate scientists. In fact, nearly 350 of them who actually monitor our weather systems and our oceans were put on the chopping block. I am proud to say that the Greens, along with some Labor senators, on the Greens select committee, got stuck into CSIRO and we managed to get a lot of these job cuts reversed. We also managed to put pressure on the government going to the double dissolution election to set up a new climate centre, which has now been established in Hobart. Unfortunately, the Trump administration in the US is looking at doing exactly the same thing: cuts right across the board to climate science, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA—and NASA. Trump even wanted to take all the satellites that were studying the weather and just use them for space exploration.
It's really important we recognise the work of these people. We thank them and let them know that they're valued and that we will continue to fund scientific research to make sure we understand our climate.