CANBERRA, Australia, May 24 (UPI) -- A new climate change report reflects the urgency of a carbon tax for Australia, said Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"The Critical Decade" report released Monday by Australia's Climate Commission, a government-appointed group, says the number of record hot days in Australia has more than doubled in the past 50 years, increasing the risk of heat waves and associated deaths, as well as extreme bush-fire weather in southeastern and southwestern Australia.
The report notes that since the late 1880s, sea levels have risen 7.87 inches globally, affecting many coastal communities. It warned that another 7.87-inch increase is likely by 2050, based on current projections, and that would more than double the risk of coastal flooding.
"'The Critical Decade' strengthens my determination to make sure we price carbon," Gillard wrote on her blog. "When big polluters pay, every cent of that money can be used to help families, protect jobs and fund programs to tackle climate change. That's why it's so important that we act now."
Under the government's proposals for a carbon pricing scheme, Australia would introduce a price, or tax, on carbon emissions from July 2012, with an emissions trading scheme that could begin from 2015.
The plan is subject to federal Parliament passing the legislation.
"Good, credentialed science (is) telling us our climate is changing and what the effects of it are, Gillard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. "Of course we've got to act on it and the cheapest and most efficient way of acting on it is to price carbon."
The report said that climate science was ''being attacked in the media by many with no credentials in the field," adding that attempts to "intimidate climate scientists have added to the confusion in the public."
The Climate Commission report said that unless global emissions begin falling within a few years, the world will face a near-impossible task to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, the target scientists say will avert dangerous climate change.
Noting that the report has restated "what we already know -- that climate change is real," Minerals Council of Australia Chief Executive Mitch Hooke said the climate debate should address protecting the country's export industries.
"The debate about climate change should be focusing on the best way to protect jobs, the economy and our standard of living in a carbon-constrained world," he said, adding that the proposed tax would expose Australia's export industries "to the highest carbon costs in the world," The Australian newspaper reports.