Australia's chief scientist rejects experts' letter warning him not to back gas

Alan Finkel sitting behind a desk at the National Press Club.
26 August 2020

Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, has rejected a letter from leading scientists who warned his advocacy for increased use of gas-fired electricity was at odds with the Paris climate agreement.

The 25 scientists, several of them globally recognised in their fields, applauded Finkel’s support for renewable energy but said his backing an expanded role for gas as a transition fuel was not consistent with a safe climate.

The letter was prompted by a speech the chief scientist gave to the National Press Club in February, in which he said gas would play a “critical role” for many decades as renewable energy scaled up, and his subsequent support for the government’s claim more gas-fired power was essential.

The scientists said they were concerned about Finkel’s strategy for dealing with climate change and offered to provide him scientific advice on the issue.

“There is no role for an expansion of the gas industry,” they wrote. “The combustion of natural gas is now the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the most important greenhouse gas.”

The letter was organised by Prof Will Steffen, the inaugural director of the Australian National University climate change institute. Signatories include professors John Church, Lesley Hughes, Terry Hughes, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Mark Howden and Matthew England.

Read the full article on The Guardian website, featuring Prof Mark Howden and Prof Will Steffen

You can read a copy of the open letter here - signatories include ANU academics Prof Will Steffen, Prof Mark Howden, Prof Nerilie Abram, Dr Joelle Gergis, & Hon Assoc Prof Hugh Saddler