Spy agency predicted climate crisis 40 years ago

Malcolm Fraser
The late Malcolm Fraser

Forty years ago this week, Australian intelligence agency the Office of National Assessments (ONA) delivered a 17-page report to prime minister Malcolm Fraser titled Fossil Fuels and the Greenhouse Effect, which predicted the climate crisis we are facing today.

According to The Guardian, the report was stamped

Michael Cook, the agency’s director general, wrote in an introduction how his team had looked at the implications of rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “with special reference to Australia as a producer and exporter of coal”.

“Scientists now agree that if such emissions continue it will some time in the next century lead to a discernible ‘greenhouse effect’ whereby the Earth’s atmosphere becomes measurably warmer with related climatic changes,” Cook wrote.

The agency said central to the concerns was the potential for the country’s coal exports to be affected, citing “potentially adverse implications” for the “security of Australia’s export markets for coal beyond the end of the century”.

Related article: Coal plants are closing faster than expected, but governments can keep the exit orderly

“About 16 years after the ONA report, the Howard government signed the Kyoto protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions,” The Guardian reported.

“John Howard, who was treasurer when the ONA report was released, later refused to ratify that Kyoto deal, saying it would damage the country’s industries, including coal.

“ONA was predicting in 1981 that tensions were likely. Sooner or later the ‘carbon dioxide problem’ would ‘arouse public concerns and so engage the attention of governments’.

If there wasn’t cost-effective technology to reduce the carbon dioxide problem by the end of that century, then concerns could culminate in pressure for action to restrict fossil fuel usage, the ONA report said.

Read the full report here.

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