NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean says Australia must stop making climate change a matter of religion and instead make it a matter of science as unprecedented bushfires burn across the state.
Mr Kean reiterated that the NSW bushfires were linked to climate change shortly after his coalition colleague Sarah Mitchell said the debate was "philosophical" and days after Emergency Services Minister David Elliott labelled the discussion "unpalatable".
"This should be a debate of science, this should not be a philosophical debate ... the majority of scientific opinion is very clear on this fact," Mr Kean told ABC radio on Wednesday.
"We've got to stop making climate change a matter of religion and we've got to start making it a matter of science and the science says that we need to reduce the impact of global warming by 2C and in order to do that we need to get to net-zero emissions by 2050."
Mr Kean refused to say Ms Mitchell was wrong but emphasised she was the education minister and he was the environment minister.
"I'll be listening to the experts," he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian subsequently said her government accepted the reality of climate change but she stopped short of linking it to the bushfires.
Instead, she blamed the unprecedented blazes on drought and "extreme weather conditions".
Mr Elliott on Wednesday appeared to change his tune saying: "I agree with what the premier just said."
But he also blamed the bushfires burning along the entire east coast on arsonists, lightning strikes, unseasonably warm weather, downed power lines, car crashes and prolonged drought.
Senior NSW Liberal Andrew Constance on Wednesday acknowledged "climate change is one factor of many playing out here".
Mr Kean believes this season's bushfires - which have killed six people and destroyed more than 720 homes - must be a catalyst for change.
"We cannot deny that these fires have been going on for weeks and we need to address the causes of them," he said.
"The advice from my department is last year was the hottest year on record in NSW and this year is on track to be the second warmest, the scientists have been predicting for decades that climate change will result in more extreme weather events.
"Hotter days, less rain, more drought, worse air quality - that is what the scientists have told us climate change looks like. This is climate change."
Mr Kean on Tuesday used a speech to a Sydney energy summit to deliver the Berejiklian government's strongest comments on the issue to date.
"This is not normal and doing nothing is not a solution," he said.
Former NSW fire chief Greg Mullins says the federal government's inaction on climate change is "galling" and some politicians are continuing to gag debate because "if you don't have an answer for something you try and divert the conversation".
The ex-Fire and Rescue NSW boss believes NSW "gets it" but has so far been reluctant to speak out to avoid embarrassing Canberra which he says has "dropped the ball entirely on emissions reductions".
Australian Associated Press
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