WHEN the legendary Barry Jones was minister for science in the Hawke government he established a "Commission for the Future" to encourage informed decision-making on Australia's options - and to build a bridge between our scientists and the community.
When appointed chairman I tried to explain that the future wasn't a foregone conclusion but a choice.
What future did Australians in the 1980s want for their children?
I began by meeting with the greatest Australian scientists, some with Nobel prizes.
I asked what was the greatest danger humanity faced.
They agreed it wasn't nuclear war but a recently established threat known as "the greenhouse effect".
The consensus 30 years ago? That our planet might be uninhabitable by 2050.
So that became the commission's most urgent task - to alert the community and our politicians to the most significant problem in human history, posing a vast threat to political and social stability, to food production, to species survival.
We organised local and international conferences and got the discussion going.
Thirty years on? The political response has stalled.
There is criminal stupidity from climate change deniers and the fossil fuel industries continue to subvert efforts to transform our energy production.
The media give the oxygen of publicity to scientific buffoons - and the crisis looms ever larger.
Nero famously fiddled while Rome burned.
The global response to the problem?
Fiddling while the planet burns.
And the issue is more important and more urgent in the Hunter than anywhere else on Earth.
We are a major source of the problem - and could be a major source of new ideas and alternative power.
I've spent decades talking to the major scientists all over the world - as "greenhouse" became "global warming" and, in the Bush era, "climate change". (George W. was a denialist and his administration felt that this new term was less likely to cause alarm.)
While there are minor disagreements among the countless thousands of scientists working in a wide variety of relevant disciplines - no issue is more complex - the ultimate truth of the phenomenon and the urgent need for action is undisputed.
Except by the fraudulent and the exceptionally foolish.
I'm increasingly pessimistic and particularly concerned that Western democracies may be unable to effectively tackle the problem.
Politicians are not the most courageous people.
In so far as they think at all they tend to think in the short time frames of the election cycle (one of the reasons for establishing the Commission for the Future in the first place) and are easily frightened off.
And many voters don't want to think at all.
It is to the shame of democracies that authoritarian China is responding more effectively.
Whether as a voter, a parent, a citizen, a member of the community and of the human race, you have a responsibility to be involved - actively involved.
Don't be deflected or distracted by the denialist campaign.
We've dawdled for much of the past 30 years. There's no more time to waste.