“What I have been seeking to stress, particularly in response to these most recent disasters, is there are a broader range of responses that go beyond just emissions reduction and that goes to climate resilience,” Mr Morrison said.
“And we are in for longer, hotter, drier summers. That is an acknowledged position, always acknowledged by the government.”
While conservative Liberals, such as southern Sydney MP Craig Kelly, gain headlines for questioning the science, many on the moderate side of the party back Ms Andrews and see Mr Morrison’s latest comments as a sign of further policy action once Parliament returns on February 4.
North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman said he strongly backed Ms Andrews for defending the science in her interview with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday.
“Overwhelmingly, Australians accept the science of climate change and they now have lived experience of the climatic conditions this summer,” he said.
“Australians want us to get on with the job of meeting our Paris emissions but looking at what more we can do to reduce our emissions further.
“Debate on whether science is real or not is entirely unproductive to meeting the challenges that Australia and the world face.”
Mr Zimmerman said climate change clearly underlined the bushfires being experienced this summer.
“We have to make sure that we’re able to respond to the impact that we’re already experiencing as well as playing our part in reducing emissions to avoid temperature increases reaching catastrophic levels,” he said.
The member for Goldstein in bayside Melbourne, Tim Wilson, also backed the minister’s comments on the science.
“The job of the government is to develop public policy informed by a myriad of factors, including science, and properly consider trade-offs and costs of different forms of action, and the minister is right – that is where our focus should be,” he said.
The Liberal MP for Wentworth in Sydney’s east, Dave Sharma, said he welcomed Ms Andrews’ “common sense proposition”, while the MP for Mackellar on the Sydney northern beaches, Jason Falinski, said there was no debate about whether climate change was real.
“We know it is real. We now need to work on sensible and practical measures to reducing our carbon emissions,” he tweeted.
NSW Liberal senator Andrew Bragg said climate change was not a matter of personal belief when it should be based on the science.
“The science minister is right. We shouldn’t waste time on belief because science is not a matter of belief,” he said.
“We have no time for conspiracy theories when there is so much to be done. Science has underpinned our policies over the long run.”
Government MPs have been reluctant to speak in public on the climate change debate out of concern their opponents would claim they were “using” the fires to argue for policy change, but some spoke of a palpable shift in the party room when major cities were shrouded in bushfire smoke.
Mr Morrison’s remarks last Sunday on climate action and Ms Andrews’ comments on the science are encouraging MPs to speak up in the knowledge the government is working on a technology roadmap with further climate policies.
“Whether you’re a farmer who’s facing another season without a crop or a family who just lost your home in these awful bushfires, it’s time we all look at moving forward and getting prepared for the future,” said NSW Liberal senator Hollie Hughes.
“Karen is correct when she says every second spent discussing whether the climate is changing is wasted time – it’s time that would be much better spent on mitigation and adaption strategy development.”
Fiona Martin, the Liberal member for Reid in western Sydney and a former psychologist, also backed Ms Andrews.
“Having come from a research background, I have always stressed the importance of scientific evidence driving policy,” she said.
“It is good to see minister Andrews working towards practical strategies to respond to climate change and engaging with the experts.”
Mr Kelly said the only “denial” he had seen was coming from those who denied that Australia only made up 1.3 per cent of global emissions and could not have any measurable effect on global temperatures.
“So she’s right – there is no point wasting time discussing climate change – because we are not going to stop it from happening,” he said of the minister’s comments.
“It may be argued that by Australia committing to a ‘unilateral Co2 disarmament’ we’d influence others, China and India and others to follow the same, but that’s a separate argument.”
Other Liberals and Nationals did not respond to requests for comment.
David Crowe is chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.