Tony Abbott claimed on his recent overseas trip that he takes human induced climate change “very seriously” Or was it just a diversion before his meeting with President Obama who does take the issue seriously.
I hope he is no longer a climate change denier but I have my doubts. I suspect it is mainly window dressing with no serious new understanding of the urgency of the issue and what further action must be taken.
There are several reasons for my doubt.
- He has not outlined in any serious way why he now takes the issue “very seriously” It has been a one liner and nothing more with no explanation or elaboration. His key supporters still want to relegate science to the dark ages.
- He keeps saying that any action to cut greenhouse gases should not “clobber the economy” But if the climate is seriously damaged as seems likely by carbon pollution then our economy will also be seriously damaged. Or as it is colloquially put there will be “no jobs on a dead planet”, like there will be no jobs on a polluted or dying Murray River. Where appropriate we need to intervene to wind back our old and polluting economy and in its place encourage a new economy based on new energy-renewables, wind and solar. That is the best way to stop our economy being clobbered. It is the way capitalism renews itself, not clinging to the old that threatens the future of our planet and our future economy but embracing necessary change.
- Tony Abbott is also ignoring his Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb who told us in February this year that the scientific evidence for human induced global warming is so overwhelming that those who reject it are usually forced to impugn the messenger with stupid expressions like “group think” or silly arguments that global warming is a “delusion”
But other tests of Tony Abbott’s seriousness about climate change are what he does on the issue and the company he keeps. As Professor Rod Tiffen in the following extracts from Inside Story of 5 June 2014 points out the actions of Tony Abbott and the company he keeps are cause for concern. John Menadue
“Whether or not Abbott really does believe in anthropogenic climate change, it is “extraordinary,” according to Professor Ross Garnaut, that the four business leaders the government has appointed to senior advisory roles – Dick Warburton on the inquiry into renewable energy, David Murray on the financial system inquiry, Maurice Newman to chair the PM’s Business Advisory Council, and Tony Shepherd to head the Commission of Audit – all share a strong view that the science on climate change is wrong.
Since the election, writes leading business journalist Giles Parkinson, the government has sought to close or reduce funding to many of the agencies whose work relates to climate change. Its first, and highly symbolic, move was to disband the Climate Commission, whose main purpose was to communicate facts about climate change to the public.
Its next target, the Climate Change Authority, might prove more difficult to get rid of. As a statutory agency established by parliament, it can’t simply be closed. “The CCA was intended to be a non-partisan, expert body,” wrote New Matilda’s Ben Eltham, “a little like the Reserve Bank or the Productivity Commission, that would review the best available scientific and economic evidence and recommend a consensus position on Australia’s carbon reduction targets.” When it handed down its report on how Australia should address global warming – by cutting emissions to 19 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 – environment minister Greg Hunt didn’t hold any sort of event to mark the report’s release. He simply issued a media release, full of misleading statistics and claims, whose key point was to rehash Coalition criticisms of Labor’s carbon tax.
Earlier, the Climate Change Authority’s review of Labor’s renewable energy scheme had concluded that the current targets should be kept. Although it had the statutory obligation to undertake the next review, the government moved quickly to appoint its own inquiry. Its members included a climate change denier, a fossil-fuel lobbyist and the former head of a coal-and-gas generation company, all with an “antipathy to renewable energy,” according to Parkinson.
Environmentalists’ fears that this inquiry was set up to reach a predetermined conclusion were strengthened by the government’s rapid moves to cut funding in this area. The budget recommended the abolition of the $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA, an institution formed to help bring new technologies into production and deployment, and to fund Australia’s world-leading solar research. While it retained funding to meet its existing contracts, it had almost no funds to enter into any new agreements. Abolishing ARENA requires Senate approval.
The most tangible effect of these measures is to dampen activity in the area. But they will also minimise the flow of information about climate change and policy responses. The government’s resolve even extends to organisational names: the Australian Cleantech Competition was renamed Australian Technologies Competition, and the words climate, clean energy, or clean tech are considered non grata.
Unusually, Australia was not represented at ministerial level at the UN climate summit in Warsaw in November, which was working towards the global agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Australia’s recent performance and changes drew some criticism at the meeting. The government also decided not to send a representative to the World Bank–supported Partnership for Market Readiness assembly, despite the fact that Australia had previously co-chaired three assemblies. Some EU diplomats have criticised Australia for “not including environment issues on the G20 conference it is hosting later this year,” reported Parkinson.”
I suspect that Tony Abbott has not changed his mind on climate change.
Professor Tiffen is Emeritus Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney