Lagging the field on climate change. John Menadue

Nov 11, 2013

Across the world there are clear signs that the tide is turning with acceptance of the reality of climate change, that humans are the cause and that we need to address the problem.

But not in Australia.  We keep acting like King Canute against the tide.

  • The Abbott Government is proposing to abolish the carbon tax which is the most credible measure we have in place in Australia to reduce CO2 emissions. The OECD has just released a report ‘Effective Carbon Prices’. The report concludes that ‘carbon taxes and emissions trading systems are the most effective way to reduce emissions and should be at the centre of government efforts to tackle climate change’.
  • Years ago Tony Abbott told us that the science of global warming is ‘crap’. His mentor, John Howard, continued in the same vein when he told a London group of climate change sceptics only last week that those expressing concern about climate change were ‘alarmist’ and ‘zealots’. He added that ‘one religion is enough’. In a remarkable admission he went on to say his “dalliance with an emissions trading system (in 2007) was purely political.” What!!
  • Those other political soul mates of Tony Abbott, Rupert Murdoch and Maurice Newman were reported in the AFR of 7 November 2013 as follows: “Maurice, Tony Abbott’s favourite businessman said that the 17-year stasis on climate change – it’s like a religion.  Rupert replied that it’s more than a religion, it’s become a cult. Maurice Newman responded that the science is clearly wrong”.
  • In my blog of 6 November, I pointed out that independent research shows that News Limited papers were giving heavily slanted reportage in favour of the climate sceptics.
  • The UN climate change chief, Christiana Figueres, highlighted a couple of weeks ago the link between climate change and bush fires. Tony Abbott told us that she was ‘talking through her hat’.
  • The government has before it a fig-leaf of a “policy” called Direct Action, but Tony Abbott has told us that even if the policy does not achieve the 5% emissions reduction in emissions by 2020 that no more money will be forthcoming.
  • The Campbell Government in Queensland has flagged reductions in coal royalties in the Galilee Basin which could double Australia’s coal production and dramatically increase global carbon pollution.
  • The Australian Government has refused to send a minister to the Warsaw Climate Summit this week. This is the first opportunity for the Abbott Government to attend a UN climate change negotiation.

The evidence of climate change scepticism by the Abbott Government and key supporters could not be clearer. But Australia is acting against the overwhelming tide of scientific evidence and action by countries that are now beginning to take seriously the threat of climate change.

  • The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has expressed even stronger support to the science consensus that carbon emissions are the cause of climate change and that human beings are responsible.
  • China, the world’s largest emitter has pledged to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 40% to 45% by 2020. Japan, ROK and the UK have all committed to emission reductions of at least 25% by 2020. Both the federal and state governments in the US are taking determined action.
  • Pope Francis is planning a major encyclical on the environment which is expected to focus on climate change.
  • A group of 70 global investors with more than $3 trillion of assets has asked fuel and power companies to critically examine the major pollution problems that coal-fired plants present.
  • The letters editor of the Los Angeles Times has decided not to publish letters from climate sceptics. He said on 8 October last month that ‘Scientists have provided ample evidence that human activity is indeed linked to climate change. Just last month the IPCC, a body made up of the world’s top climate scientists, said it was 95% certain that fossil fuel burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn’t whether this evidence exists (clearly it does) but what this evidence means for us. Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying “There is no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion. It’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.’ I wonder when News Ltd editors will follow suit!!

In my blog of 6 November I drew attention to the study by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at UTS. It said that ‘Nearly all the sceptic articles [on climate change] in this study were published by News Corp. … The Australian press is a world leader in the promotion of [climate change] scepticism. … Andrew Bolt is a major contributor to advancing climate scepticism in Australia.’

Rupert Murdoch’s independent and courageous editors would tell us that they make their own decisions about coverage in their newspapers. But they have an uncanny ability to reflect what Rupert Murdoch says on climate change and almost every other subject.

What principled and professional leadership we have on climate change – Rupert Murdoch, Tony Abbott and Maurice Newman!

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