Category Archives: Tony Abbott

Carbon tax is socialism: Tony Abbott’s great big conspiracy theory

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In case there was any doubt Prime Minister Abbott shares the same conspiracy driven world view of the more extreme elements of the climate sceptic movement, his recent speech to the Tasmanian Liberal Party Conference makes it clear (ABC reports):

Mr Abbott also said the carbon tax was a socialist policy in disguise. 

“Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism,” he said. 

“That’s what the carbon tax was.”

This claim is straight from the New-World-Order playbook of paranoia.

Equating environmentalism with a global plot to take over the world via concerns about climate change is often referred to as the “watermelon theory”. It has been a staple of right-wing conspiracy culture for almost two decades. And it seems our Prime Minister is happy to share his paranoia in like-minded company.

In Battlelines Abbott hints at his belief in this great-big-conspiracy:

“For many, reducing emissions is a means to achieving a political objective they could not otherwise gain.” [page 171]

So – according to our Prime Minister a market based mechanism as represented by the emissions trading scheme is “socialism”. And yet supposed to we’re accept the Direct Action Plan, which plays polluters using the public purse, is the epitome of free market.

In retrospect, Abbott becoming Prime Minister is not such a bad thing – the lack of scrutiny that was missing in media during these past few years is dissipating. The world’s eyes are on the PM, and we’re getting a far better understanding of how Abbott sees the world.

[Hat tip Tim @ New Anthropocene]

Political fires: climate debate shifting in Australia, not to Abbott’s liking

Historians have long appreciated the weather can have a profound impact on the course of events.

A spring drought on eve of the French Revolution pushed up food prices, and was the final spark that pushed a hungry populace to revolt. Two bitterly cold winters destroyed the imperial ambitions of both Napoleon and Hitler in Russia. In the thirteenth century a “divine wind” saved the Japanese from Mongol invasion.

The weather can be both capricious and unpredictable, especially when it wrecks havoc upon the ambitious plans of generals and politicians. The weather can rob would-be emperors of certain victories.

Given humanity has now loaded the dice for more extreme weather events by continuing to alter the planet’s atmosphere and climate, it is virtually certain increasing political disruption will follow extreme weather events with greater frequency.

This is the lesson both the Abbott government and Australian population are now learning.

The Abbott government was elected on the promise of dismantling the price on carbon introduced by the previous Labor government. Helped by a vicious anti-Labor and anti-science campaign by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, they cruised into office promising a government of grownups.

But then New South Wales burned, changing the political landscape.

Very quickly Abbott and News Corp lost control of the climate change narrative. Desperate to disavow any links between the extraordinary fires and climate change, Abbott and his Environment Minister Greg Hunt fumbled badly in trying to control the message. According to both these men the fires could not, would not and should not be linked to the science.

To their frustration the public refused to listen and made the obvious connections.

Abbott simply dismissed the connection, and came across as stubborn and intractable. Day-by-day, Abbott is looking increasingly uncertain and strangely timid in office. His infamous bovver boy and mischief-making style is proving ill-suited for the role of Prime Minister. When he can’t attack, he freezes like a deer in headlights.  

Greg Hunt became an international laughing-stock with his now infamous “I looked it up on Wikipedia” comments.

Thanks to the fires, everyone is talking about climate change.

We need to appreciate the profound shift taking place in the Australian climate debate, and how the NSW fires are contributing to this.

Bare in mind these fires follow the flooding and Tasmanian fires of late 2012 and early 2013. These fires follow the battering New York took during Hurricane Sandy. These fires follow Cyclone Yasi. These fires follow the holocaust that killed almost 200 Victorians during Black Saturday in 2009.

A pattern is emerging, and people are noticing the climate regime has shifted. This fact is intuitively understood and accepted by the public who are often the victims of such events. Watching your home burn, your town flooded or choking on the acrid smoke of the fires that have drifted into the heart of Sydney will put to rest most people’s lingering scepticism.

For this reason both Abbott and Hunt are furiously stating they accept the science. Abbott may think climate change is “crap”, but it is now unacceptable for the PM to state this belief in public.

Those fighting the sceptic movement can take heart that climate change denial in Australia is a spent political force, consigned to the margins and conspiracy theory enthusiasts. 

However the events of this week are also a harbinger of the shape fires and political disruption to come.

In discussing the politics of climate change in Australia we’ve focused almost solely on the policies (or lack thereof) of the major parties and the Greens.

We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting and critiquing the role of the media. We’ve also convinced ourselves the future of the carbon price is dependent on the makeup of the Senate and the voting behaviors of the micro-parties.

Partisans on both sides of the debate have assumed the debate was about careful messaging, well-considered opinion pieces in the major dailies and peppering the media with sound bites.

But no one has talked about the weather and it’s potential to disrupt and reshape Australian politics.

Generals and conquerors in the past have learnt through bitter defeat the climate can wipe out entire armies, fleets and political ambitions. We’ve forgotten these lessons from history.

However the fires of NSW has taught us history is back with a fiery vengeance.

History is roaring back into life in the shape of a firestorm, laying waste to vast tracts of the bush, rural communities and the ambitions of the Prime Minister.

Those who forget the impact of extreme weather events on politics are doomed to fall prey to its unpredictable nature.

Just ask the Prime Minister.

A man exploiting the moment, or a man for all seasons? Tony Abbott’s legacy will be defined by climate change

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On September 7 2013, the Australian voting public put into high office a man known for his scepticism of climate change, for surrounding himself with a coterie of fellow sceptics and for turning his back on partisan efforts to introduce a price on carbon. 

It is scarcely acknowledged today, but as late as June 2009 Tony Abbott argued for a price on carbon. In Sky News interview, Abbott stated: 

“If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax. Why not ask motorists to pay more? Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more? 

And then at the end of the year, you can take your invoices to the tax office and get a rebate on the carbon tax you paid. 

It would be burdensome, all taxes are burdensome, but it would certainly change the price on carbon, raise the price of carbon without increasing in any way the overall tax burden.” 

Abbott’s repudiation of his own position and that of perceived wisdom is one of the most stunning turnarounds in Australia political history. The question, though it may never be answered, is what prompted Abbott’s about face? There are clues given to us but the man himself. 

Following the defeat of Howard Government in 2007 Abbott found solace in writing what should be regarded as his manifesto for the government he leads, Battlelines. 

Of it’s almost 200 pages, Abbott dedicates a scant four of them to climate change. And yet those four pages tell us all we need to know about Abbott the man and his view on the issue.

Abbott cites notable climate sceptic Ian Plimer as an authority, regurgitating many of the same arguments made by Plimer that have been widely dismissed by the scientific community. He also cites the equally discredited economist Bjorn Lomberg, of “sceptical environmentalist” fame. Lomberg acknowledges global warming but cherry picks facts without reservation to downplay it’s seriousness. It is an argument Abbott uncritically adopts in Battlelines, and without doubt guides his actions on climate change.

A clue to Abbott’s radical shift can be found in his concluding sentences on the issue, where he notes:

“Australians will continue to tell pollsters that they want action for a cleaner environment, but they are unlikely to support policy changes that they think might make daily life harder or much more expensive” (Battlelines, page 173).

Perhaps climate change is real. Perhaps not. Perhaps technology solutions and nuclear energy is the answer. Or not.

Regardless, it seems Abbott has cynically read the mood of parts of the electorate and played to them. Abbott is now in a position to impose the views expressed in his Battlelines manifesto upon the country.

There is much irony in that Abbott, the man who grudgingly acknowledges the science (in public at least), who will dismantle the carbon price and who has closed institutions such as the Climate Commission is defined by the politics global warming.

Without doubt Abbott, his government and his legacy will be measured against his policy approach to climate change, the very issue he denies is a genuine risk to Australia or the world. 

A man for our time, or a man for all seasons?

In the play A man for all seasons, playwright Robert Bolt muses on questions of identity and personal conscience in politics.

Based upon the life and death of Thomas More, Bolt suggests via the narrative of the play a person of conscience will stand by their principles regardless of external pressures and the temptations of short term gain.

By abiding by their principles, such individuals forfeit the temptations of power and its abuse. They remain true to themselves, a person “for all seasons”,

In the plays most famous scene, More argues against those who would put aside laws for the sake of expediency. He argues with his son-in-law, who urges the illegal arrest of a man who would eventually go on to betray him:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

It is well known tony Abbott has yearned for the Prime Ministership all his life. 

When the opportunity was presented to him, Abbott recognised the thicket of laws he needed to cut down to achieve his ambitions. He read discontent is some parts of the electorate, and played to their fears.

At this moment of writing, fire-storms are wiping out communities across New South Wales. There is no respite at this point, conditions such as these may last for weeks.

It is early spring, Australia’s extended fire season is upon us. The ill winds of climate change are upon us. 

Against this background Prime Minster Tony Abbott moves steadily, without pause or consideration to cut down laws. 

Who is Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a man cynically exploiting the moment or a man for all seasons?

John Howard’s faith vs climate science: former PM to headline talk at climate denial think tank

The first order of business for the incoming Abbott government has been to systematically dismantle Australia’s response to the challenge of climate change.

Whether that be “axing the tax”, cutting agencies such as the Climate Commission or dismantling the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Abbott & Co. are gleefully wrecking revenge on the very notion of climate change.

Not only were these actions anticipated, but they represent a return to the “glory years” of the Howard government.

Disdain for science and obstruction are once again the first order of business. Without doubt Abbott is clearly following the lead of his mentor – John Howard.

Thus it comes as no surprise to learn John Howard will be delivering the Global Warming Policy Foundations annual lecture in November titled “One religion is enough”.

Note the title: climate sceptics disparage the science as a “faith” in the exact same way creationists dismiss evolution as a “religion”. It betrays an almost medieval ambivalence to science and the challenge it presents to its authority.

There is an underlying similarity in the opposition to the science expressed by Australian conservative politicians such as Howard, Abbott and public figures such as Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell (a close confident of both).

All of them profess a deeply reactionary view of morality, the family, marriage and antipathy to science informed by their religiosity.

All of them disdain environmentalism, and regard it as a form of paganism or competing religion to the “one true faith”.

As Pell noted in an 2008 interview with the sceptic think tank, the Science and Public Policy Institute:

“It is true that some of the more hysterical and extreme claims about global warming appear symptomatic of a pagan emptiness, of a Western fear when confronted by the immense and basically uncontrollable forces of nature. 

Years ago I was struck by the fears that middle-class kids without religion had about nuclear war. It was almost an obsession with a few of them. It’s almost as though people without religion, who don’t belong to any of the great religious traditions, have got to be frightened of something. 

Perhaps they’re looking for a cause that is almost a substitute for religion. I often point out that some of those who are now warning us against global warming were warning us back in the 1970s about an imminent new ice age, because according to some criteria an ice age is a bit overdue. Remember the fuss about the millennium bug and our computer systems in the lead-up to the year 2000…”

Pell’s response is reminiscent of that Catholic Church when confronted by Galileo’s evidence for a heliocentric solar system.

Howard was a “late convert” to the science in 2007 as the election that spelt his demise loomed.

However, since being thrown out he has thrown his clout behind the deniers now freed from the constraints of office.

In 2011 Howard helped launched Ian Plimer’s “How to get expelled”, a nasty and error-riddled little tome designed to mislead school students:

Mr Howard attacked the one-sided teaching of climate change in schools.

“People ought to be worried about what their children are being taught at school,” he said.

“It’s a matter of real concern”.

As Michelle Gratton notes in The Conversation, one of Abbott’s most senior advisers is Maurice Newman, a noted climate sceptic and who recently dismissed climate change as a myth:

Newman chairs Abbott’s Business Advisory Group and this week wrote in the Financial Review of climate change “myths”.

“The new Coalition government is faced with enormous structural issues that have been camouflaged by effective propaganda and supported by well-organised elements in the public service, the media, the universities, trade unions and the climate establishment,” Newman wrote.

“With a huge vested interest in the status quo, they will be vocal opponents of change. The CSIRO, for example, has 27 scientists dedicated to climate change. It and the Weather Bureau have become global warming advocates. They continue to propagate the myth of anthropological climate change and are likely to be background critics of the Coalition’s Direct Action policies.”

The CSIRO comes under the Industry department. The scientists working in the climate area might be getting a little nervous.

A war on science has begun.

Or should we say, has resumed?

Turnbull vs Abbott: DAP a policy mess, time to speculate on LNP leadership?

Lenore Taylor asks five pertinent questions about the LNPs Direct Action Policy (DAP) in a recent Guardian article, stating:

“Malcolm Turnbull raised a very good question about Tony Abbott’s climate change policy on the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night when he said the Direct Action policy wasn’t a long-term one. We’ve asked four more questions of our own…”

Malcolm did raise a good question. And it seems Malcolm has set people talking. All good-natured and innocent I’m sure…

In addition to Turnbull’s public musing about the DAP, The Age reports the return of Kevin Rudd has now firmly placed the spot light on Abbott and his lack of credible policy alternatives.

Long-time Liberal Party scholar Judith Brett, of La Trobe University, says  the return of Rudd, who is already well-known to voters, has actually increased  the scrutiny of the alternative prime minister.

”Mr Abbott can’t just rely on falling into office, which is what was going  on before, and so he’s going to have to start developing and putting forward  some policies, which he doesn’t seem very keen to do,” she said.

Brett said  Abbott’s refusal to debate Rudd on the very things he had made  such articles of faith against Julia Gillard was ”instructive” to voters.

She says the difficulty for Gillard was she never had a full grip on the  public agenda because whenever she attempted to seize the initiative, Abbott was  able to say ”Yes but what about the boats? What about the carbon tax? What  about the surplus?”

Rudd has turned that on its head with his offer to facilitate televised  debates on those issues. ”I think it’s actually quite damaging for Abbott … he’s trying to do his normal thing of controlling the agenda by saying ‘oh no,  we’re not having a debate until you call an election,  my sense is that that is  not playing very well because it actually looks like he’s squibbing it.”

There is a great deal of nervousness in the LNP at present.

And for good reason.

How soon before a leadership crisis engulfs the Liberals?

Things are getting interesting – recall Abbott won the leadership ballot by a single ballot to assume the mantle of Opposition Leader.

However Abbott remains a viable Opposition Leader only as long as he can lead the Liberal’s in the polls. His authority stems from that.

The ebbing away of the LNPs once dominant lead in the polls, and the collapse in public support for Abbott as an alternative Prime Minister, will likewise undermine his authority.

Abbott’s authority and ability to impose discipline on the LNP rests upon shaky foundations: the poll figures.

What are seeing are the first cracks in that once impressive discipline the LNP exhibited. Politics is brutal and bloody on both sides, despite each party calling the other a nest of vipers.

How the worm turns.

The relentless focus on Gillard and her standing in the polls by Abbott, the Liberals and News Limited is now a problem Abbott faces.

Like K_Rudd, Turnbull is an ambitious and capable politician.

And like K_Rudd he has been biding his time.

The question is: what will Turnbull do?

Turnbull throws spanner into repealing that “great big tax”…. Abbott’s blood oath getting shakier by the day

Source: The Vine

Form the Sydney Morning Herald:

Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has characterised his party’s climate change policy as ”short term” and says he hopes the world moves to a market-based mechanism to reduce emissions.

But Mr Turnbull, who has previously described Tony Abbott’s Direct Action policy as ”a con” and lost his leadership of the Liberal Party in 2009 due to his support for an emissions trading scheme, chose his words carefully while appearing on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night.

”I will support the collective wisdom of the party room,” Mr Turnbull said.

And this:

Asked whether he would join Mr Abbott in campaigning to repeal an emissions trading scheme, Mr Turnbull admitted ”there would be more convincing advocates”.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he thought that Mr Turnbull “did a very very good job on Q&A last night” but he contradicted Mr Turnbull’s view that the world was moving in the direction of carbon pricing.

“As I’ve always said, the world is moving away from carbon taxes and emission trading scheme, not towards it,” Mr Abbott said.

“The world is moving towards the kind of Direct Action measures that the Coalition has long been proposing.”

On Tuesday, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey suggested the Coalition was open to considering an emissions trading scheme if the circumstances were right.

“If the world comes together in pricing carbon across their whole economies, then Australia stands prepared to look at joining them,” Mr Hockey said

Abbott says one thing, Hockey and Turnbull another.

Jo Hockey: I mean if the world is moving that way, well we might consider a emissions trading scheme…

Boom, here comes the back flip!

A few words from me some time back:

For over a year now I’ve been arguing Abbott and the LNP have a growing problem on their hands. Their opposition to the carbon price (Ax the tax!) and Abbott’s “Blood oath” is a trap they have made for themselves.  While ditching a price on carbon may be to the liking of far-right-wing columnists such as Andrew Bolt and eccentric mining billionaires, it turns out the vast majority of business in Australia is happy with an emissions trading scheme (see below).

While “Ax the tax”. “Ju-liar” and “Ditch the Witch” were effective (but ugly) slogans they lacked substance. Simple opposition and the proposed Direct Action Policy are now being seen as lacking substance. Abbott has a growing problem, and it is a problem of his making.

I suspect the vicious opposition to the “carbon tax” will prove to have been useful in giving the Coalition a useful short-term tactical advantage, but in the end a strategic blunder. China and now America are now moving towards more vigorous action. This now leaves Australia and Abbott the laggards. The world is moving, and Abbott still thinks it is 1955.

My advice: watch this space. 

I’m growing increasingly confident that Abbott may have to breach his “blood oath”. The moment Abbott baulks he is in deep trouble: the hypocrisy will be obvious to all.

Here’s another thought…  imagine what Malcolm Turnball, the man Abbott deposed with the backing of climate sceptics, is thinking after watching the return of Kevin Rudd.

2/3 Australian don’t want carbon price scrapped, or why debate on the carbon price is set to intensify

From today’s Age, confirmation Tony Abbott will have an uphill battle trying to repeal the Emissions Trading Scheme:

Tony Abbott’s insistence that the election will be a ”referendum on the carbon tax” has been undermined by polling showing that just a third of voters support the Coalition’s plan to abolish it.

Fewer voters want to see the carbon tax removed now than before it took effect on July 1 last year. Nearly half, or 48 per cent, wanted the tax scrapped a year ago.

But a poll of 1009 people, conducted by JWS Research for the Climate Institute, found just 37 per cent of them now supported the Coalition’s intention to wind the tax back in favour of its ”Direct Action” policy, which involves paying companies to reduce emissions.

Even fewer people – 34 per cent – would back an Abbott government calling a double dissolution election to fulfil its ”pledge in blood” to repeal the tax.

Fewer than half the Coalition voters would back Mr Abbott taking Australia back to the polls.

JWS pollster John Scales said the Opposition Leader had failed to convince people that carbon pricing should be scrapped because two-thirds of Australians believed climate change was real.

Climate change believers accounted for 66 per cent of voters, compared with 64 per cent a year ago.

As I have been saying for some time, a crisis for Abbott and the LNP is looming: 

- Tony Abbott and the LNP would win the 2013 Federal election
- Abbott would look to “axe-the-tax” (price on carbon) in name only, introducing a face-saving sleight-of-hand in but still maintain a price on carbon
- The climate sceptic movement would be bitterly disappointed, as the realisation began to dawn on them that Abbott played the populist hand against the carbon tax in order to undermine the Gillard government’s legitimacy
- For the climate sceptics (deniers) it would be an object lesson in realpolitik.

I suspect the LNP is going to find climate policy just as complicated, if not more so once in office.

One needs real policies then, nor four word slogans.  The debate over a price on carbon is far from over: if anything it is going to intensify.

As noted above, the public don’t understand nor want the Direct Action Plan proposed by the LNP.

Nor does it seem they willing to give control of the Senate to Abbott. However, the Coalition have locked themselves into silly “blood oath” giving themselves little to move.

The question is what happens when they can’t “ax-the-tax” what compromises an Abbott led government will be forced to make.

Hang on for the ride, as climate politics is going to get wilder.

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The sacrifices one must make (part 2): should Gillard resign for the good of the nation? Yes.

My post on whether or not Julia Gillard should stand aside  as Prime Minister got a little attention. But it was not an easy thing to suggest, especially given the vitriol and hatred the Prime Minister has experienced. I do not wish to “let the bastards win”. No one does.

But what matters now is the future of nation, the skeletal climate change policy framework we have only just begun to implement and a genuine contest of ideas.

There are times when personal careers have to be sacrificed.

This is such a time.

The editors of The Age have come to similar conclusions, arguing for “the good of the nation” Julia Gillard must stand aside:

It is time for Julia Gillard to stand aside as leader of the federal parliamentary Labor Party, as Prime Minister of Australia, so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again. Ms Gillard should do so in the interests of the Labor Party, in the interests of the nation and, most importantly, in the interests of democracy. The Age’s overriding concern is that, under Ms Gillard’s leadership, the Labor Party’s message about its future policies and vision for Australia is not getting through to the electorate. Our fear is that if there is no change in Labor leadership before the September 14 election, voters will be denied a proper contest of ideas and policies – and that would be a travesty for the democratic process.

And that:

The opposition under Tony Abbott has contentious policies on the carbon tax, the mining tax and schools funding; these are just the start of it. Yet Labor under Ms Gillard has been unable to step up to the contest. Mr Abbott is being allowed to run almost entirely unchallenged with his preposterous claim that a Coalition government would ”stop the boats”, in part by turning back the pathetic trail of rickety vessels laden with asylum seekers. This is a potentially dangerous and deeply dispiriting approach. Labor’s inability to unscramble this sloganeering is damning.

Time is running out. Labor needs to refresh its public face and present a compelling, united and inspiring voice. It is capable of doing so. Now it must find the will. There may only be one chance to minimise the damage that appears inevitable in September. To do nothing would implicitly weaken the democratic choice. If it is to be done, it is best done now. But it must be an unequivocal and energising change for the better.

There was nothing prescient in what I wrote, nor do I think the MSM pays much attention to bloggers such as myself. Farifax’s Sydney Morning Herald said the same thing a few weeks back.

It is simply that I am not alone in reading the situation or the risks should Labor continue to be led by Julia Gillard. Commentators across all sections of the media and on both sides can see the writing on the wall.

Is it fair? No.

Did Gillard deserve to be treated with respect? Yes.

Was she handed an extraordinarily difficult situation? Yes.

Was overt sexism a feature of the attacks on her? Yes.

Was the malice of the shock jocks and News Limited a factor? Yes.

As a nation, we need to reflect on just how toxic the level of debate has become these past few years. I lay much of the blame on News Limited and the Coalition. But the blame also rests with the Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan.

The nexus for all this strife began when the “kitchen sink” cabinet that included Swan and Gillard convinced Rudd not to take us to a double dissolution election on the carbon price. At that time the public and mood of the nation was with them.

But they blinked, they thought they could ditch a policy which helped deliver them office in 2007. Since then Labor has been paying the price for the failure of the first iteration of the ETS under Rudd.

They thought we lived in a time of “politics as usual”.

Politics has been reshaped by climate change: it is time to acknowledge that reality.

This is the new normal on so many fronts.

If you want to proportion blame then start with this decision. 

Julia’s finest hour, and the speech that will be her enduring legacy:

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Let’s end the pseudo debate: ask your politician if they accept the scientific consensus on climate change

“Belief” is a troubling word when used within the context of the climate debate.

Frequently people will ask me “Do you believe in climate change?” as if it is a matter of personal opinion.

I always answer (politely of course) “I accept the 97% consensus of climate scientists”. My personal views are of no consequence to the reality of climate change – it is simply what the overwhelming evidence has told me.

Facts are independent of opinion. And while every one has a right to accept or reject the evidence of climate change, personal belief does not alter the robust and well-tested scientific theory (not hypothesis) that humanity is changing the planet’s atmosphere.

Within the scientific community this fact is a no longer controversial – nor has it been for decades. The fact that the science is settled has been obscured by the denial movement, sceptical politicians and the Murdoch press. In doing so they have impeded action on climate change.

As we head into Election 2013 climate change will be front and centre once more with Tony Abbott swearing a “blood oath” to axe-the-tax. The Coalition’s attack on the “carbon tax” has been central to undermining the Gillard government’s legitimacy. Their scare campaign – in addition to Labor’s own incompetence and failure to explain their policies to the electorate – has more than likely delivered them office in September.

However, the Coalition’s climate policies are now coming under increasing scrutiny – especially from business who regard their ‘Direct Action Plan” as either inadequate or a bit of a joke. The business community prefers an emissions trading scheme.

Climate change is central to discussions about our nations future; it will impact business, individuals and communities. Thus we should be asking our politicians if they accept or reject the scientific consensus.

It is time for the pseudo debate to end.

Let’s stop talking about whether or not global warming has “paused” for 17 years or if climate change is a Marxist/Rothschild plot to take over the globe.

We should ask our politicians “Do you accept the consensus of 97% of climate scientists?”

Australia’s politicians in the spotlight: uknowispeaksense survey

I highly recommend the research on the acceptance or rejection of climate science of our politicians by Mike from uknowispeaksense. See his work here:

He has represented this a couple of graphs. What is surprising is that most politicians accept the science, as indicated in the following pie charts.

House of Representatives:

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And in the Senate:

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However if you dig into the numbers, far less conservative politicians accept the scientific consensus. Still, it is worth noting both the majority of voters and politicians accept the science.

So why the hold up?

The denial movement has created a powerful aura of invincibility around itself and that we should all pay attention to their arguments. However, the reality is that they are tiny in numbers but extremely vocal. What they lack in numbers they make up for in the vehemence in prosecuting their anti-science campaign.

The article below from The Conversation is also relevant to this discussion and proposes eight questions we should be asking of all our politicians (see below).

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By Brad Farrant, University of Western Australia; Fiona Armstrong, La Trobe University; Karen Kiang, University of Melbourne, and Mark G Edwards, University of Western Australia

As we head into an election, you’d be justified in asking what your local member is basing their climate change decisions on.

If your MP says “I don’t support policies to prevent dangerous climate change” because “I don’t believe climate change is occurring” or “I’m not sure climate change is human caused” is this position justifiable simply because it’s his or her personal opinion?

While everyone may be entitled to their own opinion, are our elected leaders being ethically responsible when they justify inaction on climate change based on personal opinions? Sustainability ethicist Donald A. Brown, from Widener University School of Law, emphatically argues, “no” – they are not.

In a recent widely republished blog post on ethicsandclimate.org, Brown argues government officials have an ethical responsibility to understand the state of climate change science. Politicians hold crucial leadership positions where they can enact policies that can prevent or minimise great harm. These policies, to put it bluntly, affect millions, if not billions, of people around the world.

Governments and elected officials cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uninformed opinion or ideology instead of the scientific consensus.

The long-standing consensus of climate scientists and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence warn us that constituents and governments are causing great harm through greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, Brown says, politicians may not appeal to their personal opinions on climate science. They are not justification for not taking action.

Brown refers to a number of US politicians who hold the position that they don’t support climate policies because they are not convinced by the science. Brown argues that the media has largely failed to hold them accountable.

The same issue afflicts many Australian politicians – and the Australian media. Very rarely have politicians who reject climate science in Australia been asked to explain their justifications on scientific grounds.

According to the Political Leaders and Climate Change Index (PLCCI) published in 2010 by the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, the number of politicians in the parliament who either don’t or won’t accept the science of climate change in Australia is significant.

Of course, this can change over time. Recently the new Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Gary Gray renounced his previous position that climate science was “pop science” and a “middle-class conspiracy to frighten schoolchildren”.

However, there are many other politicians who have not changed their opinions as Gray has done. In 2010 around 40% of Liberal/National politicians held the view the world could warm by 3-4 degrees Celsius before the situation became dangerous. The actual scientific consensus is a mere 2 degrees. Another 40% professed not to know what a safe global average temperature increase might be.

The likelihood of a Coalition government winning in 2013 makes the public statement of personal opinions on human induced climate change an issue of national and global importance.

The risks posed to the Australian and international communities by the uninformed opinions of our national leaders are significant. They cannot ethically choose to rely on their own uniformed opinion or ideology instead of science. Because of those risks, the role of responsible and well-informed media is crucial. The media has the civic and moral obligation to be a watchdog on society and its institutions.

Journalists have a duty to question politicians who oppose action based on uninformed opinions. The public has a right to be informed, and to question, a politician’s justification for putting current and future generations at risk.

Following Brown, we propose a series of questions that journalists (and the public) should be asking politicians on global warming, and how governments should respond to it.

  1. Are you aware that over 97% of climate scientists globally, the CSIRO, the Australian Academy of Science and every major national science academy in the industrialised world (whose membership includes climate scientists) agree that the planet is warming, that the observed climate change is mostly human caused, and that if we continue with business as usual, harsh impacts and irreversible changes to the climate system will occur?
  2. Do you accept that climate change is occurring? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  3. Do you accept that the human population is making a substantial contribution to climate change via our greenhouse gas emissions? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify going against the scientific consensus?
  4. Is it your position that Australia and the rest of the world need to urgently adopt policies to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with scientific recommendations? If not, what specific scientific sources and references do you rely on to justify rejecting the scientific consensus?
  5. Are you aware that the impacts of climate change in terms of increased risks to human health and climate change related deaths is already being measured by medical and public health professionals worldwide?
  6. Do you accept that anyone who argues that we continue with business as usual and emit greenhouse gases beyond levels that the consensus of climate scientists says is dangerous for humanity (and the ecological system on which humans depend) should bear the burden of proof to show that this is safe?
  7. Do you accept that, in light of the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and the long-standing consensus of climate scientists, politicians have a responsibility to immediately implement strategies to prevent dangerous climate change?
  8. Given that climate scientists have been advising the urgent reduction of greenhouse gases for decades, do you accept that politicians who fail to implement policies to prevent dangerous climate change should be held responsible for harm that results from this inaction?

We might ask politicians a few of these ourselves. Have a go yourself – and let us know how you get on. We’d be pleased to write about it.

Karen Kiang is affiliated with Royal Children’s Hospital and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

Brad Farrant, Fiona Armstrong, and Mark G Edwards do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article. They also have no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

How Tony Abbott killed the Australian climate sceptic movement and schooled them in realpolitik

In June of 2012 I wrote a post on the politics of climate change in Australia and what to expect in 2013 and 2014. At the time I thought it overly optimistic, if not risky given that most predictions turn out to be spectacularly wrong.

Titled The coming disappointment: how the deniers are about to get a harsh lesson in realpolitik I suggested:

  • Tony Abbott and the LNP would win the 2013 Federal election
  • Abbott would look to “axe-the-tax” (price on carbon) in name only, introducing a face-saving sleight-of-hand in but still maintain a price on carbon
  • The climate sceptic movement would be bitterly disappointed, as the realisation began to dawn on them that Abbott played the populist hand against the carbon tax in order to undermine the Gillard government’s legitimacy
  • For the climate sceptics (deniers) it would be an object lesson in realpolitik.

I should have also added it would signal the death knell of the sceptic movement as a cultural and political force in Australia. Abbott may shut down the Climate Commission as a symbolic act, but it will be no more than that – a sop for the more rabid elements of the Murdoch Press.

Now that Abbott is assured the Prime Ministership both he and the LNP are distancing themselves from climate change scepticism.

Abbott has just recently indicated that once he becomes Prime Minister he will work with China and the United States to formulate a global agreement and (believe it or not) raise their emission reduction targets:

The coalition will consider ramping up the national target for reduced emissions as part of its Direct Action policy, The Australian Financial Review reports.

According to the newspaper, Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt told an audience in Canberra last night Australia would “easily meet” the already set target of reducing emissions by five per cent by 2020.

Mr Hunt conceded his confidence was rooted in a future coalition government’s willingness to consider raising the emissions reduction target as early as 2015.

Mr Hunt’s concession comes as opposition leader Tony Abbott unveiled plans to play a lead role in convincing China and the United States to sign up for a global climate change deal if he wins government.

Mr Hunt said under a coalition government Australia would still be part of a UN climate change process but would also pursue action with key members of Group of 20 nations.

“Where a real global agreement will come is when China and United States reach a point of common position and when that’s backed up with India and the EU,” Mr Hunt told ABC TV on Thursday.

Mr Hunt said Australia would chair the G20 summit in Brisbane next year and it was in a unique position “to bring together the G4 as the basis for a global agreement”.

“I think (Tony’s) a fantastic negotiator,” he said

Yes that’s right – a global governance regime and working with the UN. The very things the likes of Christopher Monckton, Jo Nova, David Evans, Andrew Bolt and James Delingpole fear. Does this make Abbott an agent of the New World Order?

Hunt also recently appeared on the Andrew Bolt show arguing the case for global action:

GREG HUNT: If we act with China, the United States, India and the EU, that can be a positive. But acting alone, and at the moment, the Government is acting alone in a way where we have a higher tax than anybody else in the world is ultimately not effective, particularly when you are simply sending the emissions and the jobs to China, to India and to Indonesia. 

ANDREW BOLT: Can you explain to me why, and I always ask the question of you whenever I see you as you know… 

GREG HUNT: You do. 

ANDREW BOLT: And I always try to ask that of the Government when they don’t come into the studio anyway. But why is that I don’t get an answer anyway on that? I mean it’s quite a, scientists have got the figure, and they put it out there, this is the difference you will make and you guys never tell us, yes or no. 

GREG HUNT: The answer is we will make a difference of 155 million tonnes… 

ANDREW BOLT: No in temperature. 

GREG HUNT: Acting alone the difference is minimal but… 

ANDREW BOLT: Everyone watching us now has just seen me asking you the question a couple of times and everyone watching this now has seen you dodge it and they will say he’s not answering it. 

That’s what really strikes me, why do politicians never answer the very basic question. For all this pain what is the gain in temperature? 

GREG HUNT: There are different views on the impact. 

ANDREW BOLT: And what’s your view? 

GREG HUNT: My view is that alone it is minimal. With others you can have some sort of impact but above all else, we’ve got an environmental policy which is about clean air and clean land, things that you can support irrespective of where you stand on the science.

The LNP’s pivot back to the centre: ditching the crazies

Mainstream politicians don’t win elections pandering to extremists and conspiracy theorists. The Republicans failed to learn that lesson in 2012.

However Abbott & Co. is doing what the GOP and Mitt Romney failed to do in the final stages of the 2012 US election: swing back to political centre to capture moderate and undecided voters. Abbott learnt the lesson the GOP failed to learn – ditch the crazies.

The carbon tax protests of several years ago demonstrated to most Australians the sceptic movement is a collection of intellectual fringe dwellers and conspiracy theorists. Only 6% of the Australian public identify themselves as climate sceptics. It is a demographic the Coalition and LNP and Abbott would do well to ditch – and so they are.

Conservative commentator (and George W. Bush speechwriter) David Frum recently wrote the harm extremist views can have on the electoral prospects of a political party. Reflecting on the reasons for the GOP’s defeat in the last US Presidential election he noted the toxic role the “conservative entertainment complex” played :

“The alternative information system built by conservative elites imprisons them as much as it does the movement’s rank and file. Exactly at the moment when realism and restraint are most needed, those qualities are spurned by a political movement that has furnished its collective mind with pseudo-facts and pretend information.” (Why Romney Lost, 2012)

The climate sceptic movement is just that: an alternative system of knowledge. If you recall, every GOP presidential candidate stated they were a climate sceptic: not one of them became the President of the United States.

Abbott and Greg Hunt are smart enough to start freeing themselves from the grip of the sceptic movement: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Where’s the love Tony? Sceptics feel the cold shoulder

This reality is only just dawning on Australia’s more vocal sceptics. Evidence of this can be seen in a recent post by Jo Nova in which she lashes out at Abbott and the LNP.

Titled Australian conservatives going Labor lite – pandering to the “green vote” or just confused? she states:

Tony Abbott has a plan to try to convince China and the US to sign up for the “global climate change deal.” As if the world’s number one and two economies, with a population of 1.6 billion combined, will be waiting for instructions. And as if the global climate needed “a deal”. Hey but we do have 22 million people. squeak. squeak.

To make matters worse, Greg Hunt — the opposition spokesman for the environment — said a Coalition Government might not wipe out the emissions reductions target but… wait, they might lift the target instead. Thus taking something useless, expensive and ineffective against a problem-that-doesn’t-exist and making it moreso [sic].

It’s a mistake every which way. The Liberal Party could play them at their own green game and beat them, just by applying common sense. Instead its appeasing the politically correct namecallers [sic] (who wouldn’t vote for them anyway), and the price they pay is to look weak, irrational and lacking in conviction.

Jo can’t understand why Abbott and Hunt accept climate change as real:

If the Liberal Party were serious about protecting the environment, they would promise to drop funding for pointless fantasies and token do-gooder projects and get the science right first. A government that was serious about the environment would use some saved funds to set up an entirely new climate science research unit — one that aimed at predicting the climate (inasmuch as it is possible). Better climate models would help farmers, town planners, tourism operators, emergency services, dams and water catchments. It’s not just green, its a productivity thing too. Better than a wind-farm…

The new unit could compete with the BOM and CSIRO and may the best scientists win.

A real green policymaker would audit our temperature records independently. How can we be serious about managing Australia’s climate if our records have biased and inexplicable adjustments, that are described as “neutral”? Why would anyone who cares about the environment be prepared to accept shoddy data, bugs, and mysterious black box methods that no one can test?

Put aside her fantasy of creating yet another scientific institution – at great expense to the taxpayer – the necessary competition between scientists has already happened: it’s called the peer-review system. Over 95% of climate scientists agree humanity is changing the atmosphere of the planet.

Abbott and the LNP have accepted that scientific consensus: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Abbott’s coming political challenge: Australia’s business community want’s a price on carbon

A recent article in the Australian Financial Review stated both power and multinational firms are signalling their strong desire to see a price on carbon is maintained:

Power companies are demanding the federal opposition rethink its “direct action’’ plan for reducing carbon emissions, warning that its company baseline approach could be more difficult to operate than Labor’s trading scheme.

The Energy Supply Association of Australia said falling demand for power meant the Coalition must review its energy and climate change policy if it gains power at the September 14 federal election.

The warning comes amid growing support by multinational companies and major business groups for a market-based scheme, such as an emissions trading scheme, linked to the currently low prices set in European and other international markets.

ESSA, which represents big power companies such as Origin, TRUenergy and International Power, has long supported an emissions trading scheme.

“What we are seeing is the conditions in the market moving so quickly that there is a need to rethink the rules with a view to resetting or rethinking Direct Action,” ESAA chief executive Matthew Warren told The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday.

But the Coalition is refusing to budge. The opposition’s spokesman on ­climate action, Greg Hunt, said on Tuesday that it was committed to dumping the carbon tax.

“We remain completely committed to the policy as it removes a costly tax on business,” he said.

After the 2013 election the LNP will face enormous pressure from business to shift its position.

The hard sell will be trying to convince the voting public retaining a price on carbon is not a price on carbon. But a price on carbon is here to stay.

Would not the public see that as a cynical ploy, thus hurting freshly minted Prime Minister Abbott’s approval ratings? More than likely.

But the LNP will have a sizable majority in the lower house and the potential to ride out initial voter backlash.

Cynical? Perhaps.

But that is how the game is played.

Realpolitik triumphs: which is why the climate sceptic movement is dead.

Ironically it is Tony Abbott driving some of the final nails into the coffin of the climate sceptic movement –  the same man who famously called climate change “crap” and ran a tawdry scare campaign against the carbon “tax”.

There are times when politics creates situations of exquisite irony.

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