Is Tony Abbott fit to lead Australia?
Based on his stance on climate change, one has to say no.
In what has to be the most dispiriting election in decades, the major political parties are doing their best to avoid discussing climate change. Commentator and economist John Quiggin aptly sums up many people’s feelings on the Australian 2010 election:
Truly this election is the most depressing I can recall in forty years. If there has been one in our history where both parties have so thoroughly dodged the issues, I’m not aware of it.
For me, the most depressing is the way in which the major parties have handled the climate change debate. As Quiggin notes, what’s worse? A party that denies the science (the Liberals) or one that understands it and does nothing (Labor)?
The Australian Liberal Party: the party of denial and delay
If there was any doubt that the Liberal Party is the party of denial, then recent comments by leader Tony Abbott cement this position.
Abbott appeared on the ABC’s “Q and A” last Monday night to face a series of audience questions on the economy, his policies and of course climate change.
Abbot is notorious for stating that climate change is “crap”, and his performance does nothing to dispell the notion he denies the science.
Indeed, his biography, “Battlelines‘ cites Australian scientists and “sceptic” Ian Plimer approvingly. Recently Abbott has been on record for doubting the science, going so far as to support the ridiculous notion the planet is cooling:
TONY ABBOTT has restated his sceptical views on climate change, and suggested the world may be getting cooler, as the Australian Academy of Science released a new report warning of the future impact of global warming.
The Opposition Leader said he accepted ”that climate change is real”, but he did not back away from his view, based in part on the work of the Australian climate sceptic Ian Plimer, that the world is getting colder.
Asked by the ABC’s Four Corners if he still disputed that humans are responsible for climate change, Mr Abbott said: ”Sure, but that’s not really relevant at the moment. We have agreed to get a 5 per cent emissions reduction target.’
Think about that: the next Prime Minister could be a man who thinks the planet is cooling.
Abbott reveals his continuing denial
There can be no doubt that Abbott denies the science, as his response to a question from the audience shows:
ANN GEORGIA AZZOPARDI: It is apparent that during the election campaign the Coalition has sidelined environmental issues. Mr Abbott, as the man who once claimed that the science behind human-induced climate change is ‘crap’ how can you expect Australians to trust that you will deliver effective action on this and other environmental issues?
TONY ABBOTT: Georgia, it’s a good question and it’s a question that really ought to be put to the Prime Minister, as well, because the Prime Minister has been…
Indeed Tony, it is a good question.
But instead of answering the question Abbott plays the part of politician and attempts to shift the focus onto Labor and Gillard:
TONY JONES: It was put to the Prime Minister last week.
TONY ABBOTT: …has been almost as emphatic as Kevin Rudd has been about the need for urgent action and yet she’s completely squibbed any serious policy. Now, we do have policy out there. We’ve had it out there since February. It basically goes – it involves going to the market and buying abatements through soil carbon, through tree planting, through businesses that are prepared to change their processes to less emitting ones. It will reduce our emissions by five per cent by 2020, so we will achieve our targets. Now, that’s our commitment. It’s doable. It’s deliverable. We’ll get there but you just don’t know where you stand with the Prime Minister on this subject and this idea that you’ve going to go to some kind of a citizens’ assembly, I mean that’s, quite frankly, laughable. It’s an abdication of leadership. We do have a 150 strong citizens’ assembly. It’s called a parliament and that’s what should be making this decision.
Abbot get’s one thing right: the Citizens Assembly proposed by Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard to debate the issue is “crap”.
However, when pressed he demonstrates his continuing confusion on the scientific debate:
TONY JONES: Just pick up on part of that question. Do you still believe the science of human induced climate change is crap?
TONY ABBOTT: Well, that’s not quite what I said. What I said was that this idea that the science was settled was not something that I wholly accepted.
TONY JONES: Okay, on Four Corners earlier this evening, you essentially [said] you still dispute the role of human activity in climate change. That is pollution from cars and factories and power plants.
TONY ABBOTT: It has a role. It plays a part. There’s no doubt about that, Tony. How big a part, well, let the scientists argue about that. In the end I’m not going to, I guess, try to challenge their scientific expertise. What I’m going to say is, well, let’s do what we reasonably can to prudently meet foreseeable threats and that’s why I think that achieving this five per cent reduction by 2020 in ways that will not destroy the economy is a good way forward.
The old “the science is not settled” argument. Again, I turn to the wonderful Skeptical Science:
That humans are causing global warming is the position of the Academies of Science from 19 countries plus many scientific organizations that study climate science. More specifically, around 95% of active climate researchers actively publishing climate papers endorse the consensus position.
Abbott has fallen for the denialist propoganda trick that there is a scientific debate on the question.
There is none.
However, Tony Jones – the host of “Q and A” – pushes Abbott for clarification:
TONY JONES: I’m just going to pursue on this just a little longer because if you don’t believe that the biggest element of this is human induced, that is through factories and cars and all the rest of it and power plants, then how can you actually do anything about it and what is your theory as to what it is? Is it warming due to sunspots, cosmic rays? I mean these are the two other theories that are prominent.
TONY ABBOTT: Alien invaders. I mean come on start putting some more propositions to me, Tony. Look, the thing is this…
TONY JONES: Cosmic rays…
TONY ABBOTT: I don’t necessarily believe that Australia is going to be invaded tomorrow, but that’s not reason to abolish the defence forces. Now, the scientist may well be right. Carbon dioxide may well be the principle villain in harmful climate change and what we should do, therefore, is take prudent and affordable precautions and that’s what the coalition’s policy proposes.
Actaully Tony, the scientists are right.
Climate change is an enormous threat to our economy and national security.
That Abbott fails to understand the threat makes him unfit to lead the country.
* Image sourced from Lony Pond