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?