Ellen Sandell writes: Tony Abbott has begun his holiday in Europe today. It’s a welcome respite from the endless negativity that has surrounded his recent campaigning on the carbon price. But one wonders why he chose to visit a region that has had a price on carbon since 2005 and now has the largest multi-national emissions trading scheme in the world, since according to the arguments he’s making, Europe should just about be in the Stone Age by now.
Abbott recently argued that under a price on carbon, breakfast cereals like Weet-Bix will become more expensive, and pharmacies will shut down. Then, according to his logic, is he not worried that Weet-Bix and other essential groceries will be unaffordable on his European holiday? Is he not worried that he won’t be able to find a pharmacy to buy a pack of Panadol if he gets a headache from all the sight-seeing?
Perhaps we should be more worried about the headaches the poor Europeans will have after listening to his questionable interpretation of the facts when it comes to climate science.
Abbott seems to still be confused about the science of climate change, moving between “climate change is absolute crap” and aligning himself with the climate deniers, and at other times accepting that climate change is a problem, but just not one worth acting efficiently on. Recently he’s even taken to arguing that CO2 is weightless, disregarding the rules of physics and chemistry.
All of this will be news to most Europeans, who have long accepted the science of climate change and have been measuring their CO2 emissions in tonnes through the trading scheme, and are benefiting from climate change solutions. The European Union is the world leader in the development of renewable energy, with the industry employing over 700, 000 people and turning over 91 billion euros annually. Studies predict an increase of up to 6.1 million jobs in 2050, and the EU-wide emissions trading scheme is expected to generate between $143 billion and $296 billion over the next six years.
Abbott might have thought that despite this, he would welcomed in Europe, which in recent years has elected conservative governments in all but four of the EU’s 27 member states. Countries like the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and Portugal are now run by centre and far-right Prime Ministers, who Abbott may have assumed would embrace their Antipodean equivalent with open arms.
But like the French Québécois who imagine a motherland that no longer exists, Abbott’s Australian conservatism has failed to keep pace with the prevailing wisdom of European conservatives, who overwhelmingly accept the science of climate change and support action to reduce pollution. While Abbott feels comfortable and at home among Australia’s fringe group of industry-funded climate skeptics, he may find himself having quite a lonely holiday in Europe.
If Abbot passed through London on his trip hopefully he’ll find the time to meet with Conservative UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Last week Cameron publicly supported Julia Gillard’s carbon plan, saying he was “delighted to hear” of the policy, which will ”add momentum to those, in both the developed and developing world, who are serious about dealing with this urgent threat”.
Perhaps he could also visit Sir Richard Lambert, former head of the UK Confederation of Business and Industry. In a recent interview with Australian journalist Giles Parkinson, Lambert said:
“We’re not evangelists, and we are not scientists, but we are paid to understand and manage risk. And they said we think it (climate change) is a significant risk and we need to mitigate it. We are also paid to understand opportunities and we think a shift to low-carbon economy will create opportunities.’ And the most efficient way of reducing emissions, the taskforce found, was establishing a price on carbon.”
Maybe on the plane on the way home to Australia, Abbott could use the time to catch up on some reading.
We could recommend the eminent economist Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on climate change commissioned by the British Government, which found the economic impact of climate change to be greater than the Great Depression and World War Two combined.
Or perhaps he could start with the basics: Global Warming for Dummies.
Ellen Sandell is national director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.