Apr 14, 2014

IPCC puts more heat on Abbott’s anti-science climate policies

The IPCC says action on climate change is urgent but affordable. The Abbott government says it will "wait and see", all the while dismantling the mechanisms that could achieve higher targets.

It is probably not what he is doing right now, but Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott should be wondering exactly how long it is that he can continue with his climate change policy charade. On Sunday, the United Nations climate body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change delivered the third of its landmark updates on the climate science, impacts and mitigation options. The chief message of Working Group III, the mitigation of climate change, was one of hope: the world still had time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and although this would require a dramatic and urgent decarbonisation of the world’s energy and transport systems, it needn’t actually cost that much. Indeed, as the IPCC graph indicates, the combined impact of all the measures that would be needed to encourage renewable energy in particular, and a suite of other technologies, might subtract just 0.06% from annual global growth:

And that is without calculating the obvious benefits or reduced air pollution and enhanced energy security, and without the obvious devastating impacts on the economy if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked. In Australia, the IPCC reports have gone largely unremarked or cherry picked by much of the mainstream media. After the report from Working Group II last month, The Australian reprinted an article from The Wall Street Journal highlighting how global warming might mean fewer deaths from cold. This morning its headline screamed that action to mitigate climate change would cost 10% of GDP. The Australian Financial Review and The Daily Telegraph completely ignored it in their print editions. Apparently, their editors believe it is neither a business issue nor one that would trouble the general public. This media approach has created an insular and distorted view in Australia of what is happening around the world. But any chance that world governments might sweep this under the carpet, as the Abbott government has been allowed to do by the mainstream media, were swiftly torched by the United States. Within minutes of the formal release of the report, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying the report was a "wake-up call" about the global economic opportunity that the world could seize. Kerry said abatement technologies can cut carbon pollution while growing economic opportunity at the same time:
"The global energy market represents a $6 trillion opportunity, with 6 billion users around the world. By 2035, investment in the energy sector is expected to reach nearly $17 trillion. "We already know that climate science is unambiguous and that every year the world defers action, the costs only grow. But focusing only on grim realities misses promising realities staring us right in the face. This report makes very clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity."
As if to prove his point, the Australian government’s response was to announce that it would wait to see what action others take: despite the protestations of its environment minister Greg Hunt, it has no willpower to address the science, and is currently intent on dismantling its capacity and the mechanisms that would allow it to do so. Consider what Abbott has done in the seven short months since elected prime minister. He has sought to remove or castrate every instrument that could help deliver the cheapest abatement and facilitate the profound changes that are required -- the carbon price, the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. And Abbott has sought to dismantle any organisation that might inform him that this is a really dumb idea and an act of economic and environmental vandalism -- the Climate Change Authority and the Climate Commission -- and slashed the numbers of those who may do so internally -- the environment ministry and the CSIRO. Given the contents of the IPCC report, the huge amount of research that has contributed to them, and the acceptance of these findings by virtually all the world’s governments, the Abbott government policies could only be introduced by a government that does not accept the science. It is no accident that Abbott has chosen climate change science denier Maurice Newman to be his chief business advisor, and another climate change denier and nuclear advocate Dick Warburton to head the review of the RET. Abbott’s inner core is infested with advisors from the arch-conservative Institute of Public Affairs and other hard-right affiliates, who hold a similar contempt for the science. The Abbott team, however, is not the only institution blithely ignoring the obvious and the ethical. The fossil fuel industry continues to frame its forecasts, business strategy and investment decisions on the premise that nothing can, or will, change. This is happening across the world, but the Abbott government is unique in that it is the only government -- apart from perhaps Canada -- that has cravingly kowtowed to the ministrations of Big Coal and Big Oil. Another graph from Climate Nexus shows what the fossil fuel industry is concerned about. The IPCC says the decarbonisation of the world’s energy system will require a significant increase in renewable energy sources, and in energy efficiency, and a dramatic reduction in annual spending on fossil fuel extraction and burning:

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14 thoughts on “IPCC puts more heat on Abbott’s anti-science climate policies

  1. wayne robinson

    The Australian republished an article from the Wall Street Journal noting that a warming world will result in fewer deaths due to exposure to the cold (presumably outnumbering the increased number of deaths due exposure to the heat)?

    Is this cognitive dissonance? Remind me again about how many people die in Australia from the cold compared to those who die from the heat.

    If Australians not doing the right thing in mitigating global warming for the sake of the poor in developing tropical countries isn’t an adequate reason, then selfish self-interest should be.

  2. klewso

    Have the Toady Cheerleaders and Wizzers of Oz calculated what proportion – of future GDP – ignorance will eventually cost?

  3. graybul

    The hyperbole of Government . . “our priority is to act in the National interest.” The IPCC Reports unequivocally reveal truth . . and inevitable impact of Climate Change unless fossil fuels are replaced with renewable. Casting this debate in primarily economic terms denies destruction of habitat for all life forms. Humankind has choice . . live for the day or deny future life forms a future. The Abbot Government MUST act in National/World ‘s interest.

  4. zut alors

    Abbott is only interested in saving money in the latest budget, the future cost of climate change is irrelevant. A statesman would consider the consequences of climate change in the long term. Irrefutable proof that Abbott is a mere politician without a sliver of vision or statesmanship in his DNA.

    What I cannot get my head around is why our PM isn’t lip-syncing the USA as our prime ministers have a solid history of being ‘yes’ men/woman to their utterances.

  5. Scott

    @Wayne Robinson

    Check the “Causes of death” release from the ABS. Every year they detail the list of people who have died from various causes, including exposure to heat and cold.

    As most doctors will tell you, it is actually exposure to the cold that kills more people, even in Australia. And the stats don’t lie.

    Between 2007 – 2012, 93 people have died as a result of “exposure to excessive natural heat” in Australia.

    As for those who have died as a result of “exposure to excessive natural cold”, we are looking at 172 over the same period, almost twice as many.

    That said, both are tiny in comparison to the big killers in Australia, like heart disease and cancer.

    That is why climate change doesn’t get a lot of traction in Australia. It’s not on peoples threat screens…and rightly so.

  6. Mark Duffett

    From the above:

    The IPCC says the decarbonisation of the world’s energy system will require a significant increase in renewable energy sources, and in energy efficiency, and a dramatic reduction in annual spending on fossil fuel extraction and burning

    Here’s what the IPCC actually says: “At the global level, scenarios reaching 450 ppm CO2eq are also characterized by more rapid improvements of energy efficiency, a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero‐ and low‐carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), or bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050” (p. 15 of the summary for policymakers)

    “In the majority of low‐stabilization scenarios, the share of low‐carbon electricity supply (comprising renewable energy (RE), nuclear and CCS) increases from the current share of approximately 30% to more than 80 % by 2050, and fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100” (p. 23)

    Spot the difference?

    Nor can it be implied that the reproduced graph somehow indicates the IPCC position as given by Parkinson. From its caption: “Proximity to (the) median value does not imply higher likelihood because of the different degree of aggregation of model results, the low number of studies available and different assumptions in the different studies considered.”

    Despite an IPCC position that is arguably unduly biased to renewables (, Parkinson cannot represent even this correctly. It’s past time Crikey recognised that he is not a disinterested commentator in these matters, and stopped running him as such.

  7. AR

    that has cravingly kowtowed ” probaly, as much as they craved a pat on the head, they also did it “cravenly”, with malice to all and no forethought.

  8. wayne robinson


    I stand corrected. When I was a pathologist, I supervised a post mortem performed by one of my registrars on an elderly woman admitted in Winter one year with hypothermia, thought clinically to be due to overwhelming sepsis.

    ‘Nonsense’ I said ‘it’s been bitterly cold this year. She probably lives in a poorly insulated house. She could also be hypothyroid explaining why she developed hypothermia’ (ironically i was later diagnosed as having profound hypothyroidism, explaining why I didn’t like the cold either).

    Anyway. Cold exposure deaths in Australia are generally in the frail elderly. A cold period increases mortality immediately as some of the elderly die immediately, and also persists in increasing the mortality as some of the elderly, weakened by the cold period, continue to die at a greater rate.

    Heat periods kill immediately and the lethal effects don’t persist after the heat wave.

  9. TheEvilOne

    One can only explain Tony Abbott’s behaviour by strong adherence to 3 ideologies, christofascism of the Catholic variety, unfettered neo-liberal capitalism and hippy punching. The last is especially important, Tony Abbott really really really despises dirty stinking hippies and since doing something against global warming is a dirty stinking hippy issue he has to oppose it. It may be that the dirty stinking hippies are correct and unacceptable climate change is already locked in with inundation of entire nations, mass movement of refugees and consequent wars. But I doubt that Abbott will ever admit that he is wrong, he will blame the dirty hippies for supporting action against climate change and thereby forcing him to oppose it.

  10. Patriot

    doing something against global warming is a dirty stinking hippy issue

    Only to the extent that sitting around doing sweet FA constitutes “doing something against global warming”. Today’s hippies want us all to be unemployed, unambitious bums living in tents/caravans, smoking dope all day and not bothering to bathe or groom ourselves.

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