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Apr 15, 2014

The Dirty Dozen: Australia’s biggest climate foes, part 1

Who are the 12 people doing the most to block action on climate change in Australia? With a new government in place, and Australia's emissions stubbornly high, we name and shame a fresh Dirty Dozen ...

Who has been most responsible in recent times for preventing progress in the reduction of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions? The Dirty Dozen — which I originally named in 2006 and updated in 2009 — are the people who have most effectively denied the science of climate change, lied about its implications, lobbied to water down laws, or provided cover for weak policy.

They are doing most to help turn Australia from a reluctant leader into a proud laggard in responding to the most dire threat to the world’s future. Some are well-known — even if their links and tactics are not — while others do their dirty work behind the scenes. Here is my Dirty Dozen for 2014, in no particular order …

Chris Mitchell

Where to start with The Australian’s editor-in-chief? How about here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here or, if you can’t be bothered clicking on all of those, look here or here.

Just as his reporters repeatedly misrepresent the science of climate change and blacken the names of eminent scientists, so Mitchell’s opinion editors are always willing to turn over their pages to whatever disinformation is being peddled by the likes of Ian Plimer, Bob Carter and Bjorn Lomborg, plus blowhards like Maurice Newman and George Pell. Even the loopy Lord Christopher Monckton gets space.

Otherwise-good journalists at The Australian allow themselves to be sucked into Mitchell’s vortex of paranoia about all things green. At the heart of his relentless campaign of anti-science and debunking of measures to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions is a visceral hatred of environmentalism, especially the Australian Greens, whom he wants to “destroy”.

In 2009 the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the oil and gas lobby group, awarded Mitchell the JN Pierce Award for Media Excellence “for leading the newspaper’s coverage of climate change policy”, which proves that the greenhouse mafia does have a sense of humour. As a sign of his endurance, Mitchell’s is the only name to appear in all three Dirty Dozens.

Tony Abbott

What to say that everyone does not already know? Environmentalism was not around when his spiritual mentor was wielding his influence, but Bob Santamaria would have feared and hated it. His spirit lives on in the magazine he ran, News Weekly, which now reports on “how the globalist powers are using environmental scares to achieve the same ends that the older socialists could not quite pull off”.

This is Abbott’s real opinion. He has never changed from the ex-seminarian who turned up at the University of Sydney as Santa’s bully boy, but if he ever wavered, his two closest mentors — George Pell (“the Greens are sweet camouflaged poison”) and John Howard (the “agnostic” who launched Ian Plimer’s latest piece of anti-science) — would soon return him to the straight and narrow.

Ian McNamara

For too long the presenter of ABC Radio’s Sunday morning program Australia All Over has flown under the radar. When not chatting about the weather in Nuriootpa, Macca’s huge cohort of two million listeners (enough to make other shock jocks weep) is prone to debunking climate science and ridiculing renewable energy. He draws in his salt-of-the-earth listeners with a kind of folksy bush wisdom that has little time for eggheads with PhDs in atmospheric physics. Periodically, listeners complain to the ABC about McNamara’s “pot shots” at global warming and his penchant for inviting on his right-wing mates. If ABC management wants the definitive response to conservative politicians who complain that its coverage of climate change is biased (because it reports real science), it should point to Australia All Over. Macca beats Amanda Vanstone hands down as the ABC’s “right-wing Phillip Adams”.

But shouldn’t McNamara’s place among the Dirty Dozen be taken by Andrew Blot? Compared with McNamara’s numerous and impressionable listeners, Bolt’s 300,000 readers are beyond persuasion because they have already drunk the denier’s Kool-Aid. It’s true that Bolt’s impact has been multiplied by the activities of the keyboard militia of aggro deniers who fire off volleys of abuse to the “warmists” he rails against. However, most warmists now understand that the militia makes a lot of unpleasant noises but only fires blanks. The influence of Bolt on the landscape of climate denial has been exhausted.

Gina Rinehart

Climate science deniers arrange themselves on a spectrum of respectability. Those who don’t want to be seen to be swivel-eyed lunatics associate with Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation and critics like Roger Pielke Jr. (which is why Pielke hated being named by Foreign Policy as a top “skeptic”). At the other end are those like Gina Rinehart, who think Christopher Monckton is a man to be listened to. So she pays for the loopy Lord to come to Australia and thrusts him onto Notre Dame University to deliver the Lang Hancock Memorial Lecture.

Rinehart is every inch her father’s daughter. An implacable red-hater, Lang Hancock wrote “capitalism means life — environmentalism means death”. To counter their lies one should “aim at their jugular vein”, which is presumably what Rinehart likes in Monckton when he put a quote from respected economist Ross Garnaut next to a giant swastika and said “Heil Hitler”.

Rinehart is a major funder of the Institute of Public Affairs, the primary conduit of denier talking points in Australia. The IPA’s 70th birthday party last year was a love-in for the nation’s most powerful climate deniers; Murdoch, Pell, Bolt, Rinehart, Abbott, all co-ordinated by IPA executive director (and former Rio Tinto employee) John Roskam.

Innes Willox

If the Minerals Council decided to replace a hard man (Mitch Hooke) with a persuader (Brendan Pearson), the Australian Industry Group has gone the other way, replacing Heather Ridout with Innes Willox. Willox has made himself into the enforcer of the greenhouse mafia, pushing the hardest line against measures to limit emissions. He is said to draw out the worst in other industry lobbyists, who breathe a sigh of relief when he leaves the room.

Willox was a well-liked journo and chief of staff at The Age who worked his way, via a PR job with Singapore Airlines, into being Alexander Downer’s chief of staff, leaving his former colleagues mystified. In last year’s election campaign he mimicked Tony Abbott’s “scrap the tax” crusade.

Ian Plimer

Plimer is the chief ideologist of climate denial in Australia. The geologist is too busy to have his ideas on climate science published in refereed journals, but his 2009 book Heaven & Earth sold 40,000 copies, a publishing success for right-wing Catholic boutique publisher Connor Court and a sign of the appetite for anti-science. Described as “largely a collection of contrarian ideas and conspiracy theories that are rife in the blogosphere”, the tome sits on a scarily large number of bookshelves in Parliament House. Plimer is closely linked to the IPA and to the thoroughly nasty Heartland Institute and is close to Gina Rinehart, who has put him on the boards of some of her companies, including Roy Hill Holdings.

Plimer’s 2011 book — How to Get Expelled From School (launched by John Howard and mailed by the IPA to hundreds of schools) — listed 101 questions for sceptical students to ask their “warmist” teachers, i.e. those who respect science. The federal Department of Climate Change (abolished by Abbott) prepared a response that thoroughly debunked his claims in words a child can understand. How long before Environment Minister Greg Hunt is instructed to have this demolition of Plimer taken down?

*Clive Hamilton is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and author of Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change. 

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31 thoughts on “The Dirty Dozen: Australia’s biggest climate foes, part 1

  1. zut alors

    The title Dirty Dozen Foundation Member sits far more comfortably on Abbott than his desired ‘PM for infrastructure’.

  2. Ken Lambert

    Holy Shit,

    I thought I would have rated above Macca.

    Maybe he could make a baker’s dozen at No 13.

  3. prodigy

    Boer – my family love Macca, so please don’t sweep us up into your generalisation. However, the revelation is concerning. Macca on Gina’s payroll? – I would rather not believe it

  4. David Turner

    I love the ABC but loath and detest Macca , I can’t believe he is still on the Air . False, rude ,ill informed , twat.
    Thank you for outing him , somebody sees things similarly to myself ……relief ….

  5. Rohan

    “Andrew Blot”? A deliberate swipe, or a Freudian slip?

  6. Adrian K

    May be slightly difficult to bring up, but I think the main problem with the anti climate-change lot is.. their Religion.

    This may be the big Elephant in the Room.

  7. beachcomber

    McNamara’s “White Australia All Over” is a revolting waste of public funds. He makes Joe Bullock look progressive and deserves his place in these shame files.

  8. Johnfromplanetearth

    Climate always changes, it’s the arrogance of humans that doesn’t. We’re all just visitors passing through a particularly habitable few seconds in time, and that is all it is folks. In general, humans do better in extreme heat than extreme cold anyway, a lot more of us live around the warm equator than the frigid poles. So it makes sense that global warming wouldn’t be nearly the disaster that, say, a new Ice Age would be. Especially when you take into account the fact that we’ve yet to find crops that like to grow under three feet of ice. A new Ice Age isn’t the stuff of science fiction, either. These cooling periods have happened at least four times that we know about, caused by slight changes in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun that happen from time to time. It’s never good for humans. Of course, some might call this a draw as we may be trading an Ice Age for living on an overheated desert planet where everyone has to wear suits that make us drink our recycled pee! Name a way to die and most likely colder temperatures increase the odds. Now here comes the freaky part: Scientists don’t know why. One theory is cold temperature puts more strain on virtually every system of the body, and of course the fact that everybody is packed indoors probably helps spread bugs around. Either way, the cold is hard on us humans, so what’s wrong with a milder winter? It’s 2014 and we have 7 billion people living on the Planet pre Putin annihilation. If you’re a farmer in America or Europe, or a multinational conglomerate that owns all the farms, global warming is your friend. As temperatures rise, areas formerly barren, like tundra, will begin to produce vegetation. In addition, increased temps will create longer growing seasons and yields will also benefit from fewer crop-killing freezes. Everybody worries about the future of the rainforest, since we’re chopping it down just as fast as we can run the chainsaws. Plus, alarmists tell us warming changes rainfall patterns and diverts rain away from the equator, scientists have long feared a dryer rainforest would quickly die off. But it looks like the rainforest may be taking care of itself just fine. And by take care of itself we don’t mean “conveniently falling over to make way for a new McDonald’s in Tecoma”

    Warmer temperatures and added nitrogen from acid rain have actually been good for the vegetation in rainforests. And, even weirder, rainforests seem to be doing better with less rain. The theory is that less rain means less cloud cover, and it looks like what the plants lose in water, they gain in direct sunlight. There’s a pretty good chance that this simply means we’ll work to chop it down faster. Humans have hacked away about 20 percent of the rainforest to make room for grazing cows we can turn into hamburgers for McDonald’s, and we’re still wiping out about 1,000 square kilometres a month. So global warming may help the rainforests recover faster, humanity usually just takes that sort of thing as a challenge.

    The Greens of course are much more than an environmental party. They also promote ‘meaningful and smart solutions’ to ensure that ‘future generations of Australians have clean air, clean water and clean soil’.
    Perfect you say. I get it now. Taxing people is pretty smart if you can make people believe that they are actually helping save the environment by being taxed.

    The Greens tell us ‘We have only 10-15 years to use our collective human intelligence to address the crisis of climate change and to prevent catastrophe.’ And what do we mean by ‘catastrophe’. Is that like ‘catastrophic extinction of the silver-crested red-bellied Great Emperor butterfly’?

    The Greens also want to ‘Support the right of people from the age of 16 years to vote’ Yep, they want to lower the age of voting. 16 year olds don’t even know what good music is, who they are as a person, or how to drink responsibly, let alone vote in an election. 16 year olds usually care about politics as much as I care about the career of Michael Bolton. Although I can clearly see the Greens’ logic in this, because young people are stupid, and thus several times more likely to vote for whatever seems alternative at the time.
    Maybe we should start building that gigantic rocket ship and move to Kepler-186f?

  9. AR

    John – OD on cheap chocolate did you? Gotta watch that stuff, full of additives.

  10. fractious

    @ 28

    5 dense paras of urban myths, fiction posing as “common sense” and anti-science, and not a single reference. Your internet moniker would constitute an offence had the Commerce (Trades Descriptions) Act extended to internet pseudonyms.

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