The release of the voluminous, three-part update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change appears to have had no impact on Tony Abbott’s conservative government, nor its advisers. Rather than accepting the conclusions of the IPCC’s 1250 international experts — approved by every major government in the world (including, apparently, Australia’s) — that the world is warming and there is little time to act, Abbott’s chief business adviser is still insisting that the world is, in fact, cooling.
Maurice Newman — who heads a triumvirate of climate change sceptics heading key Abbott advisory bodies (Dick Warburton on the renewable energy review and David Murray on banking) — was interviewed on ABC TV’s Lateline program on Tuesday night. He said, in part:
“We’ve had, since 1996, 17.5 years where the temperature has shown no measurable increase. In fact, it can be argued since 2003, it has cooled off somewhat.”
Newman was recently challenged by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt to agree to a $10,000 bet on Newman’s prediction that the world would be much cooler in 20-40 years’ time. Apparently he has not taken up the offer.
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Newman’s reference to the peak temperature year in the late 1990s — 1998, at the height of an El Nino was for a time the hottest year on record, but those records are now taken up by 2005 and 2010 — are a typical crutch of the climate denialists. The fact that 13 of the 14 hottest years have occurred since the late 1990s, and that this decadal growth chart shows a continuing rise, does not seem to faze the likes of Newman …
Newman insists — despite the IPCC report and the conclusions of numerous other bodies such as the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, NASA, the American Academy of Sciences, and other equivalent bodies around the world — that the evidence is not there to accept that rising CO2 levels has any impact on global temperatures. He told Lateline:
“I just look at the evidence.There is no evidence. If people can show there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and global temperature, well then of course that’s something which we would pay attention to.”
(Even Andrew Bolt acknowledges that sceptics believe CO2 plays some role in warming, although he had another rave at the “bias” of the ABC questioning.)
Newman’s comments come nearly a week after Attorney-General George Brandis accused “true believers in climate change” of being “ignorant”, “mediaeval” and trying to shut down debate.
Given that Abbott, who once dismissed climate science as “crap”, is now PM and has surrounded himself with the likes of Murray, Warburton and Newman, and dismantled or sought to dismantle the institutions that could provide advice on the science, mitigation and financing (the Climate Commission, the Climate Change Authority, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation), it’s hard to imagine how Brandis believes that climate sceptics are being sidelined. The popular press in Australia, and much of the popular radio and TV news programs, completely ignored the IPCC reports.
The indifference of the Abbott government and its advisers to the science probably explains why it has sought to dismantle all climate change-related policies and institutions and insists on its “Direct Action” policy, which is designed to reduce emissions by a maximum 5% by 2020 — well below, possibly by a factor of three, what the science requires.
But it may not even have to bother with this. Clive Palmer, whose Palmer United Party controls at least three seats in the Senate, has promised to vote against the Direct Action legislation, and even against the repeal of the carbon price and the mining tax if the Abbott government tries to sneak the measures through the budget appropriations bill.
It’s hard to know whether Palmer will keep his word, or what the price of changing his mind might be, but as Lenore Taylor points out in The Guardian, this will probably mean that Direct Action can continue with its handouts to polluters, without the bothersome scrutiny of baselines and other measurements that would provide some mechanism to control the overall level of emissions.
*This article was originally published at RenewEconomy
CORRECTION: An original version of this article stated Nobel laureate Brad Schmidt — it should have said Brian Schmidt.