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Apr 24, 2014

The world is cooling, Abbott’s biz adviser insists. Bunkum

Despite all evidence to the contrary, Tony Abbott's business guru Maurice Newman is still convinced the world is cooling. Here's some facts to add to his case.

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.

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.

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20 thoughts on “The world is cooling, Abbott’s biz adviser insists. Bunkum

  1. Michael Cahill

    “Brad Schmidt” should be “Brian Schmidt”, I think?

    1. Jason Whittaker

      Indeed, Michael. Fixed now. Thanks heaps,

  2. Roger Clifton

    The correlation between temperature and CO2 over the last 300,000 years or so is emphatically evident in the Antarctic cores. See graph.

    The imminent temp increase due to the current CO2 surge can be inferred from the graph. As of April, global CO2 is 396.7 ppm – way off the scale.

  3. Michael Rowan

    Thanks for Giles Parkinson’s careful rebuttal of Maurice Newman’s claim that increasing CO2 is not causing global warming.

    But more graphs and analysing the data will not change his or other so-called sceptics views. Better to learn from Socrates and ask some questions which reveal the so-called sceptic to be a gullibilist – someone whose dogged rejection of the well established science forces them to accept absurdities.

    So Mr Newman: you say there is no correlation between an increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and increasing temperature; do you also say there no correlation between decreasing CO2 concentration and decreasing temperature?

    If you say yes, there is a correlation between decreasing CO2 and temperature but not increasing CO2 and temperature, doesn’t that mean that Earth would have a different temperature for a given concentration of CO2, depending on whether that concentration of CO2 was arrived at following a decrease (which does cool) or an increase (which does not heat)?

    If you say no, that decreasing the CO2 in the atmosphere would not cool the earth, wouldn’t it follow that the climate of the earth would be the same as now even if we had an atmosphere like the moon?

  4. Scott

    I think Labor (and maybe the Greens) will end up voting for direct action. They will have to.

    If the Government is smart, when July comes around, they will get the Carbon Tax and Mining taxes removed quickly, and then put up the Direct Action Bill.

    Then Labor and Greens will have to make a call as to whether they vote for it (in which case the PUP vote is not required) or vote against it, meaning there will be absolutely no Carbon emmission reduction policy running in Australia for the period of the Abbott government(with the exception of the RET). Greens might stay true, but Labor should cave if they are smart.

    Labor will vote to implement (complaining all the time of course, but saying that something is better than nothing) and then hope it is ineffective, so they can go to the next election with an ETS.

  5. Jaybuoy

    Newman is trying do do a combover on the environment.
    Roy Spencer his preferred scientist is a paid spruiker for coal and petro industries. How can any objective cost analysis be done on a modern economy when it excludes the effect of emissions going forward..?

  6. Anne M F

    The IPA had 75 radical ideas to transform Australia, of them nos 1-3, 6, 10, 21, 44 & 72 all more or less emphasised that the new way forward for Australia was to get rid of any input from science and technology and certainly to eliminate any government instrument to mitigate against climate change. Newman is merely following the IPA’s wishes. Why would you listen to respected scientists anyway – they aren’t in cahoots with the rich and powerful!

  7. klewso

    If Abbott is wrong on this, he has all these people he can blame.

  8. AR

    I dream of Double Dissolution – which TT threatened on Tuesday talking to Rat Hately on the government broacaster, 2GB. At least I think that that is what he thought that he said, though Rat’s infamous mouth turned it into “Disullusion” … which may ion fact have been what TT was answering..? Nah, he ain’t that subtle. And certainly not quick on his feet, intellectually or physciallly else he wouldn’t have 27sec mute-outs nor have been hit so often around (what passes for) his head.

  9. zut alors

    Someone please tell Maurice Newman & Abbott it’s not the world that’s cooling – it’s the electorate.

  10. tim readfern

    “but Labor should cave if they are smart.”

    nah, everyone knows policy failures fall squarely to the government. look at all the obstruction the coalition performed in labor’s time, labor got blamed fairly and squarely for that. labor should vote against it, citing it’s complete inadequacy to address the problem and waste of money “corporate welfare” etc., so the coalition goes down as being the government which dismantled a perfectly working emissions abatement scheme and didn’t replace it with anything. that will stain them for years to come.