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Mar 15, 2016

Hot autumn might catch out a denialist government

Malcolm Turnbull is stuck with a dud climate action policy. But voters want more -- much more.


The intensely warm start to autumn across the eastern states appears to have prompted a rise in belief in climate change and the need for Australia to do something about it — one that might catch out a government that appears to be doubling down on the Abbott government’s wilful inaction on the issue.

With an unseasonable autumn heatwave across much of eastern Australia in recent weeks, 63% of voters agree that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity” in today’s Essential Report — the highest level since Essential began asking the question in 2009. That’s up from 56% in November — the biggest jump ever. Belief that “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the Earth’s climate” is down to 27%, from 32% in November and the lowest level ever. While there’s no ostensible connection between short-term weather outcomes and climate change, a global spike in temperatures in February caused alarm when it was revealed on the weekend by NASA.

Traditionally, Coalition voters tend not to accept climate change, but now belief in climate change has even overtaken scepticism among conservatives, 46%-42%.

The shift in voter sentiment is happening at a bad time for the Turnbull government, which remains wedded to the Abbott government’s climate denialist policies, including its commitment to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s bizarre Emissions Reduction Fund, which hands out huge grants to big polluters for energy efficiency measures they would have taken anyway. Hunt also talks about the government’s 2030 emissions reduction target of 26% on 2005 levels; which equates to only a 19.5% cut on the current base year we use, 2000, and a fraction of the 40-60% reduction on 2000 levels recommended by the Climate Change Authority.

Hunt might believe in climate change, but he is a dedicated denialist on the basic issue of whether his industry handout program can get Australia to even the paltry targets the Abbott government signed up to, let alone the ones required to meaningfully contribute to concerted international action to halt what increasingly looks like runaway climate change.

Absurdly, this morning Hunt was boasting on the ABC of “one of the most comprehensive plans in the world to reduce emissions” — a view no expert, and no one outside the government, holds. Even traditional government supporters like the Australian Industry Group have said that to meet the government’s low targets will cost $100 billion to $250 billion. Hunt this morning repeatedly insisted Australia’s emissions had peaked in 2005-06, despite all evidence to the contrary. In short, when it comes to climate change, everything is hunky-dory and nothing else needs to be done.

Unfortunately for Hunt, voters disagree. Essential also shows a jump in the number of voters who think Australia is failing to do enough on climate change. That’s up four points to 57% since August 2015, while the number of voters who think we’re “doing enough” has fallen from 24% to 21%. And more Coalition voters now think we’re not doing enough (38%) than doing enough (36%) — though 12% think we’re doing “too much”.

This is potentially fruitful territory for Labor, which has already committed to a return to stronger emissions targets, an emissions trading scheme and a much higher “goal” for renewable energy — but said virtually nothing in the way of hard detail. But its relentless narrative is that Turnbull has been a “disappointment” and that he is hamstrung by the far right of his party and by the Nationals under Barnaby Joyce — one of the strongest climate denialists in the Coalition. When Turnbull became Prime Minister there was considerable speculation about how he might navigate the climate action issue to achieve an effective policy that didn’t send the denialists into a frenzy. But since then, the issue has simply dropped off the agenda.

All Turnbull now has is a delusional Environment Minister and a dud policy. Voters clearly want much more. And more voters want it than ever before.


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21 thoughts on “Hot autumn might catch out a denialist government

  1. Aethelstan

    While the LNP government appears to have many fanatical and irrational climate change deniers in their midst, they are still spending over 2 billion … yes, that’s right … BILLION … on a climate change policy that uses tax payer funds to clean up the emissions caused by industrial polluters … but amazingly their policy includes no penalties for polluters … so … surprise, surprise … despite this impost on taxpayers emissions are increasing … pathetic. … … and then every now and again, Greg, the Mad Hatter of Climate Change appears to tell us everything is working and is wonderful, just wonderful!

  2. Jaybuoy

    The agile spiv is in trouble everywhere…it’s what happens when you are a fraud and don’t have the courage of your convictions..Supamal crossed the floor on this issue and now look at him..

  3. Jim O'Pines

    63% of voters agree that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity” in today’s Essential Report — the highest level since Essential began asking the question in 2009. That’s up from 56% in November — the biggest jump ever.

    It seems to follow from this that there are still large swathes of the populace who make up their minds on the climate change question based on what the weather is like outside. Presumably come July these same people will be open to the denialist brigade’s ‘if climate change is real how come it’s still cold in winter?’ argument, the rhetorical power of which is, sadly, not to be underestimated.

  4. Aethelstan

    “All Turnbull has now is a delusional Environment Minister and a dud policy” … … that about sums it up, Mark … well said …

  5. Wayne Robinson

    As someone on a thread on Bad Astronomy noted, the 2016 spike in global temperatures is actually bad news. It means that AGW deniers will be able to claim, perhaps in 2030, that global warming stopped in 2016, as they did with the El Niño spike of 1998.

    Whenever I hear my local Liberal MP boast of the achievements of the Coalition (not many) and includes the abolition of the carbon price I want to get out my baseball bat and punish him. At the polling booth. Not that it would do much good though – I live in a very safe Liberal electorate,, and global warming isn’t generally regarded as a vote changer.

  6. John Newton

    Labor? Approving coal mines? Gimme a break

  7. Venise Alstergren

    WAYNE ROBINSON: I share your grief. I live in a blue ribbon Liberal seat. As far as I can remember, not once has the candidate of my choice ever beaten one of those smug, born to rule and sewshally aware clods.

  8. Roger Clifton

    Bring the Coalition to task by all means. However the other parties are also spectacularly failing action on emissions. Keep in mind that the Paris agreement was for “zero emissions“, requiring the prohibition of all coal, oil and gas.

    Yes, that must include “and gas“. That “and gas” is the phrase that almost all of us fail to include. The ALP says it will bring in “renewables” where the power comes from wind and gas backup. The Greens are even worse, they promise to get rid of coal to rescue the greenhouse, but they should promise to prohibit coal, oil and gas. Instead, all parties should be promising to bring us “non-carbon” energy, and negotiating with us on what that entails.

  9. Dog's Breakfast

    :…though 12% think we’re doing “too much”

    Yeah, when doing nothing at all is too much!

    Although giving away $2b to companies endangering our future is probably too much, so perhaps they have a point.

    Roger, your point is true, but gas backup is the best and logical step along the path to zero emissions. And no, nuclear is not zero emissions, the embedded emissions in the concrete are never ameliorated in the life of the reactor.

    How far off in the future will it be when people incredulously look back wondering how a government boasted about removing a carbon tax.

    That’s right folks, that was one of the big 3 achievements of this government. Not just doing nothing, we have gone backwards at an alarming rate.

    Never under-estimate the stupidity of the human collective.

  10. Andrea

    Letter from our Ambassador to the Editor in the New York Times today:
    Re “Australia turns its back on climate science” (March 4):
    Australia remains committed to climate science research and to increased global action to address climate change. The Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization, or Csiro, Australia’s top science agency, is making a strong contribution to the growing body of international climate change knowledge.
    There is also significant research being funded under the National Environmental Science Program, through the Australian Antarctic Division, and the climate data analysis, monitoring and forecasting efforts of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
    Csiro will continue to lead the way, spending about 83 million Australian dollars a year on research into climate change mitigation and adaptation.
    Australia will continue to meet its climate change obligations and commitments, including those made in the Paris agreement.
    Joe Hockey, Washington

  11. klewso

    Turnbull and the rest of his “twinkle tows government” are in need of toe themselves.
    …. I just want to know what “The Little Runt” is on, where can I get some, and will Medibank cover it?

  12. John

    One of the main problems is the loaded question. It should be at least questions 1.Do you believe in global warming ? 2. Do you believe global warming is caused by human activity. I would then ask a third question.3 If you believe global warming is caused by human activity can you prove it or do you know a scientist who can ?
    It is all well and good for Crikey journalists to push the “denier” label without accepting alternative evidence. That is how science is supposed to work.
    Two more quick points. The US military is the largest user of fossil fuels and the largest contributor to man-made pollution. It is exempt from any of the so called Paris Agreements.
    Not only is it exempt it does not even have to report its emissions.
    It would be far more beneficial to us to stop the US Military from having bases in Australia if we were really so concerned about anthropogenic climate change.

  13. Marcus Powell

    At the risk of being labelled a pedant, we haven’t actually moved into Autumn yet, so we haven’t had an intensely warm start to it.

    For virtually the entire history of human life on this planet, mankind has defined the seasons as being between the two equinoxes and the two solstices. Thus, summer ends and autumn begins on or about March 20, and winters ends and Spring begins on or about September 22. In North America and most of Europe to name but two areas, they still define the seasons by these measures, but because the Australian government has deemed its population to be too stupid to understand this concept, it’s decreed here that the seasons change at the beginning of the Month. They don’t. Notwithstanding that it might be a warmer start to March than in recent years, how about we wait another 3 weeks before declaring that it’s a warmer autumn than usual.

  14. Stuart Coyle

    Pedant, there you go.

    Anyway it’s not like they are comparing the Traditional Solar seasons to the Australasian Seasons or anything. The comparison is made for the same time period. So your point is moot.

  15. graybul

    It is incomprehensible that adults react to global warming when they experience “trending” high temperatures, but deny climate change when Scientists provide conclusive data verifying an undeniable truth that the world is under immediate threat.

    All Govt(s) that “shoot the messenger” by withdrawing CSIRO climate funding commit a crime against our grandchildren and their children, for those generations will now inherit a world without diversity.

  16. LucyJr

    If you care about our climate situation you should work on those disbelievers (mostly back benchers). Many occupy safe seats so it may be hard to remove them, but you can do your best to respectfully shift their views. They are there to represent their community, so let them know their community wants a safer climate future! You can do this through Citizens’ Climate Lobby (look them up).

    If a politician won’t yield on the climate science there are still the indisputable health benefits to having clean air and water, and the wonderful independence of a renewable energy source. You can also call on the Conservative’s hatred of handouts – demand a level playing field and tell them to stop supporting fossil fuels over renewables!

  17. Roger Clifton

    “Fossil fuels versus renewables” is an obsolete argument. Endlessly finding more mineral wealth, we would never run short of fossil fuels, so dont need renewables as such. However, we cannot dump carbon endlessly into the greenhouse. It’s not sustainable.

    The enemy is carbon, the cure is non-carbon energy. Let’s say so.

  18. cartoonmick

    Pesky damn climate change. Why won’t it leave the pollies alone. Pollies are very busy people, they’ve got their political careers to look after.
    Pollies are forever having to protect us, the ignorant public, from the facts. The trick is to silence those naughty climate scientists. Stop them from giving facts to the public.
    And here’s how it’s done . . .



  19. AR

    I was fascinated to hear the gHunt,speaking at Fran on RN this morning, waxing lyrical about saving the OZONE LAYER from naughty gases. And the Crown of Thorns.
    This was in “answer” to meeting the Paris requirements.

  20. pinkocommierat

    AR: was he seriously taking the credit for Montreal? That happened under Hawke. I wish I had the hide that gHunt has! Look, here’s a little spot of painting I did on some ceilings in the Vatican! Nice, eh?

  21. Steve777

    Greg Hunt is meeting the job description of an ‘environment’ minister in a right wing Government: don’t let environmental considerations get in the way of making a buck. In particular, block any action on climate change that affects LNP mates in the fossil fuel industry.


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