A self-declared weathervane on climate change, Tony Abbott has held multiple positions on the subject in recent years. Confused about where he really stands? Crikey has you covered. Here’s the complete list:

1. Climate change exists (2011)

”Yes, we believe climate change is real, yes, we believe humans make a contribution towards climate change.”

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2. Climate change doesn’t exist (various)

“The argument is absolute crap.” (2009)

“And, I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.” (2009)

“So far reality has stubbornly refused to conform to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s computer modelling.” (2017)

3. The climate has been changing forever (2010)

“The climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth,  the climate was considerably warmer than it is now. And then during what they called the Dark Ages it was colder. Then there was the medieval warm period. Climate change happens all the time and it is not man that drives those climate changes back in history.”

4. The climate has stopped changing (2009)

“And it seems that notwithstanding the dramatic increases in man made CO2 emissions over the last decade, the world’s warming has stopped. Now admittedly we are still pretty warm by recent historical standards but there doesn’t appear to have been any appreciable warming since the late 1990s.”

Tony Abbott in 2009, after becoming leader of the Liberal party

5. The climate is getting colder (2009)

“There may even have been a slight decrease in global temperatures (the measurement data differs on this point) over the past decade despite continued large increases in emissions associated with the rapid economic growth of China and India.”

6. Humans only play a small role (2009)

“We can’t conclusively say whether man-made carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to climate change. If they are, we don’t know whether they are exacerbating or counteracting what might otherwise be happening to global climate.”

7. It’s best to be prudent (2009)

“We should try to make as little difference as possible to the natural world. As well, prudent people take reasonable precautions against foreseeable contingencies. It’s the insurance principle.”

8. CO2 has no weight (2011)

“This is a draconian new police force chasing an invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance.”

9. CO2 has enough weight to feed plants (2017)

“Then there’s the evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (which is a plant food after all) are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields.”

10. We need an Emissions Trading Scheme (various)

“There is much to be said for an emissions trading scheme. It was, after all, the mechanism for emission reduction ultimately chosen by the Howard government.” (2009)

“On the insurance principle you are prepared to take reasonable precautions against significant potential risks, and that’s I think why it makes sense to have an ETS.” (2009)

11. We don’t need an ETS, we need a carbon tax (various)

“If Australia is greatly to reduce its carbon emissions, the price of carbon intensive products should rise. The Coalition has always been instinctively cautious about new or increased taxes. That’s one of the reasons why the former government opted for an emissions trading scheme over a straight-forward carbon tax. Still, a new tax would be the intelligent skeptic’s way to deal with minimising emissions because it would be much easier than a property right to reduce or to abolish should the justification for it change.” (2009)

“If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax? Why not ask motorists to pay more? Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more?” (2009)

12. We don’t need a carbon tax, we need direct action (2010)

“What we need is environmental direct action – action which is actually going to make a difference. What we don’t need is a whopping new tax masquerading as an environmental measure.” 

13. International abatement targets are real commitments (2015)

“The difference between Australia and a lot of other countries quite frankly, is when we make commitments to reduce emissions we keep them. Other countries make all these airy fairy promises that in the end never come to anything.”

Then PM Abbott and former environment minister Greg Hunt announcing a carbon emissions reduction target of at least 26% by 2030.

14. International abatement targets aren’t real commitments (2017)

The Paris agreement is “aspirational only, it is not binding, it is not mandatory”.

15. The Renewable Energy Target — a good thing (2011)

“We originated a renewable energy target. That was one of the policies of the Howard Government and yes we remain committed to a renewable energy target.”

16. The amended Renewable Energy Target — still a good thing (2015)

“We passed legislation last night — the parliament passed legislation last night — to reform the renewable energy target, and that will put downward pressure on electricity prices while also providing certainty for the industry. I want to congratulate the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Industry and Science for their hard work, particularly the Minister for the Environment. I thank the Labor Party for their support for most of this legislation, and I also thank the Senate crossbenchers for their support for critical elements of this legislation.”

17. The Renewable Energy Target — a bad thing (2017)

“Our first big fight this year must be to stop any further mandatory use of renewable power.”


Australia has spoken. We want more from the people in power and deserve a media that keeps them on their toes. And thank you, because it’s been made abundantly clear that at Crikey we’re on the right track.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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