climate change Liberals Scott Morrison

Watching the unfortunate Dave Sharma’s attempt to evade the question of whether he accepts the existence of climate change, and his peculiar claim that the government is “doing enough” and “has a good record” on climate action, is to understand the grim reality for people who believe in the laws of physics within the Liberal Party. They must now utter the most absurd lies and allow themselves to look like fools in order to comply with the dominant climate denialism of the federal Liberals.

That denialism is twofold — there is out-and-out denialism that simply rejects basic science, as per Tony Abbott, and there is denialism about the need for effective action to reduce emissions. The second can take many forms — the effort to fiddle with data showing rising level of emissions so that they fall “per capita” or “to GDP” — as if the atmosphere will give us a pass for rising population. Or trying to hide the data on rising emissions. Or Scott Morrison’s blatant lie about meeting our Paris targets “in a canter”. Or Angus “The Invisible Man” Taylor’s insistence the only energy issue is cost. Or alleged environment minister Melissa Price refusing to read the IPCC report (which the government tried to sabotage) before attacking it. You can add Sharma’s attempt to run away from questioning to the list.

These all amount to the same thing: a refusal to take climate change seriously as a policy issue. The Liberals have gone a very long way since John Howard went to the 2007 election promising “the world’s most comprehensive” emissions trading scheme. And in the wrong direction.

As the IPCC report makes clear, there will be significant economic impacts on Australia even if warming is limited to 1.5 degrees. At 2 degrees, impacts will be markedly worse, and worse for Australia in particular given “countries in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere subtropics are projected to experience the largest impacts on economic growth due to climate change should global warming increase from 1.5°C to 2 °C”.

A refusal to contribute materially to global efforts to curb CO2 emissions — “material” being way higher than the government’s piss-weak 26% reduction target — is an act of colossal intergenerational theft perpetrated by current generations on future generations. Worse, it’s a theft that makes no sense: the gain for us is modest compared to the loss of economic growth, opportunity, income and quality of life — perhaps even longevity — of our children, grandchildren and descendants. The costs of significantly curbing emissions in Australia is relatively small, as the Gillard government’s low-cost, effective carbon pricing scheme showed.

To refuse to even engage with this issue, then, is a threshold failure for anyone who purports to be a serious policymaker. We can leave rank denialism and stupidity to the minor parties and independents of the far-right who can cavort and gibber on the sidelines. But the federal Liberals’ refusal to take climate action seriously disqualifies them from having any right to govern.

This is in marked contrast to some state Liberals branches, such as the South Australian Liberals, who are committed to a transition to renewable energy and who have rejected coal-fired power altogether. But some political parties are simply not fit to govern: the NSW Labor Party, for example, is so badly damaged by a long history of corruption that it would be extraordinarily risky to allow it near power for decades to come. The federal Liberals have now reached a similar stage. Climate denialism isn’t a Liberal problem, it’s a specifically federal Liberal problem, and they shouldn’t be permitted to govern until they accept the laws of physics.