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(Image: Unsplash/Anqi Lu)

Why has Australia seen a lack of climate action over the last 20 years?

The power of the fossil fuel lobby, in concert with the Liberal National Party, and cheered on by sections of the press over logic. They’ve rolled prime ministers, maligned the renewable energy industry and bamboozled the public.

And it’s got to stop.

Over the last week, we’ve seen just another example. Climate sceptic Brian Fisher, named as one of the “dirty dozen” by Clive Hamilton, released a report via his consulting firm BAEconomics called “Economic consequences of alternative Australian climate policy approaches”. Even the title sounds like a Dorothy Dixer question asked by a government backbencher during question time.

The report is garbage. It is based on ridiculous assumptions that have no resemblance to reality. The report compares the ALP and Liberal National policies, assumes that we limit renewables at 50%, that storage costs are staggeringly expensive and imagines extraordinarily high carbon prices (of between $100 and $700 per tonne). By locking in renewables at 50%, it ensures that higher-cost carbon emissions reductions must be used, and hey presto, allows the authors to forecast economic Armageddon.

It was widely and un-sceptically reported in press, despite the fact that the assumptions are, on their face, ridiculous.

Fisher’s report fails to consider the cost of not acting on climate change, as well as the economic benefits that would come from investing in renewable energy and new technologies that would end Australia dependence on imported fuels — and allow us to become a global leader in the export of renewable fuels.

His findings on electricity prices are completely at odds with the reality that more renewable energy means lower wholesale electricity prices. Today, renewables with storage are cheaper than new coal power and they are not going to get more expensive in the future.

According to the Climate Council, Fisher is the fossil fuel industry’s go-to consultant. He was also a member of Tony Abbott’s Warburton Review, which was designed to attack the growing renewable energy industry.

Following the publication of the recent BAEconomics report, Energy Minister Angus Taylor rushed out onto radio to defend it.

“We have got very credible modelling … it’s been peer reviewed by a Stanford academic …. we see that those costs are extreme and we can’t afford them,” Taylor said on ABC Radio.

Oh, someone from Stanford? Who could that be?

John Weyant. And who’s that? Weyant is director of the university’s Energy Modelling Forum, but he’s also a darling of the fossil fuel industry. How much of a darling? His most recent gig is with the Trump administration, where he will appear as an “expert” in a case being brought against the Trump administration by school children for failing to act on climate.

There is absolutely no way this report should be taken seriously, but it was reported widely in The Australian, The Australian Financial Review, and even on the ABC.

The government should be ashamed of relying on this rubbish to make its argument for failing to act on an issue which puts everyone’s safety at risk — but this government has no shame.

It’s well-orchestrated campaigns like this that have made it so hard to pass laws to deal with the threat of climate change. Campaigns that drop dodgy reports to the paper, are followed up uncritically on the ABC and commercial radio, followed by a press conference with a hand wringing Minister, and followed by industry groups coming out continuing the routine. These are then followed by old party hacks with op-eds they did not write leading to the final step… polling on how would the public like to pay $1000 for a lamb roast.

The fossil fuel lobby, who in one way or another, paid for this report, provides the research and the talking points to the government, who are cheered on the press. It’s killing our country. It’s poisoning the debate and preventing action to keep us all safe. 

The fossil fuel industry, valiantly defending their dirty, dying industry, are putting the interests of every other industry at risk with their actions.

We need to fight back. We need to stand up to this garbage.

Because if they win, we lose.

Oliver Yates is the former head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and will run as an independent candidate for the seat of Kooyong in Victoria.