Challenged on climate policy, Australian Govt hides behind contrarians

Intro

After 18 months attacking clean energy and climate policies, axing and defunding climate and scientific institutions, and embarrassing itself at climate negotiations; Australia’s coal-captured Abbott Government is being challenged by the international community for its inadequate commitment to climate action. Documents from the United Nations show Australia has been asked 36 questions – the most of any nation – about its 2020 emissions targets, underscoring international concern it may fail to live up to its responsibilities. Pressure is growing on nations to step up ambition ahead of the Paris climate talks, and Australia has the ability to ambitiously reduce emissions at low cost. However, the Abbott government is instead choosing to stay “in the coal business” and has miraculously found $4 million for a new thinktank led by notorious climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg – presumably as it is already fond of his routinely discredited arguments that coal can solve energy poverty and climate action is not urgent. Surrounding oneself with contrarians, deniers and crony industry is a common theme for governments resisting climate action, so to help people identify and counter the misinformation coming from these sources John Cook, the creator of Skeptical Science, has launched a new massive open online course (MOOC). Open to anyone, anywhere on earth, the in-depth course features interviews with leading scientists and researchers, including Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes and Sir David Attenborough. The course will equip students with the tools to identify and comprehensively dismiss myths used to deny climate science.

Tweet

  • RT @AYCC: Lomborg’s $4m govt appt is an insult to science, youth and #climate action. Sign here https://t.co/YqmMvS2ioN #NoUWAy pic.twitter.com/soXL4ChUY7

Key Points

  • If Australia continues down the path it is on, the world is going to get a prime example of what happens when climate deniers and contrarians are given control of policy. Australia is lagging behind international action, not to mention recommendations from its own authorities. The world’s major economies are moving with increasing determination to reduce emissions and get moving on the clean energy transition. If laggards like Australia, Japan and Canada continue to make excuses, delay and backtrack on their commitments, then they will be left behind both politically and economically.

Background

After one and a half years of relentless attacks on renewable energy, the axing of a working carbon pricing scheme and climate bodies, funding cuts to its Climate Change Authority, scientific institutions, and both backtracking and book cooking at climate negotiations; Australia’s Abbott Government is facing tough questions over its climate policies from the international community.

Documents from the United Nations show Australia has been asked 36 questions – the most of any nation – about its 2020 emissions targets, underscoring international concern it could fail to live up to its responsibilities.

Australians are among, if not the, wealthiest people on earth, and also the world’s worst polluters. It has the ability and the opportunity to make the deep cuts to emissions that are desperately needed, and to do so at low cost while growing its economy.

Yet instead of taking the initiative to clean up its economy, the Abbott government has instead chosen to surround itself with voices that will tell it what it wants to hear. It has sought out climate deniers to advise it on business and renewable energy, and now while it cuts any and all funding for a credible response to climate change, it has miraculously found $4 million to go towards a new $12 million thinktank led by notorious climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg.

Dubbed the “Australia Consensus Centre” after Lomborg’s now US-based “Copenhagen Consensus Centre”, the think tank adds a thin veneer of respectability to Lomborg’s routinely discredited opinions – an important jufor a government already fond of his message that climate action is not urgent.  Lomborg set up the US arm after the incoming Danish Government dropped all his funding in 2011. He was in Australia late last year, when he appeared at a Peabody Energy-sponsored event at the G20 in Brisbane, before heading to Canberra.

The appointment has led to calls for Education Minister Christopher Pyne to resign, but importantly it again highlights the deep disconnect between what the Abbott government says and what it actually does.

Australia is lagging behind international action, not to mention recommendations from its own authorities, and given it was considered a global leader on climate action during the previous Labor government’s time in office, the slide to climate pariah can only be attributed to dogmatic ideology and the influence of climate contrarians.

To counter misinformation coming from ideologically contrarian sources, John Cook, the creator of Skeptical Science, has launched a new massive open online course to help people identify and comprehensively dismiss myths used to deny climate science.

Open to anyone, anywhere on earth, the in-depth course features interviews with leading scientists and researchers, including Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes and Sir David Attenborough.

The course is part of a growing effort to emphasise the veracity of the 97 per cent consensus on the science of climate change, and to eliminate the manufactured doubt allowing some governments, such as Australia, to continue to evade responsibility for action.

Resources

Relevant coverage

Tools and resources

Rebuttals

Images and video

Key quotes

  • “Australia may stand alone and humiliated, but even worse is that Tony Abbott’s global warming policy protects the profits of the big polluters now at the expense of a safe climate for our children and grandchildren. It is intergenerational theft on an obscene scale.” Greens leader Senator Christine Milne.
  • “The government’s climate ambition and policies are already being questioned, with a clear indication that our major trading partners do not think that we have a credible policy or pathway for achieving any significant pollution target, or that we’re playing our fair share in the global game. It is clear from the questions being asked by China, Brazil, the US and the EU that they see Australia’s adoption of the minimum 5 per cent reduction 2020 target as inadequate.” CEO of The Climate Institute, John Connor.
  • “In the face of deep cuts to the CSIRO and other scientific research organisations, [the Government’s funding of Bjorn Lomborg is] an insult to Australia’s scientific community. It seems extraordinary that the Climate Commission, which was composed of Australia’s best climate scientists, economists and energy experts, was abolished on the basis of a lack of funding and yet here we are three years later and the money has become available to import a politically-motivated think tank to work in the same space. Mr Lomborg’s views have no credibility in the scientific community. His message hasn’t varied at all in the last decade and he still believes we shouldn’t take any steps to mitigate climate change. When someone is unwilling to adapt their view on the basis of new science or information, it’s usually a sign those views are politically motivated.” Climate Council statement.
  • “It’s astonishing that the Federal Government has managed to find $4 million to support this project, despite cutting funding to the Climate Commission and CSIRO because of a ‘budget emergency’. I believe this is politically motivated, and it is an insult to the staff and students of UWA, as well as the scientific community in Australia. Students, staff and alumni alike are outraged. We’ve heard of students who are embarrassed to be associated with UWA and graduates who are ashamed that they have a degree from an institution that would accept someone like Dr Lomborg.” UWA Student Guild President Lizzy O’Shea.
  • “Bjorn Lomborg asked to meet me, and I wondered whether talking to him would be good fun or a waste of time. It was neither: it was scary and illuminating. After 15 years as the smiling face of climate inactivists, Lomborg had raised his sights. His new mission was to ensure that governments also deliver inaction on global poverty alleviation, public health and gender inequality.” Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Dr Richard Denniss.
  • “Tony Abbott has found millions of taxpayers’ dollars to fund his attack on renewable energy while at the same time gutting Australia’s science and university funding …[he] has deputised one of the world’s most well-known renewable energy sceptics to continue his climate change denial and attacks on renewable energy.” Shadow Environment Minister Mark Butler.
  • “Objectively speaking, the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty. [T]he publication is deemed clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice.” Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty assessment of Bjørn Lomborg’s book “The Skeptical Environmentalist”.
  • “97 per cent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming, however, less than half of Australians are aware of humanity’s role in climate change, while half of the US Senate has voted that humans weren’t causing global warming. The key to understanding the controversy is the science of science denial.” UQ Global Change Institute Climate Communication Fellow John Cook.
  • “There are those who say that there’s almost nothing that can be done. My response to that is that it’ll be worse if we do nothing. There’s not an excuse for doing nothing saying that you can’t stem it. You can slow it down, that’s for sure and we’ll be really culpable if we don’t.” Sir David Attenborough in a longer version of his UQx interview.
  • “Deep cuts to Australia’s emissions can be achieved, at a low cost. With our abundant renewable resources we are one of the best placed countries in the world for moving to a fully renewable electricity supply. Australia can achieve zero net emissions by harnessing energy efficiency, moving to a zero-carbon electricity system, switching from direct use of fossil fuels to decarbonised electricity, and improving industrial processes.” Australian National University Associate Professor Frank Jotzo.

Related Tree Alerts

More tweets

  • RT @ConorCo: An orderly & inexpensive transition > Australia could source 100% of power from renewables by 2050 #climate #auspol http://gu.com/p/47k4m
  • RT @ClimateSystem: The attacks on climate scientists are explained in @skepticscience new MOOC course. Great speakers. https://t.co/Kc2MfM6Mqx
  • RT @DanielGennaui: Australians bury their heads in the sand mocking the #climate change stance. Read more: bit.ly/NiumeBury pic.twitter.com/UiD1fmAzcl
  • RT @ClimateHotNews: Australia’s #climate plans probed by UN partners http://ow.ly/LRz3X  via @guardianeco