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The Morrison Gov't: An extraordinary health hazard

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PM Scott Morrison with a lump of coal in Parliament (Screenshot via YouTube)

Climate change denial is the denial of many public health casualties.

For example, the increasing number of injuries and deaths from extreme weather events and the psychological and economic trauma consequent to severe climatic change.

New Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who when Treasurer carried coal into Parliament, has appointed avid anti-wind farm campaigner, Angus Taylor, as Energy Minister and ex-coal-company lawyer, Melissa Price, as Environment Minister. There has been no mention of climate change in either portfolio.

If there is any doubt about the PM’s lack of commitment to Australia’s COP21 agreement to emissions reduction, also consider for a moment that his new chief-of-staff, John Kunkel, spent six years as deputy CEO of the Minerals Council, followed by two years as head of government affairs (that is, lobbying) for Rio Tinto!

Furthermore, PM Morrison says climate change doesn’t have to be part of the consideration of drought, yet the science is increasingly secure that Australia is becoming drier and land will be subject to increased evaporation.

Now the Government’s signature power policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) is gone, what will replace it? Nothing! Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton who headed the leadership challenge against Malcolm Turnbull, may not be prime minister, but the conservative vandals have succeeded in the wanton destruction of even a holding pattern on carbon emissions.

The renewed attack on renewable energy generation will lead to more illness and death from pollution because it will slow the transition away from coal-fired power generation. The thinking is doubly wrong because pollution-related illnesses also cost us, the end-users, about the same in dollar terms as the polluting generators collect in charges — equivalent to politicians throwing away our money!

Former Liberal PM John Howard said: “Politics is governed by the iron laws of arithmetic”. This is clearly true and, in particular, last week’s Federal Parliament shenanigans over the leadership spill demonstrated this. However, applying arithmetical laws in politics is confounded by beliefs, peer pressure, mateship, team play, ego and, possibly, some corruption. Accordingly, nearly all political predictions, when tested, prove wrong — also demonstrated last week.

So, now, a key question. Why are there politicians in our federal political parties who reject the iron laws of arithmetic when applied to an actual science, rather than politics?

The numbers arising from the iron laws of arithmetic tell us:

  • the Earth’s temperature is rising;
  • the temperature is rising because the Earth is losing less heat;
  • less heat is being lost because certain (mainly carbon-containing) gases redirect the escaping heat in all directions, so heat escapes at a lesser rate; and
  • carbon-containing gases are rising because humans continue to burn coal, oil and gas.

The iron laws of arithmetic also tell us there’ll be more extreme weather events (heat waves, floods, storms), more sea-level rise with coastal inundation, more variable weather making it difficult to undertake agriculture and more threats to human, animal and plant survival. Recent heat waves and consequent wild-fires, droughts and floods are a mere foretaste of the future.

It is clear, therefore, that humanity needs to move in the direction of eliminating fossil-fuel use: altogether, as soon as practicable and not taking a backwards step.

Are politicians the major health hazard? To disregard the iron laws of arithmetic is foolish. It invites us to think of politicians who do so, as being willfully ignorant and derelict in their duty to protect the future of the nation. Alternatively, the explanation might be that they are guided by beliefs, peer pressure, mateship, team play, ego and, possibly, huge pressures from the fossil fuel industry, as highlighted by Malcolm Turnbull’s son, Alex, in a recent Fairfax interview.  

Alex Turnbull provides some smoke for the coal-burning-fire of influence by vested interests. Apparently, investors in new coalmines stand to lose huge profits (up to 100-fold of investment) if coal is not utilised as it used to be — and these investors have close links with at least one political party.

We deserve better.

Dr John Willoughby, Dr Chris Juttner, Dr Graeme McLeay and Dr John Iser, members of Doctors for the Environment AustraliaYou can follow Doctors for the Environment on Twitter @DocsEnvAus.

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