Tony Abbott at the UK climate change deniers convention: Daring to be dumb

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In delivering the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s annual lecture, Tony Abbott has once again shown himself to be a duplicitous fool, says Steve Bishop.

TONY ABBOTT has damned himself as not deserving respect, invited ridicule for absurd challenges to science and shown he is shameless in rewriting history.

His speech to the widely discredited Global Warming Policy Foundation in London overnight should be seen as a self-inflicted pillorying.

Early in the speech, he said [IA emphasis]:

More than ever, the challenge of leadership is to say what you mean and do what you say. The lesson I’ve taken from being in government, and then out of it, is simply to speak my mind. 

The risk, when people know where you stand, is losing their support. The certainty, when people don’t know where you stand, is losing their respect.

So let’s examine where he “stands” on climate change.

On 13 June 2014, Abbott told the ABC :

President Obama and myself both take climate change very seriously and we've got strong and effective policies in place – or coming into place – in Australia to deal with it… I'm determined to ensure that we do our duty by the future here."

He told Barrie Cassidy on 1 September 2013:

But just to make it clear, Barrie, I think that climate change is real, humanity makes a contribution. It's important to take strong and effective action against it…

He has been criticised for wavering on whether his Paris Climate Agreement targets were a pledge or an aspiration:

The criticism follows Mr Abbott's assertion last week that the Paris Climate Agreement targets he devised as prime minister in 2015 were "aspirational".

Senator Fierravanti-Wells pointed to "categoric" comments Mr Abbott made in 2015 when he announced the "pledge" to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030.

In September 2015, Mr Abbott said: "Unlike some other countries which make these pledges and don't deliver, Australia does deliver when we make a pledge.

Overnight, he said:

…in October 2009, I observed that the so-called settled science of climate change was 'absolute crap'…

There were many assertions in his speech which contradicted his statement that “It's important to take strong and effective action against it”, such as:

…climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm.

And he finished his speech with this denial:

A tendency to fear catastrophe is ingrained in the human psyche.

Looking at the climate record over millions of years, one day it will probably come; whatever we do today won’t stop it, and when it comes, it will have little to do with the carbon dioxide emissions of man.

He doesn’t stand anywhere on climate change: it’s an intricate fandango of adopting different stances depending on the audience.

Adopting his own measure, he should lose all respect.

Now let’s examine his challenges to science.

When it comes to the rise of ocean levels, he uses the novel use of Manly photographs to challenge the scientific evidence:

More than 100 years of photography at Manly Beach in my electorate does not suggest that sea levels have risen despite frequent reports from climate alarmists that this is imminent.

Not only are rising sea levels imminent, scientific measurements (not climate alarmists) prove it has been occurring for decades:

Global average sea level has risen by approximately 20cm (8 inches) since 1901, due both to the expansion of warmer ocean water and to the addition of melt waters from glaciers and ice sheets on land.

He asserts:

…the evidence suggests that other factors such as sun spot cycles and oscillations in the Earth’s orbit are at least as important for climate change as this trace gas.

But scientific studies demonstrate the peddling of the myth that sun spot cycles are an important cause of climate change is rubbish — as in these two examples, in Physics World and the Royal Society.

And the argument about the Earth’s orbit?

There’s a wonderfully illustrative graph headed 'Is it the Earth’s orbit?', printed in Bloomberg Businessweek, which shows a virtual flat-lining for the differences in orbit while global temperatures soar:

Abbott says categorically:

Certainly, no big change has accompanied the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the past century from roughly 300 to roughly 400 parts per million or from 0.03 to 0.04 per cent.

The world’s foremost scientific organisation, the Royal Society, says otherwise:

Earth’s average surface air temperature has increased by about 0.8°C (1.4°F) since 1900, with much of this increase taking place since the mid-1970s… The clearest evidence for surface warming comes from widespread thermometer records.

Abbott has used another widely discredited allegation used by denialists — that 1934 was the warmest year on record in the USA.

In his speech he says:

... the 1930s were actually the warmest decade in the United States.

Skeptical Science provides the facts:

The year 1934 was a very hot year in the United States, ranking sixth behind 2012, 2016, 2015, 2006, and 1998. However, global warming takes into account temperatures over the entire planet, including the oceans. The land area of the U.S. accounts for only 2% of Earth's total surface area. Despite the U.S. sweltering in 1934, that year was not especially hot over the rest of the planet ....Globally, 1934 temperatures were actually cooler than average for the 20th century.

And records show the hottest ten years globally have all been since 1998.

There are more examples of the former PM’s ludicrous claims; here’s just one:

…climate change itself is probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm.

A well-researched examination of the effects of climate change on agriculture, health, polar melting, ocean acidification, glaciers, the environment, and economics provides both the likely beneficial and adverse effects. It suggests that, far from probably doing good, the negative effects will probably outweigh the positive.

And then there is the usual allegation from denialists that the world’s scientists are not united in their findings, with this assertion:

Beware the pronouncement, “the science is settled”. It’s the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages. Almost as bad is the claim that “99 per cent of scientists believe” as if scientific truth is determined by votes rather than facts.

The Stern Report, the very thorough examination of climate change commissioned by the British Government, consulted widely and decided:

The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change presents very serious global risks, and it demands an urgent global response. An overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates that the Earth’s climate is rapidly changing, predominantly as a result of increases in greenhouse gases caused by human activities.

The Royal society doesn’t bother with percentages — it says quite simply that there is absolutely no argument:

Scientists have determined that, when all human and natural factors are considered, Earth’s climate balance has been altered towards warming, with the biggest contributor being increases in CO2.

Rewriting history?

Abbott’s former chief of staff, Pete Credlin, is on the record:

Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things, in nomenclature terms, but we made it a carbon tax.

We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone. It wasn't a carbon tax, as you know.

There’s no pretence that the Abbott Government’s derailing of action to deal with climate change was anything more than brutal retail politics. It was a disgraceful exercise to win power which condemned Australia to the present chaotic lack of effective climate change and energy policies, as exemplified by the Business Council of Australia’s plea for:

… the development of an integrated, national and bipartisan energy and climate change policy framework.

But in his speech overnight, Abbott has rewritten history, saying that after John Howard had introduced a renewable energy target in1997 his doubts about the “theory” of climate change were growing and his belief that an emissions trading scheme would turn out to be a a “great big new tax on everything” was hardening.

In other words, it was a long-held belief.

Here are his words:

… it was the Howard government, back in 1997, that originally introduced the Renewable Energy Target, a stealth carbon tax…my doubts about the theory of climate change were growing and my sense that an ETS would turn out to be a “great big new tax on everything” was hardening.

But there is no suggestion in Credlin’s revelation that the carbon tax was a long-held belief of her boss. Her words make it clear that she played an equal part in that “we made it a carbon tax” and “We made it a fight about the hip pocket”.

Another claim made by Abbott in his speech was:

In July 2014, the Abbott Government abolished the carbon tax, saving the average household about $500 a year.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission examined this claim and decided:

The ACCC believes that, given all the available information, the Commonwealth Treasury’s estimated $550 cost savings to households is reasonable.

Then came the kicker — while the ACC’s estimate had been reasonable, the actual savings were far less:

… the ACCC has calculated direct cost savings ranging from $153 to $269 for electricity and natural gas following the carbon tax repeal... The ACCC considers that it is not possible to quantify those cost savings arising from indirect carbon tax costs.

And finally, here’s Abbott’s verdict on the period during which he was Prime Minister:

… we’ve had ten years of disappointing government .… Everywhere, there’s a breakdown of public trust between voters and their leaders for misdiagnosing problems, for making excuses about who’s to blame, and for denying the damage that’s been done.

Well said.

You can read more by Steve Bishop at stevebishop.net

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