Earlier this week, in an embarrassing childish display, some of Australia's elected representatives pushed to increase carbon emissions more quickly than we already are. This wasn't juvenile backbenchers behaving in an unseemly fashion. This was our Federal Treasurer, Scott Morrison, and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce.
Coal plant-ed question
In the video below, Scott Morrison responds to the Dorothy Dixer (planted question) from his backbench colleague, Andrew Hastie, the Member for Canning in Western Australia. Morrison was keen to play the fool in Parliament. He embarrassed Australia in the eyes of the world by portraying everyone who accepts science as idiots or worse.
Our Liberal National government is arguably the worst performing, most ineffective government we've had in quite a while, and we've had some poor performers. The charade from Scott Morrison, Barnaby Joyce, and all the politicians on that side of the house was utterly awful, according to the critics.
The person in the bottom left behind Scott Morrison, the one who's grinning like an idiot, is the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce. He always looks like that (like an idiot), it's probably how he thinks of the farmers he's meant to represent. He wants to relate. Many Australian farmers are a lot more informed and much better educated than their Minister, I have to say. (Joyce is an accountant by training, not a agricultural expert.)
This all happened on Thursday this week. It wasn't the only thing that happened this month. Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg had a competition to see who could be the most disgusting, trying to outdo each other's prowess in sucking up to the fossil fuel companies. What they were really wanting to prove, from the look of it, was that neither of them give a damn about the welfare of Australia's agricultural sector, our native flora and fauna, biodiversity, or any of the 23 million plus people who live here. The worst of it is that these people want to use funds set aside for clean energy to build more dirty coal-fired power stations.
Which is the real Malcolm Turnbull?
As you may know, Australia's Prime Minister used to feel (or pretend to feel) very strongly about the urgency of mitigating climate change. In 2010 at the Deakin Lecture, Malcolm Turnbull talked about the critical need for action, accusing the then Prime Minister (who tried to bring in an emissions trading scheme), of "political cowardice the like I've never seen before":
We live in a continent that is uniquely challenged by climate change. We live in a dry continent that is becoming drier, and hotter, in the Southern part where most of the population lives – and we have witnessed that. We have seen the last decade, the hottest decade on record; the next hottest was the one before that, the next hottest, the one before that. Climate change is real, it is affecting us now, and it is having a particularly severe impact on Australia. And yet, right now, we have every resource available to us to meet the challenge of climate change except for one: and that is leadership.One can argue about whether or not Kevin Rudd was cowardly, but there is absolutely no argument that Malcolm Turnbull has scampered away from the issue with his tail between his legs like a gutless lily-livered wuss. Our Prime Minister, who many people had thought had some principles, forsook his morality for reasons known only to him. Was it blackmail from party members in thrall to the fossil fuel industry? Was it extortion by person or persons unknown? Or was it that he never really accepted climate science and was merely pandering to swing voters, for which action on climate change may have swung them to his party?
Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice the like of which I have never seen in my lifetime before. The abandonment of the Emissions Trading Scheme by the Prime Minister [Kevin Rudd] surely must be one of the most remarkable political acts, self-destructive political acts, I might say – there is some justice – that we've ever seen. Here was a man who came to office with a policy that he said was the answer to the greatest moral challenge of our times. Ultimately, he could not secure the support of the Senate.
Burn coal, Australia, Make Australia Burn
Both our Prime Minister and his Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, are now intent upon increasing carbon emissions from Australia. We already have the highest per capita emissions of any OECD nation, and among the highest in the world. We emit more per head of population than Saudi Arabia, Canada and America.
For many Australians, it was the timing of this bizarre display that was especially grotesque. Australia is in the grip of a deadly heat wave. At the same time, there have been damaging floods in south west Western Australia. Between midnight and 9:00 am yesterday, Perth recorded 114 mm of rain. The mean rainfall recorded at Perth Regional Office for the whole of February for the period 1876 to 1992 is only 13.3 mm. Between 1993 and 2016, the weather station 4 km away averaged only 8.5 mm for the month of February. (Yes, south west Western Australia is drying out as its climate changes.)
You've probably heard about the heat wave. This is what happened yesterday, from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) - and it's worse today. The brown part is 42 C to 45 C. The darker part in the middle is 45 C and more.
Today's map isn't up yet, so here's the forecast image instead - from BoM (archived here):
Here's a map showing the fire situation in NSW, from the NSW Rural Fire Service (archived here):
It's been reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that the conditions in NSW this weekend are the worst ever for fire danger, with some areas worse even than the conditions in Victoria on Black Saturday, when 173 people were killed.
Now how, in all seriousness, could the most senior politicians in Australia, joke and laugh about climate change at all, let alone at a time like this?
Clive Hamilton quits the Climate Change Authority
|Credit: Allen & Unwin|
10 February 2017
Dear Mr Frydenberg
I am writing to inform you of my decision to resign as a Member of the Climate Change Authority, effective immediately.
The Government's recently announced interest in supporting, and even subsidizing, the construction of a number of new coal-fired power plants can only mean that the Coalition Government has abandoned all pretence of taking global warming seriously. That the Prime Minister should make such an announcement after we'd learned that 2016 was the hottest year on record globally was perverse, to say the least.
The so-called highly efficient coal-fired power plants the Government now says it supports could reduce emissions by at best 20 per cent compared to the existing ones. Building 10 of them would be equivalent to building eight of the old ones, or building 10 old ones and retiring them after 40 years instead of 50.
If new coal-fired power plants were built, it would make the Government's already weak 2030 reduction target unattainable. Deeper cuts in the subsequent decades, essential to limit the worst impacts of warming, would be off the table.
No government remotely concerned about the impacts of a warming globe on the health, lives and wellbeing of Australians could even consider such a path. You and the Prime Minister are in effect saying to the world that Australia's share of the burden of limiting warming to 2°C must now be carried by other countries, including poor ones. This is unconscionable.
And no government that describes the dirtiest form of electricity using the deeply dishonest term 'clean coal', invented by a PR company for the coal industry, can be believed when it says it wants to reduce Australia's emissions.
Your dismissive reaction to the Climate Change Authority's 2016 report arising from its special review makes it crystal clear that the Government has no interest in sensible climate change policy. The Prime Minister's rejection of the report is all the more disturbing given that it was prepared and put to him by his own appointees.
You might remember that he and David Karoly spoke out against the recent Special Review of Australia's Climate Goals and Policies - put out by the Climate Change Authority (CCA). (If you read that article you'll see that I've not held the CCA in high regard, for a number of reasons, not all of them the fault of the Authority. None of them were the fault of the members of the Authority (the board) of the past. The present Authority with it's new members, is a different matter.)
Americans have Donald Trump, Australia has Malcolm Turnbull, Josh Frydenberg, Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce. We also have Clive Hamilton and some others like him - just not enough of them.
For those who've made it all the way through, here's a bonus. A couple of tweets about the heat down under.
It's so hot in #Birdsville that our officer could fry an egg on the bonnet of his police vehicle parked on Big Red! #heatwave pic.twitter.com/rJ84nOY1DM— QPS Media Unit (@QPSmedia) February 11, 2017
References and further reading
How Malcolm Turnbull could ignore the facts and fund the myth of 'clean' coal - article by Michael Slezak at The Guardian, 2 February 2017
Malcolm Turnbull: ‘we have to put a price on carbon’ - 2010 Deakin Lecture (read it and weep for the nation we could and should have been)
Farmer survey reveals concern, shifting attitudes on climate change - by Anna Vidot at ABC Rural, 29 November 2016
WA towns flooded, cut off as heavy rainfall hits state; more wet weather set for weekend - by Graeme Powell at the ABC, 10 February 2017
NSW fire ratings for Sunday worse than Victoria's Black Saturday - by Clare Blumer and wires at the ABC, 11 February 2017
NSW heatwave: Unprecedented fire conditions are 'as bad as it gets' - by Eryk Bagshaw, Megan Levy and Peter Hannam at The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 February 2017
Hard facts unmask the fiction behind Coalition's 'coal comeback' - by Lenore Taylor at The Guardian, 11 February 2017
Scott Morrison brings coal to question time: what fresh idiocy is this? - by Katharine Murphy at The Guardian, 9 February 2017
Australia’s carbon footprint - The Economist, 11 August 2015
OECD: Australia's worst greenhouse gas emitter per person - by Climate News Network at Independent Australia, 15 January 2014
'Capitulation': Clive Hamilton exits Climate Change Authority, blasts Turnbull - article by Peter Hannam at The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 2017
From the HotWhopper archives
- Dissenting view on Climate Change Action - No longer silent, but is it too little, too few, and too late? - September 2016, article about minority report from Climate Change Authority members
- Betrayed by political cowardice from Australia's "One Nation" Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull - September 2016