As the mainstream media seems unwilling to, or incapable of asking Tony Abbott to explain his way of thinking about global warming, and more importantly explain his policies to combat it, let’s do so here. There are critically important questions that need answers if the electorate is to choose between Labor and the Coalition at the coming election. How can it vote without knowing?
First, let’s tease out where Abbott stands. Let’s not bother with Greg Hunt. Despite his expertise in environmental issues, his opinions are irrelevant as he slavishly follows everything Abbott says, and even if he doesn’t believe it, he has an array of weasel words to avoid disagreeing with his master. Abbott calls all the shots. Let’s not worry about Warren Truss with his bizarre statement that the recent bushfires have emitted as much CO2 as a decade of burning coal, or Barnaby Joyce either. The fact that the cost of a lamb roast is falling, rather than hiking to $100 as he predicted it would with the carbon tax, has cruelled what little credibility on climate change Barnaby ever had.
For starters, how can we know what Abbott really believes? Is it: ‘Climate change is crap.’
uttered at a meeting in Beaufort, an utterance subsequently airbrushed over with Abbott-speak? Is it: ‘Climate change is occurring, and mankind is contributing, but the extent is uncertain.’?
Is it: ‘The science is highly contentious, to say the least.’?
Is it: ‘If man-made CO2 was quite the villain that many of these people say it is, why hasn't there just been a steady increase [in temperature] starting in 1750, and moving in a linear way up the graph?’
Or is it: ‘It was hotter in Jesus’ days.’?
We know he doesn’t accept responsibility for his spoken words, only for scripted, written ones. Has he written anything on the subject? Point us to it.
Is his willingness to publically associate himself with arch climate denier Lord Monckton a sign that he endorses Monckton’s views, or at least considers them credible?
So the questions for the man who wants to be PM begin: Do you believe the evidence evinced by climate scientists that over many decades the global temperature has been, and still is increasing significantly?
Do you believe their evidence that this is due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases that trap heat near the earth’s surface?
Do you believe that human activity has been responsible for the scientifically-documented large increase in one of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and that it has played a dominant role in global warming, as documented in 99.8% of around 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject over the past two decades?
Do you accept climate scientists’ evidence that unless the increase in global temperature is held to 2 degrees C, serious changes to climate will occur?
Do you accept the scientists’ evidence of the disastrous effects on climate, arable land, forests, oceans, coastal habitation, wildlife, human existence and social cohesion of still higher increases?
Do you accept the scientist’s evidence that the increasing number of extreme adverse weather events we are now experiencing: widespread bushfires and now tornados, record rain and flooding in Eastern Australia, are likely a manifestation of global warming, and that these will increase as global temperatures rise?
Where were you when Warren Truss made his grossly erroneous statements about the bushfires? Where was Greg Hunt?
What do you make of reports on global warming from the Federal Government Climate Commission, from Professor David Karoly, Professor of Meteorology and an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and from Bureau of Meteorology scientists: Neil Plummer et al writing in The Conversation?
How will you answer George Monbiot’s question in his January article in The Guardian: Heatwave: Australia's new weather demands a new politics: ”I wonder what Tony Abbott will say about the record heat-wave now ravaging his country?”
Unless Abbott’s answers to these questions are affirmative, there is not much point in proceeding, as logically no action would be necessary. But as he has what is styled a Direct Action Plan to counter carbon emissions, can we presume his answers would be at least tentatively positive? Unless of course his Plan is simply an empty charade devised by a skeptic wanting to give the impression he is prepared to do something about climate change. Let’s give him the benefit of any doubt people may justifiably harbour.
He has pledged to repeal the carbon tax from the moment he is elected, should that happen. The Liberal website elaborately describes the steps in The Coalition's Plan to Abolish the Carbon Tax
, even to the extent of a double dissolution of parliament, if he doesn’t get his way. His determined approach leads to the next questions: As placing a price on carbon pollution is designed to penalize emitters and thereby reduce emissions, and also to encourage the use of renewable energy sources, and as the evidence is mounting that this is already occurring even in the seven months of the carbon tax (lower power usage and lower coal-generated power), do you believe that this trend towards lower emissions would continue after abolishing the carbon tax?
If the evidence is that abolishing the carbon tax will result in higher carbon pollution, how could you justify increasing pollution by this action?
Since part of the Coalition’s plan is that: “On day one, the Environment Minister will instruct the Department to commence the implementation of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan on climate change and carbon emissions.”
, you may care to address some questions about your DAP, questions that the media seldom ask you to answer. Since very few economists, and almost no environmentalists give your DAP any credence, how can you present it as a credible alternative to the Government’s carbon pricing arrangement which will lead to an emissions trading scheme that will operate in a world trading market?
What evidence do you have that paying polluters with taxpayer’s money to reduce their pollution will be more effective than penalizing them for their pollution as the carbon tax does? How can you know that your ‘carrot’ will be more effective than the ‘stick’?
Is it your intention, as Malcolm Turnbull has suggested, to present your DAP as an alternative that can easily be scrapped as its implementation turns out to be unfeasible? Did you engage climate skeptics Maurice Newman as business adviser, and Dick Warburton as carbon emissions adviser, to enable you to do this?
These are fundamental questions to which the electorate needs answers before it votes later this year. It needs to know whether to vote for the Labor scheme about which it knows, or for the Coalition’s DAP, which on the face of it looks like a Mickey Mouse scheme, although the cost is said to be $10.5 billion, the source of which has not been revealed. As its centerpiece is the planting of some 20 millions trees to act as carbon sinks, please explain to us some of the details:
From where will the trees be sourced? What sort of trees?
How large an area will be needed to plant them?
As you have stated that semi-arable land would be used, since all the existing arable land is needed for farming food and fibre, where will you find the large amount of land you will need?
How will the trees be planted – can we presume your Green Army would do this?
How will you enlist the 15,000 members you say will comprise your Green Army?
How will you transport them to semi-arable locations, house them, and provision them?
How much will all this cost?
Has provision been made for this cost in your budget? Over what period?
Who will be the employer and provide occupational health and safety, benefits and insurance? How will the logistics of such a vast operation be managed?
Since you have heralded the abolition of the climate change department, what government department will oversee and administer the DAP?
How long will it take to plant 20 million trees?
Once planted, how will the trees be watered and nurtured until growth is well established in their semi-arable locations? At what ongoing cost?
How will you protect this vast forest against the destructive forces of bushfires, the devastation of which is contemporaneously apparent to us all?
Do you accept the scientific opinion that it will take around five years before trees can become worthwhile carbon sinks?
Under your DAP, what happens about reducing carbon pollution in the meantime?
As your Plan also involves sequestering carbon in soil in the form of biochar, how and where will char be produced, transported and buried in agricultural environments? At what cost?
What evidence do you have that this will be cost-effective, and that it will enhance the land? How long will it take to show a benefit?
You have been vehemently critical of the economic effects of placing a price on carbon, predicting that the costs of everything would go up and up and up, and that jobs, industries, and whole townships would be decimated. This leads to the next questions: Is it true that every household would bear a cost of $1300 for your DAP, and receive no compensation, such as is in place right now?
If so, how can you justify this household cost of $1300, while criticizing the Government’s carbon price, for which most households are fully compensated?
Have you work-shopped how you will remove existing compensation from pensioners and families, as promised, and manage the disruption and resentment that move will inevitably precipitate?
Have you modeled the economic effects of the $1300 imposition?
While businessmen and industry leaders always wish for lower taxes, their yearning for certainty is very strong. Have you work-shopped how they might react when over a year after the introduction of a price on carbon, during which they have taken action to reduce pollution and thereby the penalty they need to pay, and having invested in renewables, they find that they have to adjust to a new arrangement where there is no carbon price?
Have you considered the possibility that they may resent having to again adjust their plans?
Have you considered that having adjusted to a price on carbon they may be in harmony with its purpose, and not wish to go backwards?
Have you considered the possibility of a business backlash against your plans?
How do you explain the rapidly diminishing number of complaints to the ACCC about the carbon tax, now down to almost zero?
Forty-nine questions. Until the voters have answers to them, how can they compare what Abbott and the Coalition are offering to counter the existential threat of escalating global warming and all the consequences it will bring in its wake if it is not restricted to 2 degrees C, and the disastrous effects of greater increases? Come on Mr Abbott, answer these pivotal questions – take us into the recesses of your mind where your thoughts about global warming swirl around.
Come on you journalists in the mainstream media – ask Mr Abbott these questions, and insist on cogent answers. Don’t avoid the questions, and don’t accept bland answers, obfuscation, devious answers, or weasel words? Don’t allow him to walk away when the questions get too hard. Do your job. He will not spontaneously give the electorate his answers; it is up to you to wheedle them out of him. So far, you have failed dismally. You have let us down disgracefully. Lift your game.
The Fourth Estate needs to take up the global warming cudgels, and if it continues to turn a blind eye, the Fifth Estate needs to shame it into action.
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