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Sceptics cool on climate studies

Date

Chief Political Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Lenore Taylor

Tony Abbott ... says he accepts "we only have one planet and we should tread lightly upon it."

Tony Abbott ... says he accepts "we only have one planet and we should tread lightly upon it." Photo: Glenn Hunt

THE most prominent political climate sceptics see no reason to change their minds, despite the welter of studies over the past fortnight showing forecasts of global warming were correct or underestimates.

Many of the climate sceptics, influential in elevating Tony Abbott to Coalition leader, say they see nothing to convince them that human activity is causing the climate to change.

The Global Carbon Project has released forecasts that the planet could warm by between 4 degrees and 6 degrees by the end of the century and Nature Climate Change on Monday published a study finding that warming is consistent with 1990 scientific forecasts.

Influential … Cory Bernardi, who along with Barnaby Joyce has not changed his view despite the forecasts.

Influential … Cory Bernardi, who along with Barnaby Joyce has not changed his view despite the forecasts.

South Australian senator Cory Bernardi, formerly Mr Abbott's parliamentary secretary, said: ''I do not think human activity causes climate change and I haven't seen anything that changes my view. I remain very sceptical about the alarmists' claims.''

Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce said the whole debate about whether humans were causing the climate to change was ''indulgent and irrelevant''.

''It is an indulgent and irrelevant debate because, even if climate change turns out to exist one day, we will have absolutely no impact on it whatsoever … we really should have bigger fish to fry than this one,'' Senator Joyce said.

Barnaby Joyce.

Barnaby Joyce. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

West Australian backbencher Dennis Jensen, who had read the recent scientific literature, said he interpreted the findings in different ways and believed climate scepticism within the Coalition was increasing.

''The scientific papers saying it is as bad as we thought, or worse, are talking about concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere - and concentrations are indeed increasing - but global temperatures have not gone up in a decade,'' he said.

''It's the impact of the increased concentrations of CO2 that is in dispute and I agree with [US professor] Richard Lindzen that it is more likely to be 0.4 degrees than 4 to 6 degrees … the doomsday prophesies do not stand up to reason.''

Mr Abbott now says he accepts ''we have only one planet and we should tread lightly upon it''.

Questioned about climate science last year, Mr Abbott said: ''I think that climate change is real, mankind does make a contribution and we should have strong and effective policies to deal with it. As far as I am concerned, the debate is not over climate change as such. The debate is over the best way of dealing with it.''

He has never repeated his 2009 comment that the ''settled'' science of climate change was ''absolute crap''.

His $10.2 billion ''Direct Action'' climate policy was deliberately crafted to straddle the deep divisions over climate science within his party.

To qualify for grants from the Coalition's proposed emissions reduction fund, a proposal must ''deliver additional practical environmental benefits'' as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Mr Jensen said it was this proviso that allowed him to back the Coalition plan.

''At least we will be doing things that make sense for other, practical reasons,'' he said.

Tasmania senator David Bushby said he remained a true ''sceptic''.

''I know eminent scientists have one view but I know other eminent scientists - usually ones who have retired and are no longer reliant on government grants - have a totally different view,'' he said.

512 comments

  • I am still stunned that the LNP, the party of small government, is putting forward a policy where big government controls who gets what.
    In other words, the LNP is into picking winners.
    This is one of the worst ways of solving an economic problem. The ideal is to set the rules, a price, and let the market sort it out.
    This "Direct Action" is simply very bad policy.

    Commenter
    Econorat
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    December 11, 2012, 7:07AM
    • I think M Turnbull agrees with you, although you missed the fact they are also against any market based mechanism.
      The ultra conservative govt we will overwhelmingly elect next year is very cynical and socialist on this matter and is consistent with Australian attitudes.
      Pity, extreme weather related events associated with climate change occur with much greater frequency and our reluctance to act is a shame we will bear for future generations.

      Commenter
      Aesop
      Location
      Wollongong
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 7:47AM
    • Agreed, but you know full well they'll just stall before the implementation stage. Issues with regional roll out, they'll say. More research required. A public forum to investigate the public's attitude, perhaps.

      Commenter
      frank
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 7:51AM
    • There are many things which the market should not be allowed to sort out, and climate change is one of them. "The market" isn't some disembodied thing. It's a human activity,and as such society must be on alert to the vagaries of human motivations that drive it: especially greed,selfishness,ruthlessness,and unethical goals. If the people in business,or elsewhere in society, are incapable of behaving ethically, then,like an irresponsible child, limits must be imposed: they're called government regulations.

      Commenter
      Drspacegirl
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 7:57AM
    • You are quite correct re Direct Action, it is a bad policy together with the only other policy I have seen Tony Abbott put forward, the parental leave which would mainly benefit the people who are well off. The direct action is impossible to implement as the cost blow outs plus logistics would be huge as Tony Abbott well knows, would be his excuse not to do anything

      Commenter
      Mar
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 8:02AM
    • Of course it's bad policy. It's simply paying lip service to the accept science so as to not alienate liberal/conservatives who do accept the science of climate change. Utterly disingenuous policy that doesn't have the slightest chance doing anything useful to effect the changes required.

      It is truly startling how many people prefer to believe the vanishingly small number of sceptic "scientists", who are almost invariably in fields unrelated to climate science, instead of the CSIRO, NASA and every other scientific body. They seem to prefer to buy the lies and obfuscation of the "scepticism" lobby rather than accept the difficult reality presented by the overwhelming scientific majority.
      It makes me wonder at a mentality preferring to accept paranoid conspiracy theories, generally that it's a con by scientists to get funding monies, than accept realities. The greatest con out there is by by "sceptic" politicians simply playing along and paying policy lip service to the science all the while sneering at it and thinking of nothing but getting elected.

      Surely Cori "sex equality will lead to bestiality" Bernardi being a sceptic should make anyone with half a brain stop and think about the basis of the sceptics scepticism. As for Abbott, people really need to connect the dots. He has form for saying and doing whatever he thinks it will take, generally depending on his audience, to gain power. Climate change is "crap" to one audience but it's real to another.
      His words of "needing to tread softly in this earth" are disturbingly similar to him supporting a "kinder, gentler polity". Nothing but weasel words of convenience.

      Commenter
      Warwick
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 8:06AM
    • Econorat, yes I think its a mistake for the coalition to have serious aspirations
      of completely reversing current arrangements, without control of the Senate
      it just won't happen. Nobody ever (well hardly) calls for a double dissolution
      to force something through.

      Commenter
      SteveH.
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 8:06AM
    • why shouldnt we have cleaner air to breath instead of buying a get ouf jail card overseas. direct action cleans the air our children breath in Australia instead the carbon tax that allows us to buy permits to pollute here! think for yourself instead of following the party line

      Commenter
      rick of shey
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 8:10AM
    • @Econorat

      To give you some idea of the future under Abbotts LNP one has only to look at today's quote from the Queensland LNP Health Minister ...... "Labor had 14 years to do something about solariums.".

      Some people would call that a recipe for disaster with scant regard for the electorate but it is a very good fit with what Barny and Cory have said.

      Commenter
      J. Fraser
      Location
      Queensland
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 8:11AM
    • No one really cares what Bernardi, Joyce etc think, clearly they are not looking hard enough in the first place. Its so much easier to be ignorant.
      The irony is many LNP electorates will be ones impacted most by rising sea levels, the direct result of human induced CC.
      The Young Libs may need to be more active in preserving their inheritances or watch them wash away?

      Commenter
      Danger Ranger
      Date and time
      December 11, 2012, 8:15AM

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