Billy Adams: Regarding that climate flip-flop

Liberal Government changes direction on Labour's global warming initatives and big business appears the winner.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott discusses the drought with NSW graziers Phillip and Di Ridge near Bourke on a tour with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Picture / Getty Images
Prime Minister Tony Abbott discusses the drought with NSW graziers Phillip and Di Ridge near Bourke on a tour with Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Picture / Getty Images

Weapons of mass destruction are hard to find. The American and Australian Governments know a thing or two about that.

So here's some advice for US Secretary of State John Kerry, who reckons climate change is perhaps the most fearsome of all WMDs.

Do yourself a favour and don't go looking for them Downunder.

Yes, we know Mr Kerry, Australia has just endured a summer of unprecedented heatwaves, devastating bushfires and a drought that is the worst some people have seen - although arguably not yet as bad as California's one-in-500 years Big Dry.

And sure, there was a hurricane in New York followed by the Big Freeze across much of your country. Now southern England is under water and, well, the list goes on.

We understand you were greatly affected after witnessing first hand the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. That you accept the overwhelming scientific consensus that rising CO2 emissions will make storms and weather events like these more frequent and intense.

How did you put it? "We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists ... and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand."

We've got lots of those people in Australia. In fact, our Prime Minister Tony Abbott is surrounded by them.

This week Climate Council researchers said Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra are already experiencing heatwave rates that hadn't been expected until at least 2030, but Mr Abbott regards the wild weather as nothing unusual in our land of fire, droughts and flooding rains.

Not so long ago he thought climate change was "crap".

Now he believes it's "real". "Humanity makes a contribution," he says.

"It's important to take strong and effective action against it."

But since the Abbott Government was elected in September, it's been strongest and most effective in tearing down initiatives designed to combat global warming.

The previous Labor Government's carbon tax will be gone once his conservative Coalition gets the numbers in the Senate later this year. Australia's commitment to produce 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 is also in the firing line.

Our new Government might disagree with the mechanisms their predecessors put in place to drive the transformation to a cleaner-energy economy.

John Kerry.
John Kerry.

But there's a far deeper issue here - they don't really believe there's a problem to be solved in the first place.

The latest example: a businessman appointed this week to lead a review of the Renewable Energy Target doesn't buy into the primary reason for its existence.

"I am not a denier of climate change," Dick Warburton told the Australian. "I am a sceptic that man-made carbon dioxide is creating global warming."

The former Reserve Bank board member's study will focus particularly on the impact renewables like solar and wind energy have had on power prices. It's minimal, around a dollar a week according to those in the know.

But renewables businesses see the writing on the wall.

Not only is the Government blaming the tax and target for a range of economic ills and surging bills, it's on a mission to wind back the kind of public investments, subsidies and grants that have helped grow a multibillion-dollar industry.

This is great news, of course, for the big coal miners who, after years of uncertainty, are again optimistic about continuing to dominate the domestic market, as well as the riches to be had from exporting black gold and its CO2 emissions to energy-hungry developing countries.

Much of it will go through a new coal super port at the Great Barrier Reef, approved by our Environment Minister Greg Hunt around the same time he backed a challenge to world heritage status of Tasmanian forests.

So in Australia it's business as usual, Mr Kerry, which will be of concern given your plea not to allow "a few loud interest groups to hijack the climate conversation".

"I'm talking about big companies that like it the way it is, that don't want to change, and spend a lot of money to keep you and me and everybody from doing what we need to do," you said.

Well done on agreeing with China to work together on lowering emissions. We hope it's sincere.

Maybe you also need to have a quiet word with Mr Abbott.

- NZ Herald

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