Not well at all, according to the scientists. Actually it is a travesty of language to call Abbott’s position “science”. In this piece I’ll highlight the kind of thinking that unfortunately cannot be dismissed as an Abbott aberration, but has the Turnbull government in it’s thrall. Let’s start with David Rowe’s amazing cartoon from the AFR:
Here are four articles:
Experts Destroy Tony Abbott’s Stance On Climate Change [Updated] (Thanks to Ootz for the link.)
Tony Abbott dares us to reject evidence on climate, but reveals a coward from Graham Readfearn at Planet Oz.
Climate Scientists Attack Tony Abbott’s ‘Misleading’ Speech to Global Warming Policy Foundation from Graham Readfearn at Desmog.
Bernard Keane identified Tony Abbott’s 17 different core climate change beliefs at Crikey. Here they are without the explanations:
- 1. Climate change exists (2011)
2. Climate change doesn’t exist (various)
“The argument is absolute crap.” (2009)
“And, I am, as you know, hugely unconvinced by the so-called settled science on climate change.” (2009)
“So far reality has stubbornly refused to conform to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s computer modelling.” (2017)
3. The climate has been changing forever (2010)
4. The climate has stopped changing (2009)
5. The climate is getting colder (2009)
6. Humans only play a small role (2009)
7. It’s best to be prudent (2009)
8. CO2 has no weight (2011)
9. CO2 has enough weight to feed plants (2017)
10. We need an Emissions Trading Scheme (various)
“There is much to be said for an emissions trading scheme. It was, after all, the mechanism for emission reduction ultimately chosen by the Howard government.” (2009)
“On the insurance principle you are prepared to take reasonable precautions against significant potential risks, and that’s I think why it makes sense to have an ETS.” (2009)
11. We don’t need an ETS, we need a carbon tax (various)
“If Australia is greatly to reduce its carbon emissions, the price of carbon intensive products should rise. The Coalition has always been instinctively cautious about new or increased taxes. That’s one of the reasons why the former government opted for an emissions trading scheme over a straight-forward carbon tax. Still, a new tax would be the intelligent skeptic’s way to deal with minimising emissions because it would be much easier than a property right to reduce or to abolish should the justification for it change.” (2009)
“If you want to put a price on carbon why not just do it with a simple tax? Why not ask motorists to pay more? Why not ask electricity consumers to pay more?” (2009)
12. We don’t need a carbon tax, we need direct action (2010)
13. International abatement targets are real commitments (2015)
14. International abatement targets aren’t real commitments (2017)
The Paris agreement is “aspirational only, it is not binding, it is not mandatory”.
15. The Renewable Energy Target — a good thing (2011)
16. The amended Renewable Energy Target — still a good thing (2015)
17. The Renewable Energy Target — a bad thing (2017)
“Our first big fight this year must be to stop any further mandatory use of renewable power.”
We were told by Peta Credlin that Abbott was basically playing politics on climate change.
As in my earlier post, I suggest that he has no reverted to his true beliefs, which are garden variety climate scepticism/denialism or if you like, contrarianism, but they are not science. In being asked to deliver the annual lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation he was following in the footsteps of Cardinal George Pell and former PM John Howard. His speech is a bit of a jumble, but I’ll start with his assertion that:
Palaeontology indicates that over millions of years there have been warmer periods and cooler periods that don’t correlate with carbon dioxide concentrations.
Here, from my files, is a graph of temperature against CO2 from the Vostock ice cores for the last 400,000 years:
Here’s a more complex graph, I think from one of James Hansen’s publications, going back 800,000 years:
- “Temperatures in Australia have only increased by 0.3 degrees over the past century, not the 1 degree usually claimed.”
Here’s the graph from the CSIRO State of the Climate Report in 2016, courtesy of Hannam’s article:
Abbott uses the tired arguments about urban heat islands and measuring methods, which are said to artificially boost temperature readings. Back in 2010 a Berkeley academic Richard Muller founded the Berkeley Earth Temperature Project (BEST), which was meant to correct all the wrongs and find the truth (discussion here). This is the first graph they came up with:
The last graph I’ve seen from BEST is a little high compared to most.
Abbott uses the old chestnut which I last heard about a decade ago, that the US had its hottest decade in the 1930s. I doubt that is still true, but in any case it is classic cherry-picking. The US represents roughly two per cent of the earth’s surface.
Abbott’s claim that the sea level has not risen, adducing photographs on Manly Beach as evidence, is particularly silly. Here’s the CSIRO graph:
This is from the second of my posts linked above:
- A new study suggests we could get close to two meters in total by 2100. Moreover the melting of ice on Antarctica alone could cause seas to rise more than 15 meters by 2500.
Abbott’s notion that climate change is good for us is particularly egregious in relation to recent studies and the concept of risk.
He claims that CO2 is good plant food. However, as one scientist points out CO2 can produce bigger leaves but they contain no more nutrition. If people want to follow up on whether climate change is good for humans, I suggest they read my post The folly of two degrees and some of the posts at the end, or check out the tag Dangerous climate change.
Professor Steve Sherwood, deputy director of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre, read the speech and said it was:
- “the usual mix of misdirection, falsehoods and tirades against ‘brigades’ who supposedly say this and that but are never clearly identified.”
This is from Professor Roger Jones who is a Professorial Research Fellow at the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies at Victoria University and a Research Leader at Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC:
- “I read the speech in full,” Professor Jones told Gizmodo. “Abbott is clearly quite unhinged from reality.”
“He tells the GWPF the lesson he has learnt, from being in, then out of government, is to speak his mind. And what a strange, bizarre place it is. Surrounded now by a big fence that clearly refuses the entry of facts and the egress of any sense, just like our Federal Parliament House.”
Professor Jones says Abbott does “an interpretive dance through every denialist talking point he can muster”.
Many scientists are saying that the climate has already become dangerous.
I always think the figure in this image looks like Tony Abbott:
Unfortunately, Abbott is far from alone. He represents the prevailing view within the Coalition in our national parliament, and also in Queensland LNP state politics. His ideas are so widely spread in the National Party, let alone One Nation and Senator Bernadi’s conservatives, that our prospects of bipartisan climate policy approach zero in the foreseeable future.