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Australia chooses climate change denier to head renewables review

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(This story will be updated through the day).

The Australian government has nailed its colours to the mast on the issue of renewable energy by choosing manufacturing chief and climate change denier Dick Warburton to head its review into the renewable energy target.

dick warburtonWarburton will head a four-person panel that will report to the Prime Minister’s office, rather than to either the environment department or the ministry for industry, which includes the energy portfolio. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business advisor, Maurice Newman, shares Warburton’s view of climate science and dislikes renewable energy, wind farms in particular, and Abbott himself has blamed renewable energy for rising electricity costs.

Warburton was one of the main campaigners against the carbon price under the previous Labor government. He said on repeated occasions that climate science was not settled. “On the cause there’s huge debate about whether carbon dioxide is the main cause,” he said at the time.

The other members of the panel will be Matt Zema, the CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Shirley In’t Veld, the former head of WA government owned generation company Verve Energy, and Brian Fisher, the former long-term head of ABARE who gained notoriety for his positions on climate policies and is a noted free-market hardliner.

The selection of key members with an antipathy to renewable energy will not be a surprise to those who have watched the Abbott government in its first six months. The government is under pressure from the coal lobby, incumbent utilities, network operators and state governments to either dump, or sharply reduce the renewable energy target.

The last review was conducted by the Climate Change Authority, which rejected the appeals to reduce the target, noting that such a move would not save consumers money, and would only serve to protect the revenues of the incumbents. The CCA has a statutory obligation to do the next review, but the Abbott government is trying to dissolve the CCA, as it has already achieved with the Climate Commission, and is seeking to do with the carbon price and the Clean Energy Finance Corp.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said in a joint statement that the review will consider the “contribution of the RET in reducing emissions, its impact on electricity prices and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households.

“Australia’s diversity of energy sources is one of our greatest national strengths. Renewable energy has contributed to the energy mix, but we must ensure that the program is operating effectively,” the statement said. It said the review’s report will be provided to Government by the middle of the year, which will in turn be an important input into the Energy White Paper process.”

Interestingly, the terms of reference include a review of the target, and its implementation, and

“implementation arrangements for any proposed reforms to the RET, including how to manage transition issues, risks and any adjustment costs that may arise from policy changes to the RET.”

In’t Veld headed Verve Energy, which has had a history of snubbing renewable energy and chose instead to invest in the refurbishment of the ageing Muja coal-fired generator. The refurbishment has proved to be a financial disaster, with the WA government admitting that nearly $300 million had gone down the drain.

Hunt said that Verve had a mix of energies in its portfolio. But according to its 2012 annual report, it had 3,376 MW of fossil generation and just 46 MW of renewable energy generation. That’s 98.7 per cent fossil fuel mix.

Zema is an interesting choice. AEMO recently completed a study that found 100 per cent renewables would be possible in Australia, and concluded that the cost of electricity would be little different to business as usual, although AEMO declined to do a full cost analysis.

The choice of a climate change denier to head the review does not bode well for the renewable energy industry in Australia, which has been at a virtual standstill for the past year because of uncertainty about the policy.

According to journalist Ben Eltham, Fisher is not much more enlightened than Warburton.

“One of the models is the GTEM model, developed by ABARE, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics. ABARE is a notoriously backward agency whose stance throughout the Howard government’s reign was openly pro-pollution and climate change denialist,” he wrote for New Matilda.

“Under its long-term boss, Dr Brian Fisher, ABARE was responsible for the infamous “MEGABARE” model that made Australia a laughing stock in connection to the Kyoto negotiations, as Clive Hamilton details in his book Scorcher. ABARE is not truly independently funded: it routinely takes money from the corporate sector to fund its activities. Fisher has since left ABARE to head up a fossil fuel lobby group, Concept Economics.”

Bernard Keane in Crikey wrote this about Fisher: “ABARE’s rigid adherence to this approach emerged strongly during the long reign of Dr Brian Fisher. Fisher headed ABARE for 18 years until he departed for the private sector in 2006. A former head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Sydney, Fisher is said to be a hardline free marketeer with a strong objection to market intervention or attempts to remedy market failure. While Fisher had been undertaking climate change modelling in the last days of the Keating Government, it was under John Howard that he found his public service calling as a willing assistant in that Government’s campaign to resist and delay carbon abatement measures.

“Outright greenhouse denialism was never ABARE’s method – although, as late as October 2006, ABARE staff appearing before Estimates were declining to accept that climate change was real. Instead, under Fisher, ABARE’s primary method was to systematically produce modelling demonstrating the massive costs to Australia of any action to mitigate carbon emissions.

“Research was initially done using the infamous MEGABARE and GIGABARE climate change models, which were overseen by a “steering committee” dominated by resource companies. The Keating Government had imposed a 30% external funding requirement on ABARE and other research agencies; this had been increased to 40% by the new Howard Government in 1996, ensuring ABARE was required to work closely with industry in order to pursue its work program.”

Leigh Ewbank, from Yes2Renewables, said:

“Tony Abbott’s choice of panel members shows once again that this government puts ideology before good policy. If the review results in less renewable energy it’ll mean less jobs and less investment in Australia.”
 “The renewable energy sector promises to be a engine for economic growth. With the economy shedding jobs, now is not the time to wind back support for renewables. Renewable energy is cutting the coal power sector’s profits. If the review recommends cutting the target, it’ll be clear the government’s priority is looking after their fossil-fueled friends.”
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  • Chris Drongers

    So is the appointment of people who might have a history of climate change denial, anti-renewables and general fossil fuel support so bad? The review-into-the-renewable-energy-target will have to support its arguments with data. These arguments can then be critiqued in public fora such as this and The Conversation, in parliament and through lobby groups like the CEC, Solar Citizens and so on. Possibly, by the time the report comes out there will be a few state Labor governments as well.

    It is even possible that the panel members themselves may learn and appreciate the data, arguments and outcomes put forward by the pro-renewables groups otherwise their attempts at rebuttals will be embarrassingly poor and possibly seem obviously slanted. And Abbott the Rhodes Scholar will be permanently matched to those follies.

    If these groups cannot mount a resounding public rebuttal to anything anti-renewable put up by the Prime Minister’s personal panel then something is wrong with the renewables arguments.

    • Giles

      Report due in a few months, not a snowflake’s chance in hell of a “few” labor state governments. Climate change deniers do not have strong tradition of supporting their arguments with data.

    • wideEyedPupil

      Abbott got away with badging ALP & Greens with Carbon Tax nonsense so everything suggests he will use this enquiry and it’s likely fudging of the facts as evidence to do further damage to Renewable Energy in Australia. And that the people will buy it hook line and sinker unless we can mobilise a nation of disinterested people just trying to get on with it. (‘It’ being ever bigger consumption habits).

    • Marcus Hicks

      Oh, how delightfully naive you are, Chris. The hostility of this government to any energy source that doesn’t involve ripping it out of the ground & burning it is very well known, & it’s appointments-coupled with the extreme secrecy of the reporting process-further highlight this fact. The renewable energy target is going to be effectively tried in a Kangaroo Court (pardon the pun), where data & facts have no place…only ideology & cronyism.

    • Marcus Hicks

      Chris, this government has shown open contempt for openness & transparency, as highlighted by its silence on the issue of boat arrivals. I doubt we will hear anything from this review until the final results are released. Still, you keep living under the delusion that Australia is still a democracy!

    • howardpatr

      Chris; you must be joking.

      Collectively these four individuals constitute a group John Kerry would see as shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues.

      Can you draw on any evidence that Tony Abbott is anything but and extreme ideologue; especially when it comes to anthropogenic climate change and renewable energy technologies?

      Tony Abbott almost certainly believes in creationism so he will enthusiastically accept whatever biased and anti science based findings these four climate deniers and/or skeptics come up with.

      The only surprise is the omission of the Institute of Public Affairs – perhaps it will be well remunerated for providing desired input?

      • wideEyedPupil

        IPA probably didn’t want the scrutiny applied to them. Make no mistake the PR outfit that is most paid by miners will be pulling the strings behind the scenes. The more secrecy the better as far as IPA are concerned. They don’t even trust Australia post or couriers is how secret they like to do things. (First hand knowledge of that)

    • howardpatr

      Peter Hannam has reported in the SMH that Tony Abbott said the following during his trip to drought stricken regions:-

      ”If you look at the records of Australian agriculture going back 150
      years, there have always been good times and bad, tough and lush
      times,” Mr Abbott said.

      ”This is not a new thing in Australia. As the seasons have changed, climatic variation has been a constant here in Australia.”

      An amazing observation from a person who holds to a religious faith that asserts that the human population went from zero to 7 billion odd in 6,000 or so years?

      No wonder all Tony Abbott can contribute to the many issue involved is, REPEAL THE CARBON TAX””

    • Concerned

      Chris’s ,cannot agree with you more

    • Adam Gilbert

      [If these groups cannot mount a resounding public rebuttal to anything anti-renewable put up by the Prime Minister's personal panel then something is wrong with the renewables arguments.]

      No doubt the arguments put forward by the panel will be thoroughly dissected upon the release of the review, but that is beside the point. In announcing the panel Greg Hunt gushed over the credentials of the panel which clearly indicates he will take their arguments at face value. Abbott and Hunt will hardly say “We’ve read the review into the RET, but there were devastating critiques published at RenewEconomy and The Conversation, so we’ve decided not to adopt the panel’s recommendations”.

      This government doesn’t like renewable energy. It doesn’t like the RET. It wants the RET removed or at least heavily diluted. This panel and their review is a transparent attempt at a justification to do something they already intend to do.

    • Shane Mead

      The guy thinks climate change is bullshit when it is real. He will use this new power to move away from renewable energy and push people back towards the fossil fuel industry. The Coalition is to the fossil fuel industry, what the Labor is to the unions.

      • Marcus Hicks

        At least the unions-for the most part-seek to better the lives of ordinary Australians. the fossil fuel industry just want to keep lining their own pockets, & to hell with the consequences!

  • adam

    When do they start?
    When do they finish?
    What are the terms of the review?

    Can the government commence an official review not in accordance with legislation, on anticipation of that law changing? Doesn’t sound legal to me.

    • adam

      ah all can be found on the minister’s website. except that legal bit.

  • struth1

    Abbott is a low class act that’s for sure.
    The Warburton appointment is like putting Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank

  • barrie harrop

    Climate change: time for the sceptics to put up or shut up

    If climate
    change sceptics have a coherent explanation for the events we are witnessing,
    it’s time they held an international conference and told us what they believe

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/16/climate-change-deniers-put-up-or-shut-up

    • Concerned

      Why would you quote a Newspaper?

      • barrie harrop

        Why not,but anyhow no newspaper –happy?
        In your camp expect there many scientists who are best described as climate change pseudo-sceptics, most do not published refereed climate change academic journals?.

        Many have been financed by greenhouse gas emitting Industries and provided with moral support by anti- climate change lobby groups; with I expect you are wannabe member?

    • wideEyedPupil

      Also it’s time “concerned” denialist put some dosh in the kitty to cover the trillions of dollars or personal and property damage that is resulting from inaction in reducing CO2 and methane emissions. Infact they can start making a down payment on Another Earth as it was preindustrial climate.

      • high treason

        There is no proof that man-made CO2 causes significant global warming. The catastrophic global warming “sky is falling” scenario is pure fantasy. The real world data and the models are diverging. The temperatures have plateaued, yet the models keep predicting all sorts of doom and gloom. Obviously, the models have missed something-the hockey-stick model is simply wrong. Back to the drawing board. Why would we spend trillions to “fix” a problem that is not even there? What a waste. if you wanted to spend trillions, how about ending world poverty and hunger? At least we do know there is a real problem there.

        • Alen

          No proof you claim, then try some logic. The natural greenhouse effect is a fact (cant argue that) and we know that CO2 and other GHG are the cause of this natural effect. So how does it reason that by burning and releasing nature’s long term stockpile of CO2 (fossil fuel) does not enhance this natural effect? Concentrations of these GHGs are as high as they were back 100s of thousand years ago, so how would it be possible for this additional quantity not to create an extra warming effect and thus impact on the climate

        • Daniel O’Connor

          http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence

          8 seconds of googling.

        • wideEyedPupil

          Maybe it’s time Sauran’s ravens were banned from renew economy? We are just providing work for Heartland sock puppets by responding.

        • Greg Oakes

          Regards Greenhouse effect (from wikipedia):

          “The existence of the greenhouse effect was argued for by Joseph Fourier in 1824. The argument and the evidence was further strengthened by Claude Pouillet in 1827 and 1838, and reasoned from experimental observations by John Tyndall in 1859, and more fully quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896.
          In 1917 Alexander Graham Bell
          wrote “[The unchecked burning of fossil fuels] would have a sort of greenhouse effect”, and “The net result is the greenhouse becomes a sort of hot-house.” Bell went on to also advocate for the use of alternate energy sources, such as solar energy.”

          So the theory has been around a little while with no little or no credible disputation.

          Regarding global poverty…Well, a denuded and compromised environment will increase global poverty and further widen the gap between rich and poor.

    • high treason

      Bring it on, baby. Those that believe in AGW rarely let themselves get caught out in a scientific debate-they tend to get soundly beaten. Then they bring out the emotion trump card-“Its for the children.” (complete with crocodile tears.)Then, when it is pointed out that the sacrifices they want humanity to make to be “sustainable” will require most of the human race(and their precious children and grandchildren) to be culled, they pack up their bat and ball and leave in an indignant huff. Chris Monckton has publicly challenged Al Gore to debate AGW- Gore has declined. Other skeptics have also requested head to head debates(without the name-calling), but the “believers” will not take them on. You get me Al Gore and I’ll get you Chris Monckton.

      • Daniel O’Connor

        You offer nothing to this discussion: you claim those who believe in AGW avoid debate.

        Let’s put this up for debate then:
        – What are you credentials or particular claims to expertise in this field?

        – How are those credentials or claims more relevant than any of the facts documented @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming ?

        – What makes you believe you are right, apart from gut feel and adhering to a simple narrative when faced with a large problem?

        • mike flanagan

          What’s his bloody name for a starter?

      • Scott Koontz

        Monckton? He’s one of the looniest of loons out there. Fake everything, including credentials.

        Science backs up the AGW science quite nicely, thank you.

        But Monckton? Really?

      • Greg Oakes

        This would be the same Christopher Monckton that endorsed the views of the Rise Up Australia Party who in 2009 linked Victoria’s
        Black Saturday bushfires with that state’s abortion laws. Party founder Daniel Nalliah said he’d had a prophetic dream about a fire when the laws were passed. And even today, he still makes a divine connection to the disaster that killed 173 people.

  • Marcus Hicks

    Just another in a long line of political/ideological appointments by this mob of clowns-the curriculum review, the RET review, the Commission of Audit, the Australian Submarine Corporation….just to name a few. All filled with Abbott sycophants wanting to stick their snouts in the tax-payer funded trough.

    • Damein Bell

      you’re forgetting Twiggy Forrester in charge of the Aboriginal Training review !!

  • gus

    They sure do like rubbing our noses in it.

    • wideEyedPupil

      It’s not about us.

  • Chris Drongers

    Adam, you are correct – “Abbott and Hunt will hardly say “We’ve read the review into the RET, but there were devastating critiques published at RenewEconomy and The Conversation, so we’ve decided not to adopt the panel’s recommendations”.”
    How to prevent the review becoming a snow job? Some suggestions;
    Media available
    – limited budget for (maybe 5 x half page adds in The Australian and AFR)
    – available editorial space in The Age, SMH
    – blog space in The Conversation, The Drum, RenewEconomy, CEC and other websites

    Use the available media to;
    – quote recent review panel member statements about renewable energy and climate change & immediately juxtapose reliable publications showing the errors
    – publish LCOE costs for energy for houses, and importantly for small businesses (newsagents, real estate and other offices, gift shops, strip shops in general) and contrast LCOE for PV versus costs for grid power (remembering that most small businesses would pay near retail and TOU rates, not capacity charge or bulk rates)
    – list other countries move into low carbon & renewables
    – model costs and risks to banks and businesses of putting up big fossil fuel power stations.

    And do it continuously until the review comes back to allow the message to sink in.

    Whining on RenewEconomy is not going to be effective.

    • Daniel O’Connor

      Rioting in the streets is the other extreme though

    • Adam Gilbert

      Some ads in the newspaper and critical editorials in the Fairfax press won’t make any difference. The Coalition is on a mission to strangle the renewable energy industry in this country. Their primary concern for the energy industry, as outlined in their energy whitepaper, is to ‘make coal fired power profitable again’. A well developed renewables industry is at odds with that goal. No matter how many opinion pieces or advertisements in defense of the RET are published, Abbott will merely acknowledge them as ‘an alternative point of view’, and then warmly embrace the recommendations of his panel of ‘independent’ experts.

      I’m not saying that nobody should bother to expose the review for what it is, and I’m sure that when the review is released there will be an avalanche of well aimed criticism at the dodgy assumptions and assertions of Warburton & Co. I’m just saying that it will fall on deaf ears. Even though renewable energy is popular, and people want more of it, Abbott is at the beginning of his term and can afford to attack the renewable energy industry now and hope more pressing issues arise closer to the next election that garner the focus of the electorate.

  • jusme

    So how much are they paying this bloke to find the findings they want? What a waste and a visionless move.

  • high treason

    It is obviously OK to put an avowed Marxist in the 3 person media inquiry, but not a climate skeptic in to RET.

    If you want the single most damning piece of evidence against catastrophic AGW on which all the RETs and other drastic measures are predicated, look no further than the measured temperatures against the model predictions.Roy Spencer has a very good graph that shows this succinctly.

    The temperatures have been basically static for the past 17 years, yet the models keep going up, along with CO2. Obviously, the models must be seriously wrong-the correlation is becoming ever weaker. The IPCC took a while to acknowledge the plateauing of temperatures-they tried to deny it at first, but finally had to admit it was the case. This is not normal scientific behavior . If a hypothesis is debunked, it is debunked.

    Then they claim that the excess heat has miraculously bypassed the upper ocean and gone to the ocean depths, but in an immeasurable amount. Who do they think they are kidding? I smell a rat here-a very big rat that lies like an habitual liar.

    We all have had to deal with them. A lie, to support a lie, to support a lie. The excuses get ever more bizarre. The liar sidesteps the issues.If cornered to present the facts, they refuse or make more lame excuses.”The science is settled.” They make assertions and assumptions that are almost impossible to verify. All they want to do is to maintain the lie. The liar spends a lot of effort on maintaining their respectability and trustworthiness.The truth is the mortal enemy.Eventually, you pick an inconsistency or an outright untruth and realize the whole lot was a huge load of rubbish from day one, entirely supported on the bed of lies. You have been conned.Ever notice that the more respectable seeming the liar, the longer it takes to uncover the scam?Now we see the IPCC claiming a 95% certainty that man-made CO2 causes global warming. With the correlation becoming ever weaker? Have to be kidding.

    Why are they lying? Follow the money-the UN stands to make trillions from ETS schemes. There are also deep political motivations within the UN. These are to devastating to put here.

    • wideEyedPupil

      Troll, sock puppet or concerned got a new handle?

    • pastafarian

      Roy Spencer is a creationist so I don’t value his opinions very highly.

    • Anthony David

      Another denialist with a poor grasp of facts. Roy Spencer had to fudge the graph to fit his argument.

    • Globi56

      Who cares about global warming. It may be true. It may not be true.

      The Renewables revolution is underway and NOTHING that ANY government tries to do will stop it. They can put in as many roadblocks as they want, the tipping point is well and truly here, Renewables can and will stand on their own merit irrespective of incumbent ideology, trolling shills, deniers, pigs at the trough.

      The technology and its application will morph with breathtaking speed and unbridled purpose.Its a time game.

      You cannot stop this progress. You cannot stop the democratisation of energy.

      You are arguing semantics.

    • Greg Oakes

      Out with the tin foil hats! It’s all a great conspiracy by the UN wanting to take over the world. The only problem is that if you “follow the money” it trails back to carbon fuel companies…

    • Greg Oakes
  • Marty Shead

    Leave climate warming to this Capitalist / creationist!! – Going to raise GAS and Elect higher than ever to make their Billionaire capitalist investors happy!!

  • Alen

    How low Australia has fallen. Even if you don’t believe in CC, how can you support the appointment of a group of people who so obviously and blatantly are opposed to the issue they are supposed to present a “fair”judgement on. Let the facts and statistics speak without manipulation from the panel to suit their own needs. Whatever the finding of this honest report will have to be Respected. But no one is going to take a report from this bunch serious, and anyone and everyone that cares to know just a fraction of the situation, knows this is a major farce and waste of time/money.

  • BlueRat

    Another example that the loons have taken over the Asylum….

  • bea hooivink

    and how many $$ will they get for this “review” (besides the corporate ‘appreciation’ pay-outs of course) ?

    • howardpatr

      Now it becomes a little more known that “Dickie” Warburton was for many years a a director of Australian Note Printing – while it engaged in bribery and corruption.

      The RBA refuses to release an investigation by KPMG into matters directly relating to Warburton but perhaps that is because the investigation implicates Glen Stevens.

      It seems Abbott certainly knows the right man to investigate the RET scheme.

  • Richard Allan

    Prime ministerabbot strikes again

  • Farmer Dave

    The evidence for anthropogenic climate change is so overwhelming, that people who deny its reality clearly allow their ideological biases to overpower their objective reasoning. It will not matter what evidence is put before a panel of such persons, they will be incapable of considering it objectively. I think we can kiss the RET goodbye.

    However, I expect that abolishing the RET will do little to slow the march of solar PV across the rooftops of Australia. This will frustrate and puzzle those responsible for killing the RET, which will be mildly amusing; however, the abolition of the RET will slow the rate at which we get off our addiction to fossil fuels, which is tragic. Tony Abbott and his Cabinet should stand condemned for failing in their fundamental duty to protect the safety of Australians.

    We currently have just under 1 degree C of warming, and look at the extreme weather we are already experiencing – what will the extreme weather be like as we go past 2 degrees C of warming? This is a safety issue, and our Government is failing us.

  • Jexpat

    Yet another outright embarrassment to Australia- one that’s sure to set the Australian economy’s prospects back.

  • Duncan

    The sooner we ditch this government the better…
    Half the power price hikes are due to companies neglecting their infrastructure for way too many years and in some cases having very poor management of materials and staff productivity, eg Western Power

  • Steven

    Warburton worked with ecocidal DuPont for over thirty years in the USA, Australia and Thailand. Warburton is former chairman and CEO of DuPont Australia. In 2013, DuPont earned the ignominious title of the second largest polluter in the good ole USA:
    http://www.peri.umass.edu/toxic100
    DuPont’s corporate rap sheet could make Bernie Madoff blush.
    http://www.corp-research.org/DuPont
    http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/imprelis-dupont-herbicide-tree-death-side-effects-lawsuit
    Mr Abbottoir rules in Ignoramia.

    Vote monkey, get monkeys.