Australians beware: Climate deniers could soon be in charge

Anyone who places stock in safeguarding the current and future climate (and for that matter anyone who doesn’t) should prepare themselves for the risk that very soon, climate science deniers, contrarians and sceptics will be running the show.

All the polls suggest that a Liberal-led coalition will sweep to power at next year’s federal election in Australia – the world’s biggest exporter of coal and on track to be the biggest exporter of liquified natural gas.

Current Liberal leader Tony Abbott, if we care to remember, once described climate change as “crap“. Views shared among Abbott’s parliamentary coalition ranks are that climate science is a “leftist fad” and a “work of fiction”.

The Liberal-National Party’s new Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and his environment minister Andrew Powell are currently presiding over a massive boom in coal and gas projects. Both have said they’re unable to accept the evidence of human-caused climate change, going against the scientific findings of the country’s main science agency the CSIRO and the country’s Bureau of Meteorology, plus every major science academy on the planet.

Instead the Newmans and Abbotts of this world would rather stake the future of their constituents, our economies, our food supplies and our coastlines on the ideologically-blinkered pseudo-science of narrow vested interests and free market fundamentalists.

The latest snapshot on this inglorious race to the bottom came last week during the Queensland LNP state conference, with a motion proposed by the Noosa LNP member Richard Pearson.

Pearson’s motion called on the state’s education minister John-Paul Langbroek to “remove environmental propaganda material, in particular post-normal science about ‘climate change’, from the curriculum and as adjunct material at exam time”. The motion was passed with party members overwhelmingly in favour.

LNP state representative Glen Elmes recently thanked Pearson in parliament for helping him win his Noosa seat at the state election earlier this year (perhaps those visits to Noosa by fake climate experts Christopher Monckton and Professor Bob Carter have rubbed off on the Sunshine Coast community).

As reported on Brisbane Times, Pearson said: “Few people understand that the so called science of climate change is really what can be defined as ‘post-normal’ science,” before apparently arguing that climate change went beyond traditional understanding of science based on experimentation and falsifiable theories.

To Pearson and others, the experiments of John Tyndall in 1859 which established the warming properties of what we now know to be greenhouse gases just didn’t happen. Not in existence either, are the reams of scientific papers over many decades which have attempted but failed to falsify the “theory” that burning fossil fuels is causing the world’s average temperature to rise, the oceans to become more acidic, the sea levels to rise and the ice at the poles to melt.

Also not in existence is last week’s study by almost 400 scientists (they’re everywhere) which showed that greenhouse gas emissions were increasing the likelihood of extreme weather events.

So far, Premier Newman has clarified that while Pearson’s motion has been passed by the party, this doesn’t mean it will be adopted by the parliamentary group which he leads.

“We will always do the right thing by Queenslanders ahead of the LNP”, he said, forgetting that just a few weeks ago he told Queenslanders the state was actually “in the coal business”.

Regardless, reaction to the motion has been damning. Anna-Maria Arabia, the chief executive of Science & Technology Australia, which represents almost 70,000 scientists and technology experts in Australia, described it as “extremely harmful.”

The secretary of the Queensland Teachers’ Union Kevin Bates told The Australian that it was important schools taught children to have an “open mind” (but presumably not so open that your brain falls out). “Our greatest concern is that this is a government that is going to interfere in the education process,” he said.

One blogging research scientist wrote that the motion was “preparing our children for future ridicule“.

Helping in this process is the Institute for Public Affairs, which has been sending out a discredited book on climate change to Australian schools. The book How To Get Expelled From School, written by Professor Ian Plimer, a member of the board of two of Gina Rinehart’s mining companies, was launched by former Prime Minister John Howard.

At the launch, Professor Plimer said “one of the aims of this book is to maintain the rage, because we have an election coming”.  Clearly, Professor Plimer sees his book as a political tool.

While consistently claiming that school children are being brainwashed by climate change “propoganda”, those who push this line rarely (if ever) produce any actual evidence. Pearson didn’t define what he meant by “propoganda” or “post normal science”.

Plimer’s genuine piece of propaganda was described by the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, which analysed his book, as “misleading” and based on “inaccurate or selective interpretation of the science”.

It should not be forgotten that Tony Abbott isn’t afraid of pushing his own misinformed climate dogma on young schoolkids when given the chance.

In 2010, the Catholic Jesuit told a class of five and six year-olds in Adelaide: “OK, so the climate has changed over the eons and we know from history, at the time of Julius Caesar and Jesus of Nazareth the climate was considerably warmer than it is now.”

Nobody should be surprised that conservative politicians are unable to accept climate change science. A survey of political representatives at local, state and federal level carried out in late 2009 found that acceptance of climate change science was divided along political lines.

The University of Queensland survey found only about one third of Liberal/National politicians accepted the world was warming because of human activity. This compared to nine out of ten Labor politicians and practically all Greens.

Then there’s the “conservative white male effect” discovered by scientists (yes, them again) in the US linking the described demographic to the denial of human-caused climate change.

The Australian conservative political movement’s lurch towards the denial of human-caused climate science is like a mirror-image of the same enlightenment-crushing ideas of many US Republicans.

None of the recent candidates for the Republican presidential nomination (excusing possibly  John Huntsman) were able to publicly back climate change science, with some reverting to scepticism after previously accepting the issue.

Also in common with the US, is the existence of Tea Party-style “grassroots” activism in Australia helped along by free market think tanks that claim regulating greenhouse gas emissions is an attack on our freedom.

But rather than have an honest debate about a policy response to a real world risk, they sink to trying to discredit climate science while telling the public that carbon dioxide from burning coal is just “food for plants”.

Earlier this week the climate sceptic organisation the Galileo Movement, founded by two retired Noosa (is there something in the water there?) businessmen, tweeted a link to a document written by Viv Forbes claiming coal was not dirty and CO2 was plant food. No mention anywhere in the document that Forbes is a director of Stanmore Coal.

Galileo’s patron is Sydney radio host Alan Jones, who recently told a crowd that climate science was “witchcraft” and a “hoax”.

Our descent into the deluded world of pseudo-science occupied by astrology, creationism, crystal healing and homeopathy is almost complete. It’s a place where progress dies and business-as-usual thrives.


6 responses to “Australians beware: Climate deniers could soon be in charge”

  1. Christian Avatar

    sheesh! Full of class you are
    I am sceptical of the climate science, but using the word deniers? stop the hatred please does you no good

    1. Elizabeth Avatar

      Why are you sceptical of climate science? Please read this very carefully:

      Every national science academy, of every industrialised nation in the world, recognise with more than 90% certainty, that greenhouse gases, produced by human activity, are causing global warming.

  2. Michael Avatar

    Reads like selective scaremongering. I am not a denier or sceptic, but I will not vote for the ALP or Greens because I believe their approach to reducing emissions through a carbon tax and their levels of reduction via renewables are too aggressive. If they decided to go directly to an ETS without a floor price and regulated coal generators to move across to cleaner gas technology over the next 10 years then we would also be at the head of the pack but without destroying industry along the way. This is what I hope a Turnball lead Coalition will do in government.

  3. Beat Odermatt Avatar
    Beat Odermatt

    Here we go again! I am sure scare scaremongering about an evil Abbot won’t help our environment. The fact remains that the carbon tax scam will INCREASE greenhouse gas emission. I am sure the devil himself wishing to make the world warmer could not come up for a better scheme to increase CO2 emission then the current Bob Brown Government. It remains very silly trying to paint “conservative white males” as the cause of all evil. If you look globally, then you see that the worst environmental and social degradation has not occurred in countries run by “conservative white males”. It may be a good idea to visit Haiti and the Dominican Republic to compare. Maybe you want to visit one of the former workers paradises of the former USSR and compare it to countries run by “conservative white males” such as Sweden and Switzerland. The large majority of people within the Labor and Liberal parties are very strongly opposed to the carbon tax and want to achieve a low carbon economy.

  4. John Shepard Avatar
    John Shepard

    I don’t want to live in a country where people would not only believe non-science over actual climate science, but are willing to put a man like Tony Abbott in power because they are uncomfortable with the fact that humans are slowly destroying our home.
    Secretly I want the science to be ignored because it doesn’t matter who wins the argument. At the end of the day it’s about reality. Hopefully as time passes and it becomes more and more evident that the climate science was correct, people will pull their heads out of the sand and accept the responsibility we all share. But unfortunately this relies on people accepting an uncomfortable truth over a reassuring fable.

    1. Mike Avatar

      Hi John

      I often wonder at what point deniers will start to take notice. I honestly believe that when the PIOMASS models of sea ice are proven to be accurate and we end up with a an ice-free September in the Arctic in 2016, a large number of deniers will be faced with that reality. Of course others will just keep shifting the goalposts and choose wilful ignorance.

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