Shut up and watch the cricket: Morrison stokes embers of climate denial | RenewEconomy

Shut up and watch the cricket: Morrison stokes embers of climate denial

Scott Morrison’s vandalism of climate talks is helping push the world towards 3°C warming. How good will the cricket be then?

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Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

How good’s the cricket? Australia thrashed Pakistan and is all over New Zealand. David Warner’s scoring at will, Marnus Labuschagne is emerging as a new batting superstar, and Steve Smith is taking unbelievable catches.

Enough, prime minister Scott Morrison wants us to think, to take our mind off the drought, the soaring heatwaves, the horrific bushfires, the suffocating smoke – the ashes of living things, plants and animals, incinerated in the inferno – the dangers to our health and the fear for our own and our children’s future.

Morrison’s Orwellian trope was born on the night of the federal election victory where he invoked the image of the “quiet Australian”.

It was not immediately clear whether this was just a thank you, or an instruction. It is increasingly obviously the latter. Unless you’re the Murdoch media shouting in his ear, or donors or business backers, Morrison’s Coalition doesn’t want to hear from you. The rest of you can shut up and watch the cricket.

Let’s hope that Smith can take another couple of great catches, that Marnus can belt out more centuries. What is clear from the past two weeks in Madrid is that a rise of 1°C in average global warming, or even 2.0°C, is not hot enough for Morrison – he’d be happy for global average temperatures to soar to more than 3°C.

How big will the bushfires be then? How dense the smoke? How many million more hectares burned beyond repair? How unbearable the heat of the summers? How terrifying the extreme weather and the fears for the future?

Morrison must be happy about this because these are the inevitable and direct consequence of his specific instructions to the negotiating team at the UN climate talks.

Despite all the warnings from scientists and health experts, the urging from big business and the pleas from activists, Australia strutted the world stage like a climate vandal in ways that hadn’t been seen since the worst of Tony Abbott and John Howard.

Other countries pointed the finger squarely at Morrison. These included France’s former environment minister, Laurence Tubiana, an architect of the Paris climate accord, who describes Australia’s actions – claiming surplus “credits” from the Kyoto agreement to meet nearly the entirety of its weak Paris commitments – as cheating.

“If you want this carryover it is just cheating,” Tubiana told the Financial Times. “Australia was willing in a way to destroy the whole system, because that is the way to destroy the whole Paris agreement.”

Last minute attempts to seal a deal on Kyoto credits and carbon markets. Photo credit: IISD.

Others were equally damning. Costa Rica, which is leading efforts by 80 nations to try to increase ambition, already including the UK and New Zealand, Europe and Australia’s Pacific neighbours, took direct aim at Australia’s actions in the final plenary session.

Morrison was singled out – along with Donald Trump and Brazil’s right-wing leader Jair Bolsonaro – as one the three stooges seeking to destroy hopes that climate action can be advanced.

In Kyoto, remember, Australia held out for a deal that allowed one of the world’s richest countries – unique among western nations – to increase its emissions.

Then it had the hide to refuse to sign the treaty, until Kevin Rudd belatedly did so. Having failed to reduce its emissions in any meaningful way, thanks to the scrapping of the carbon price, Australia now wants to “bank” those emissions for its weak Paris climate targets.

In Madrid, the Australian negotiating team refused to cede any ground. It was under strict orders from Morrison’s office, where the former leaders of Australia’s principal coal lobby have ensconced themselves, to stand firm. It was a shameless attempt to undermine the integrity of the Paris climate deal.

This was not just about Australia’s 1.3 per cent of global emissions. As former negotiator Dean Bialek wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s accounting dodge has prompted other, much bigger polluters to act in kind. India, for instance, now wants Kyoto-era credits counted towards its actions. Brazil is pushing its own accounting tricks on the Amazon rainforest.

So how good will the cricket need to be when the bushfires get hotter and even more intense in a world which has warmed by more than 3°C? Because that, say the scientists, is where we are heading.

The current pledges amount to locking in 3.2°C of average global warming, a world we can barely imagine. The criminal aspect of Morrison’s cheating methods is that Australia won’t even deliver its share of that woeful outcome.

Morrison insists that he accepts the science of climate change, but everything he does suggests otherwise – from waving lumps of coal around in parliament, to mocking innovations such as the Tesla big battery, to instructing people to keep quiet about climate change until the fires are over, and his decisions to do nothing on emissions reduction.

To try to get to the 1.5°C target from Paris will require emissions being cut by 7.6% a year over the next decade, scientists say. Yet Australia proposes to do nothing. It wants to use its Kyoto surplus – and remember that surplus only exists because Australia was allowed to increase its emissions in the first period – to cover its obligations out to 2030.

In every part of the economy, Australia expects to increase emissions, with the one exception of electricity, thanks to policies the federal Coalition tried to kill and technologies – wind, solar and storage – it (and particularly Morrison) seeks to denigrate. Yet Australia has never had so much opportunity to use such technologies to not only cut emissions but also boost its economic future.

Alden Meyer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, says he has never seen anything quite like it in nearly 30 years. “I’ve been attending these climate negotiations since they first started in 1991. But never have I seen the almost total disconnect we’ve seen here at COP25 in Madrid between what the science requires and what the climate negotiations are delivering in terms of meaningful action.”

Another veteran of the talks, John Connor, now head of Australia’s Carbon Markets Institute, has been attending these events for two decades, as the head of an environment NGO and more recently as head of the team that organised Fiji’s hosting of the climate talks last year.

“I can say the gap has never been bigger between faltering government ambition and surging business attention and innovation,” he says. “The reality is there is substantial momentum in the business, investor and sub-national governmental level sectors.”

But not all business is up for it. The fossil fuel lobby is digging in and its representatives in the Minerals Council of Australia have been in Madrid supporting Australia’s position on Kyoto and making sure that the negotiators toe the line.

As Mary Boeve, from 350.org, notes: “The gulf between what we know must be done and what politicians are willing to do has never been wider. There is no excuse for this appalling lack of courage and responsibility, and no rational explanation other than the fossil fuel industry’s toxic grip on our politics.”

It should be remembered that in Australia it is the Minerals Council that kindly lacquered the lump of coal for Morrison to wave around in parliament, and whose long serving deputy CEO and former CEO hold key positions in Morrison’s inner circle.

And, thanks in part to the minders from the coal lobby keeping close quarters, the shrill denialism from the Murdoch media, and the lingering threat from the Nationals and the Far Right of the Liberal Party, there’s not much chance of progress. Sco-Mo, or Smo-Co as he is now being dubbed, shows no interest.

Morrison’s sneering arrogance, his lies, and his casual dismissal of scientists and other experts, his appallingly tone-deaf claim that volunteers like nothing better than to get out and fight the fires, has more than a touch of the Marie Antoinettes about it.

It conjures up Juvenal’s “Bread and Circuses”. Give the people just enough food and just enough amusement, and they will learn to keep quiet. Shut up and watch the cricket. Morrison would rather Australians amuse themselves to death than have the courage to do what’s right.

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30 Comments
  1. Barry Manor 11 months ago

    Much as I’d like to contribute intellectually to this discussion, I’m still in shock over the Australian Govt’s bullyboy tactics and absolute disregard for the climate change reality we are facing. So, I’ll keep it short and share a profound insight: Take the RIS out of Morrison, and you get the true measure of the man…

    • trackdaze 11 months ago

      How about Scot Moronison?

  2. Alan S 11 months ago

    Oh the irony. Smith, Warner and Bancroft cheated and paid their penalty. Will Morrison and Taylor?

    • JackD 11 months ago

      Un-bloody-likely!!

    • Joe 11 months ago

      And we still waiting for the result of RS Taylor’s Documentgate fiddling.

  3. DevMac 11 months ago

    There are no rules anymore. Australia’s leadership have given up on following the rules they’ve been given to work by, so why should they expect any of their constituents to continue to follow the rules that Australian leadership have set?

    All leadership should be considered as “lead by example”, so we, the citizens of Australia, should be able to choose which rules and laws we decide we will follow and which we’ll ignore. The rule of law in Australia is breaking down, and Australia’s leadership are the vanguard.

  4. joono 11 months ago

    This is a crime against humanity and should be prosecuted as such

  5. JackD 11 months ago

    It’d be easy to say that Morrison and Taylor are merely brain-dead simpletons who don’t have the grey-matter to appreciate the wider issues. But that’d be lying and also disrepectful to simpletons.

    And they have the gall to bag unions for representing the membership against the so-called economic interests of the nation. This lot are doing exactly the same thing but they’re doing it for the vested interests and lobby groups who “supported” them with our long term health and national interest going to Hell on a Handcart!!

    Next Over Please!!

  6. Terry McGee 11 months ago

    OK, he’s winning hands down because we’re still just talking about it. What can we best do to go beyond talk? Something that will hurt the Coalition but not the public.

    • Ken Dyer 11 months ago

      The Coalition was elected on one platform – that the budget would be brought into credit. They will lie, cheat and steal their way into a budget surplus. That is all that matters.
      Until that budget dives into deficit, the Coalition will be able to hold it up and beat Labor over the head with it, and the voters will believe them.

  7. Billyen 11 months ago

    I think more attention needs to be given to the 7 COAL deaths this year…
    7 , normally there’s only 1-2.

    Yet, workcover QLD got all over the solar installers?

    Show them as death traps on both sides.

  8. Jonathan 11 months ago

    Thanks for the eloquent summary of their latest chicanery Giles – how to get it broadcast I don’t know as even ABC radio have been self-censoring their news all day. I could hardly be more angry – but I know I am going to be.

  9. Ken Dyer 11 months ago

    All very good and true words, Giles. But nothing that has not been said before by not only you but the many fine contributors to Renew Economy.

    Fact: we know emissions are increasing, weather events are getting worse and it’s getting hotter. But I am sick of blaming the government and the coal lobby, even though they could start fixing things tomorrow. I have gone past that.

    I am now asking, “Are you okay (with the change of the climate)?”

    No. I am not. I live in Queensland, and I am sitting inside in 25 degrees of solar powered, air conditioned comfort, as I do most days whilst outside the temperature soars. Today it is slowly declining from 40.2 degrees. Most days it gets up beyond 30 but the humidity is so high, that it seems like more. In the heat, I have discovered I am allergic to as yet unknown things, and I have a head cold. I never used to get head colds nor have allergies. Having been a smoker over a decade ago, I can’t handle the ever present smoke haze that seems to be the mark of this summer. My summer this year, will be a seemingly endless repetition of today for the next 12 weeks, until the arrival (or not) of Autumn. So far, in November and December, I had 56mm of rain, 25% of the average two months rainfall since 1898. No I am not okay.

    But I am lucky. I was fortunate that I had steady well paying jobs during my working life, that enabled me to afford a home, build some super, and generally provide for my future after retirement, albeit with the assistance of the age pension.

    There are millions of Australians who are in much deeper shit than I am, who don’t have the money or the ability to make money to get out out this predicament. Yet, Morrison wants them to be silent.

    Perhaps your good readers may like to consider their own situations, and how they have been affected by climate change. Perhaps they would like to be able take their children or grandchildren who are suffering from ashthma or have breathing problems to a place where they can breathe fresh air not soiled by emissive smoke. Perhaps they might like to afford to install an air conditioner, and what’s more afford to run it. Perhaps we need to start asking our friends and neighbours and relatives, “Are you okay (with climate change)?

    So Giles, whilst we may all rant about who is to blame, perhaps it would be more productive to share our climate change stories, come together as a community, and look after ourselves. Because surely, government will not..

    • Ian 11 months ago

      Well Ken, unfortunately you are part of the problem, you had a number of well paying jobs in your working life but now you are drawing an aged pension. That pension is partly coal and gas fired and partly funded by klutzes like me.

      • Ken Dyer 11 months ago

        Yes Ian, I was and am the product of my time, and I take full responsibility. I rode the housing boom like many of my generation and participated in the giant ponzi housing scheme. But just as I am a product of my time, the generation that came after and now occupy the government benches have also shown scant regard for the environment.

        But how could I have known that the last decade has been one of the hottest on record? How could I know that the millennial drought ended only temporarily in 2008 before resuming a couple of years later, resulting in wild fires across Australia that have been burning with increasing intensity for a decade now?

        You see, Ian, you are also part of the problem. Whilst what you say about me may be true, and I have no way of refuting that, you have shot the messenger, as well as not acknowledging your generational role in climate change. There is no point in laying intergenerational blame, we all occupy the same planet, for better or worse.

      • Ken Dyer 11 months ago

        Hello Ian, this is a later post. Just in case you think that climate change is a problem that has only just emerged, I recommend you read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson published in 1962. She is credited with starting the world wide environmental movement.

  10. Ken Dyer 11 months ago

    All very good and true words, Giles. But nothing that has not been said before by not only you but the many fine contributors to Renew Economy.

    Fact: we know emissions are increasing, weather events are getting worse and it’s getting hotter. But I am sick of blaming the government and the coal lobby, even though they could start fixing things tomorrow. I have gone past that.

    I am now asking, “Are you okay (with climate change)?”

    No. I am not. I live in Queensland, and I am sitting inside in 25 degrees of solar powered, air conditioned comfort, as I do most days whilst outside the temperature soars. Today it is slowly declining from 40.2 degrees. Most days it gets up beyond 30 but the humidity is so high, that it seems like more. In the heat, I have discovered I am allergic to as yet unknown things, and I have a head cold. I never used to get head colds nor have allergies. Having been a smoker over a decade ago, I can’t handle the ever present smoke haze that seems to be the mark of this summer. My summer this year, will be a seemingly endless repetition of today for the next 12 weeks, until the arrival (or not) of Autumn. So far, in November and December, I had 56mm of rain, 25% of the average two months rainfall since 1898. No I am not okay.

    But I am lucky. I was fortunate that I had steady well paying jobs during my working life, that enabled me to afford a home, build some super, and generally provide for my future after retirement, albeit with the assistance of the age pension.

    There are millions of Australians who are in a much deeper mess than I am, who don’t have the money or the ability to make money to get out out this predicament. Yet, Morrison wants them to be silent.

    Perhaps your good readers may like to consider their own situations, and how they have been affected by climate change. Perhaps they would like to be able take their children or grandchildren who are suffering from ashthma or have breathing problems to a place where they can breathe fresh air not soiled by emissive smoke. Perhaps they might like to afford to install an air conditioner, and what’s more afford to run it. Perhaps we need to start asking our friends and neighbours and relatives, “Are you okay (with climate change)?

    So Giles, whilst we may all rant about who is to blame, perhaps it would be more productive to share our climate change stories, come together as a community, and look after ourselves. Because surely, government will not.

    • Pedro 11 months ago

      Good idea Ken. But I get a clear sense that you have become resigned that it will be all to little to late, and I totally get that. However I choose to be optimistic. With climate change, we know we are rapidly approaching climate tipping points and as a global society we are rapidly approaching social and political tipping points. When that happens I am confident we can rapidly de-carbonize the economy within 10 years with the right political and corporate will. Then it will be the time to make sure that those who stood in the way of climate action are consigned to their rightful place in history, with their reputation, influence and credibility in tatters.

  11. Joe 11 months ago

    For a moment there I thought that Giles had had a career change into being cricket analyst. But then back to being bang on topic and hitting SmoCo ScoalNO, dare I say it…for 6….and out of the park. Giles, a great piece that you have written today, thank you.

    • Ken Dyer 11 months ago

      Hi Joe. Like Greta Thunberg, we need to take action. Yelling and screaming and calling people names might make us feel good about ourselves but it achieves nothing. We have already found that protests such as those staged by Extinction rebellion have their place, but are greeted with the enactment of laws designed to quell them. I personally have written to many politicians on both sides of politics and have either received condescending replies (LNP) or no reply at all (Labor). There has to be another way, and it has to come from shared experiences by ordinary people in the community.

  12. Dale 11 months ago

    “How many million more hectares burned beyond repair?”

    How many are left? Because that’s probably your answer 🙁

  13. John Saint-Smith 11 months ago

    Oh please be quiet you lot, I’m trying to hear the cricket.

  14. Ian 11 months ago

    The countries that are fighting the hardest for CO2 reductions are the ones which either have very little FF resources or have already burnt through their stash. The countries that are opposed to doing anything meaningful are those that have enormous reserves of FF.

    We really need to know what Canada Indonesia, South Africa’s positions were. The other side of the FF coin are the countries that have little or no renewables deployment but consume prodigious amounts of FF such as Japan, Singapore, South Korea. What was their stance?

    We know how our putty heads representing a particular part of Australia – the FF industry- thought and acted, but how did those other culpable countries behave?

    Did our clowns take the spotlight off the other quiet polluters?

  15. Ken Dyer 11 months ago

    It’s no wonder Morrison and all those conservative commentators hate the ABC. They do original research and find out things that you will never see in the Murdoch media.

    The ABC is indispensable to Australia in addressing our issues today, as the following article and infographic shows.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-17/what-youd-spend-to-prevent-climate-change-and-what-you-could-get/11784704

    • solarguy 11 months ago

      Too right Ken, they need to leave our Aunty alone.

    • Pedro 11 months ago

      Recently I suggested to a friend that it would be in Labor and the Greens interest that those parties pledge to significantly increase funding for investigative journalism within the ABC if elected. My friend retorted that it would not make any difference as the ABC would be lucky to reach 10% of the population with their news broadcasts. I find that hard to believe. Anyhow that means that the segment of the Australian population that consumes “news” is probably consuming biased, fake or trivial news.

  16. David 11 months ago

    Here’s the fun bit… This isn’t really about power generation or vehicle type.
    Humans are considered ‘top of the food chain’ (as long as we stay away from crocodiles, Lions, Tigers, etc.)… so we will be okay if the climate picks up 2-3 degrees. We can turn on an airconditioner, put on a heater, move further inland, live on a boat… global warming, so what?
    The top of the food chain dies if the lower life forms die. So the planet picks up a couple of degrees… the lowest end of the food chain will die – insects. That means no food for the next link in the chain and no pollination of plants.
    THAT is why global warming is a disaster. We can smuggly sit in our airconditioned boxes and starve to death.
    The planet struggles to feed the human population now, how do you think we’ll go when the food simply stops.

  17. rob 11 months ago

    Best article YOU have ever written Giles…Congratulations….Cheers rob

  18. Alastair Leith 11 months ago

    “he’d be happy for global average temperatures to soar to more than 3°C.”

    That’s the thing about Morrison. Nobody in the current excuse for a national media could be bother actually asking a series of strategically though out questions like, do you accept that 3.6 ºC is acceptable. Because that’s exactly where we are headed and even future PMs and world leaders will not be able to stop it once tipping points are crossed (and increasingly some of them like Arctic sea-ice, the Western Antarctic ice-shelf and Greenland look like their already in the red zone if not irreversible already)

    This guy just shuts down the conversation every time and the national press and ABC hosts like Sales (who wouldn’t know one end of a climate or energy or water policy from the other end) willing just move on to another topic so as to not offend the quiet leader who thinks he can invoke Menzies while all ecosystems, nations and civilisation itself are imperilled. It’s a nightmare that nobody with political power seems to be awake to or even seeing the images of in their sleep.

  19. Alan Wilson 11 months ago

    What a fool … who voted for this Moronson…

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