Bob Baldwin, a man who once compared the impact of Australia’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions to that of a single strand of human hair on a 1km bridge, has been appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment.
The announcement was made as part of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s ministerial reshuffle. Baldwin will assist Greg Hunt, after previously being assistant to the Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. It comes just a few weeks after Abbott sent Trade Minister Andrew Robb, another climate skeptic, to chaperone foreign minister Julie Bishop at the Lima climate talks.
In a speech in China in 2010, at the APEC SME summit, Baldwin said that the climate had been changing for millions of years – a favourite meme of the climate denier community – and even praised Rupert Murdoch as “the starting point for green innovation”. This is what he told the Chinese:
“Ladies & Gentlemen, our climate is changing, it has been for many millions of years.
Oil, coal and gas are all products of climate change, in fact if our climate had remained constant, those commodities would not exist and we would probably still have dinosaurs roaming the earth
There has been much debate, considered opinion, and a disparity of views from a wide range of eminently qualified experts on the issue of the contribution of mankind and our emissions to climate change.
Facts have been disputed; reports have been discredited; and communities have been divided over the arguments, assumptions, conclusions, and indeed, the very existence of human-induced climate change.
On this subject, I have adopted the pragmatism of the chief executive of News Limited, Rupert Murdoch, who said and I quote, “the planet deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
Ladies and gentleman, while each of us will have our own views about climate change, the pragmatism of Mr Murdoch is the starting point for green innovation.
Elsewhere, Baldwin said: “I am neither a sceptic nor a denier. I have read widely and talked to scientists, but I am not a scientist. Maybe climate change is cyclic? I do not know, because there are too many subjective opinions in this argument, each proffering a different expert perspective.”
If that seems equivocal, another speech in parliament gives no doubt about Baldwin’s skepticism, if not outright denial. Quoting climate-denying Queensland shock-jock Michael Smith, Baldwin compared the impact of any Australian efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions to that of a human hair on a 1km bridge.
“Imagine one kilometre of atmosphere that you want to clean up. For the sake of the discussion, imagine you could walk along it …
The first 770 metres are Nitrogen.
The next 210 metres are Oxygen.
That’s 980 metres of the 1 kilometre. Just 20 metres to go.
The next 10 metres are water vapour. Just 10 metres left …
9 metres are argon. 1 metre left out of 1 kilometre.
A few gases make up the first bit of that last metre.
The last 38 centimetres of the kilometre—that’s carbon dioxide. …
97% is produced by Mother Nature. It’s natural.
Out of our journey of one kilometre, there are just 12 millimetres left. … Just over a centimetre.
That’s the amount of carbon dioxide that global human activity puts into the atmosphere.
And of those 12 millimetres Australia puts in .18 of a millimetre.
Less than the thickness of a hair. Out of a kilometre.
As a hair is to a kilometre—so is Australia’s contribution to what Mr Rudd calls Carbon Pollution.
Imagine Brisbane’s new Gateway Bridge, ready to be officially opened by Mr Rudd. It’s been polished, painted and scrubbed by an army of workers till its 1 kilometre length is surgically clean. Except that Mr Rudd says we have a huge problem, the bridge is polluted—by a human hair. We would all laugh ourselves silly.”
So, that’s settled then. Hunt, who says the Abbott government does accept the science of climate change, and describes its emissions reductions to date as Australia’s great “gift to the world”, will have carriage of Australia’s domestic climate policy, while the international stuff is assumed by Bishop, after checking in with Robb.
Hunt, however, also has carriage over approvals to coal mines. The Newcastle Herald, Baldwin’s local paper, reported in August that Baldwin may be asked thy the NSW anti corruption watchdog to explain why he wrote to ‘‘implore’’ the NSW Coalition government to support Nathan Tinkler’s proposed coal-loader.
The paper said documents with the Independent Commission Against Corruption show Baldwin drafted a letter to then-state ministers Chris Hartcher, Mike Gallacher and Duncan Gay in April 2011 urging in-principle support to the $1 billion coal-loader. “I implore the New South Wales government to do everything it can to see this project come to fruition,” he wrote.
Australia’s post 2020 emissions reduction targets will be reviewed by Abbott’s own office, after its extraordinary success with the renewable energy target. Baldwin will be given special responsibility for the deployment of Abbott’s “Green Army”, which has a $525 million budget to pick up litter and plant trees.
Meanwhile, Fairfax Media reports that Abbott has declared the repeal of the carbon tax as his biggest contribution for women in 2014.
During a Monday morning interview on the Today Show to promote his cabinet reshuffle, Abbott was asked by host Lisa Wilkinson to nominate his top achievement in his capacity as Minister for Women.
“Well, you know, it is very important to do the right thing by families and households,” Abbott replied, according to Fairfax. “As many of us know, women are particularly focused on the household budget and the repeal of the carbon tax means a $550 a year benefit for the average family.”
Ah, the Abbott government at work.
P.S. While we are all feeling uplifted by such events before Christmas, Fairfax Media has on Monday announced a $200 million merger of its radio interests with that of Macquarie Radio, voice-box of noted climate change deniers Alan Jones, Chris Smith and Ray Hadley.
“The merger brings together the greatest mix of talkback talent ever assembled in a single radio network. Leading presenters engage listeners with an unprecedented quality and diversity of commentary, entertainment and sport coverage,” Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood said, without a hint of irony.