IN THE week that former Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for Australia to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, it is worth reminding readers that legs of lamb can be bought in Whyalla for under $100. Indeed, this week you can click and collect a 1.8kg leg at Coles Whyalla for $16.20.
In April 2011, Abbott said, “Whyalla will be wiped off the map by Julia Gillard’s carbon tax. Whyalla risks becoming a ghost town, an economic wasteland if this carbon tax goes ahead.”
In July 2014 he repeated Barnaby Joyce’s prediction of a $100 leg of lamb under a carbon-tax regime.
His call for Australia to follow the US and withdraw from the Paris Agreement contained similar Trumpian hyperbole and mismatches between his statements and reality.
He supports a university course on the great books of Western Civilisation but cannot or will not grasp the key parts of the 36-page Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that his government was party to.
In the Bob Carter Commemorative Lecture he said, “Over time, temperature change seems to correlate rather more with sun-spot activity than with carbon dioxide levels.”
The public was “inclined to believe that something is happening” and that “something needs to be done” because they are “egged on by media scare stories and attention-seeking academics”.
Australia adopted the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015, but before that, during Abbott’s term, the Government agreed to an emissions-reduction target and accepted the UN’s view “that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries”. Those words were restated in the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement and the preceding agreements under the UN convention were not aspirational, as Abbott asserted. They contain words that the signatories “shall” and “will”.
But let’s come back to Abbott’s promotion of a university degree in Western civilisation funded by the Ramsay Centre, of which he is a director.
The deal fell through because the ANU felt that Abbott’s insistence that the degree be “not merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it” compromised academic freedom.
Be that as it may. Surely, among the most important contributions Western civilisation has made to humanity have been critical thinking and the scientific method.
One could also argue that Christianity either is, or at least has been, a crucial part of Western civilisation, as has been the rule of law.
Those four things do not sit well with Abbott’s view on climate change. Sun spots. Really. The science on sun spots is clear. They cause minor variants in the earth’s temperature that do not explain the long-term trend in increasing temperatures in the atmosphere and oceans. Sun spots come and go. Scientifically measured carbon in in the atmosphere has steadily increased along with temperature.
When science tells you that there is a threat, it is folly not to act on it. After Louis Pasteur postulated the germ theory of disease, we boiled (or pasteurised) milk to kill the germs. We wash our hands before meals and after using the toilet. Health workers wash theirs before and after touching patients.
Abbott scores zero for critical thinking and zero for understanding the scientific method.
As to Christianity, Jesus taught that people should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and to “turn the other cheek”.
Again, this does not sit well with Abbott’s view of climate change. We are in this together. Australia should not selfishly stay out of emissions reduction, let alone actively increase emissions by promoting coal.
And when another country behaves in that selfish way, such as Trump’s America, we should not use that as an excuse to join them. We should turn the other cheek.
As to Western civilisation’s rule of law, part of that means people and nations should keep their commitments and promises. If the rule of law breaks down, chaos follows. True, there is a provision in the Paris Agreement for a nation to withdraw on giving a year’s notice, but it would make Australia a pariah in the European cradle of Western civilisation and elsewhere. Worse, the Europeans might well impose trade sanctions against those who do not sign up.
Because of Abbott, Australia is now into its fifth attempt to join the international community in dealing with this existential threat to humanity, and, indeed, to western civilisation.
What a selfish, foolish, ignorant hypocrite the man is.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should have called his bluff long ago.
Each successive attempt to deal with emissions has been narrower and weaker than the previous one – going from carbon tax to emissions-trading scheme, to an emissions-intensity scheme, to a Clean Energy Target and now the very weak National Energy Guarantee – which Abbott and a few coal cronies on the right of the Liberal Party still object to.
They are never going to agree to any action, so Turnbull was foolish to ever have engaged with them. From the start he should have worked with Labor to come up with a bipartisan plan in the national interest to reduce emissions; give industry certainty; and to create a stronger, job-creating renewable industry.
But maybe I have got this wrong. Maybe it has nothing to do with climate change, and that former Liberal leader John Hewson is right: that it is only about damaging Turnbull. If so, it is again inconsistent with the Christian element of Western civilisation: “Revenge is mine, saith the Lord.”
So not a selfish, foolish, ignorant hypocrite, but a selfish, clever, cunning hypocrite.
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Fairfax Media on 7 July 2018.