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PUBLIC DEBATE AND CLIMATE July 23, 2011

Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
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Contrary to the proclamation of the self-appointed tribune of the people, radio broadcaster Alan Jones, I think congratulations are in order for Malcolm Turnbull’s statements with respect to climate change and the pressing need to address it.

Malcolm Turnbull said he wanted to say something about science in the memorial lecture for Virginia Chadwick. (via Mark at Larvatus Prodeo) Malcolm Turnbull then said:

But first, let me say straight up that the question of whether or to what extent human activity is causing global warming is not a matter of ideology let alone or of belief. The matter is simply one of risk management. It is, moreover, not a question of left versus right indeed it was Margaret Thatcher who more than 20 years ago called for immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Her words, on our response to climate change were as wise and as relevant today as they were in 1990. Mrs Thatcher said then:

“Many of the actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event. It is sensible to increase energy efficiency and to use energy prudently. It is sensible to develop alternative and renewable energy sources. It is sensible to replant the forests which we consume. I note that the latest vogue is to call them ‘no regrets’ policies – certainly we should have none in putting them into effect.”

And let us not forget it was Margaret Thatcher who in 1990 committed Great Britain to reducing emissions by 2005 to a level no greater than 1990 and who as that commitment to combating climate change committed £100 million to sustainable tropical forestry. So so much for those who suggest that people in the Liberal Party or on the centre-right of politics more generally who support effective action on global warming are some how or another from the left.

If Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously and believed we should take action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of insipient Bolshevism.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that many people are grounding their opposition to the Gillard Government’s carbon tax on the basis that climate change is not real and that the scientific consensus which supports it is not soundly based.

It is important to remember however that the rejection of the consensus scientific position on global warming, rejection of the CSIRO’s position on global warming, is not Liberal Party policy.

Quite the contrary. The Liberal Party’s policy is to accept the scientific consensus that the globe is warming and that human greenhouse gas emissions are substantially the cause of it. It is also the Liberal Party’s policy to take action to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions such that by 2020 they will be at a level equal to 95% of their level in 2000. This is the same unconditional target adopted by the Rudd Government and the Gillard Government and pledged at Copenhagen.

That 5 per cent cut is not expected to single-handedly stop global warming but is a measured and prudent contribution to what needs to be a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to prevent, it is hoped, temperature rises beyond 2 degrees Celsius in the course of this century.

Having said that, it is undoubtedly correct that there has been a very effective campaign against the science of climate change by those opposed to taking action to cut emissions – many because it is not in their own financial interests – and that this has played into the carbon tax debate.

Normally, in our consideration of scientific issues we rely on expert advice. Agencies like the CSIRO or the Australian Academy of Science are listened to with respect.

I was very pleased to hear and see a major politician make this statement. For me the premises with regard to climate change are that it is real, it is global in it’s effect, and it it long term. For example, the US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has identified 37 factors that signify climate change. We need public policy here to promote the global response. Vision and responsibility are the very least we should expect of our leading public officials.

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