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Issue #1683      May 6, 2015

Editorial

$4m to perpetuate climate change? No problem!

In a shock move the Abbott government has granted $4 million to the University of Western Australia to establish a so-called “consensus centre” think tank to be run by conservative Danish economist Dr Bjorn Lomborg. The decision has aroused bitter condemnation because of the government’s brutal funding cuts in science and elsewhere.

Sarah Dunlop, head of the University’s School of Animal Biology commented: “It appears that $4 million has been awarded without undergoing independent peer review.”

Professor Tim Flannery, former head of the Climate Commission (abolished by the Abbott government along with other climate authorities), says Lomborg has no academic credentials in economics or climate science.

Lomborg, known as a “climate contrarian”, says most climate change mitigation measures are useless. He claims he’s not a climate change denier because he admits it’s taking place. However, he maintains it’s not a serious problem, governments needn’t take radical steps to deal with it, and funding should be transferred from climate mitigation to other policy areas.

In 2004 his Danish “consensus centre” declared that UN climate change mitigation initiatives should be allocated the lowest priority of all international programs. He believes a temporary cap should be placed on the installation of rooftop solar panels in Australia, pending the arrival of new solar technology and a government commitment to develop nuclear power.

Lomborg’s views have been enthusiastically welcomed by leaders of the coal and gas industries. They know that developed nations will begin abandoning coal and gas as an energy source soon, because of public pressure and the emerging cost advantages of renewable energy.

They also know the public will no longer accept the argument that climate change is a myth, or that industrial greenhouse gas emissions have not contributed to it. Their preferred tactic now is to slow down the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources as much as possible. And Lomborg’s message suits them down to the ground.

The energy demands of African and Asian countries will increase as they develop, and the coal industry knows this could provide a growing market for coal at the same time as the demand in developed nations diminishes.

Understandably, the industry leaders have rejoiced at Lomborg’s claims that citizens of developing nations, “those living in energy poverty”, need “reliable, low-cost fossil fuels”.

Lomborg’s position is tactically ideal for the Abbott government and the fossil fuel industries whose interests the government serves.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt describes Lomborg as “a deep believer of climate science and the fact of human impact on climate”, and acclaims his research, which concluded that imposing a carbon tax was ineffective in mitigating climate change.

The government’s policy on climate change is now extremely dangerous. Its review of Australia’s renewable energy target has effectively crippled the local renewable energy industry, with virtually no recent investment in major new projects.

Australia’s emissions continue to rise and the government’s “direct action” mitigation plan is ineffectual and rewards polluters.

The government recently tried to block moves by the UK, France and the US to end subsidies for construction of new coal-fired power stations in developing Asian nations.

In effect it opposes the UN’s proposed international pact to keep global temperature rise this century below the critical 2 degrees Celsius level. Lomborg says 3 degrees is acceptable, and according to journalist Thom Mitchell scientific modelling on which recent government papers have been based assumes a rise of nearly 3.6 degrees.

However, the International Panel on Climate Change has now highlighted new evidence that the West Antarctica ice sheet is beginning to disintegrate. A total disintegration by 2100, which is possible, would result in a five metre rise, the inundation of coastal cities and the deaths or displacement of millions of people worldwide.

Scientists are also warning of the potential spread of tropical diseases into temperate zones because of climate change. The incidence of extreme weather events is now evident in Australia and elsewhere.

For the sake of this and future generations we must replace the Abbott government with a new progressive government dedicated to taking over the national energy industry, developing a national energy plan and boosting renewable energy development, in order to mitigate climate change. And every minute counts.

Next article – Fight for the future! – May Day 2015

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