I’m really not surprised that he got in, and I don’t think most people are. The Labor party has showed little cohesion over their last two terms, providing the perfect storm for the Liberals to shine. If nothing else the Liberal party say can provide a stable government, which they argue outweighs by far anything that Labor can provide. And I guess to most members of the general public this was enough.
Under this government, however, I really fear for the future of climate science, and research in general (but I’ll get to this second point another day).
Particularly if we sit back, do nothing, and let Abbott and his posse run the show.
Barely two days after being sworn in, Abbott got his new minister for Environment to axe the Climate Commission. This commission was set up as a federally-funded, yet independent body to communicate climate science to the public. In their few short years of service, they provided a large range of infographics, videos, presentations and reports to help explain the causes and impacts of increasing anthropogenic emissions on Australians and their environment. While the head commissioner, Tim Flannery, is not technically a climate scientist, he possesses communication skills that far outweigh many scientists in this field. The team was also made up of an ecologist, an economist, an ex-president of BP, an associate dean of the UNSW faculty of science, and an expert climate science researcher, to ensure that non-bias and non-partisan information was presented. This is key in in developing a well-informed public, which, unfortunately is mainly informed by highly biased media sources on this issue.
Never heard of the commission? Or don’t really care that they’re gone? Well the new chair of Abbott's business advisory council, Maurice Newman, was quoted last week for stating the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology need to be stopped in spreading the propaganda that is climate change. It absolutely baffles and astounds me that this view still exists with such conviction, and that Newman wants to silence two of the most trusted science organizations in this country, because they provide scientific evidence of the damage we have done, and will continue to do so on our current trajectory. Factual evidence is not propaganda.
What reason do we have not to trust them? What would their motivation be in creating propaganda? Indeed, it is pertinent to note that Tim Flannery mentioned that the former Climate Commission acted as a voice for these organizations to disseminate their research to the greater public, when they are not permitted to do so themselves.
How can one spread propaganda when they are not permitted to speak in the first place?
Perhaps Newman and Greg Hunt (the environment minister) should have a chat - Hunt is now saying that the government will turn to the Bureau and CSIRO for information about climate change (any one else getting mixed messages here?).
Moreover, the Bureau and CSIRO are not the only research groups providing this evidence. Many, many research groups and universities at the international scale are providing the exact same evidence that research efforts from CSIRO and the Bureau are. I am not sure how they are providing propaganda when their research outputs are consistent with the global effort. Perhaps this is a good place to make the point that it is only non scientific bodies and groups with vested interests that state the human contribution to climate change does not exist. There are no climate or weather related groups that say anything of the sort, and 97% of climate scientists agree that humans have caused the steadily increasing trend in global temperature we’ve been observing since we started pumping so much crap into the atmosphere.
In a remarkable twist of events yesterday, the Australian public has shown what I perceive to be as the middle finger salute to Abbott’s comical attitude towards anthropogenic climate change.
The Climate Council, launched in the early hours of yesterday morning, consists of the original members from the Climate Commission, however is now an NGO, running off the pro-bono work of the former commissioners, and donations from the public. It has been alive little more than 24 hours, yet the council has received almost $400 000 from the general public, and has 39 000 likes on facebook. These donations will be directed into continuing to provide communications material to the media and mass public on the scientific evidence and impacts of anthropogenic climate change.
The Climate Council clearly states their independence, apolitical position, and calls upon the general public to support these democratic rights. It can also be said, perhaps, that we can trust the Climate Council as an independent source more now than as the Climate Commission, as we have witnessed with our own eyes the Government’s refusal to have anything to do with them – nothing can be more independent than that.
When I started writing this entry yesterday morning my head was heavy with disappointment, confusion and even embarrassment in how, as demonstrated with the Climate Commission, the new Government has exhibited quite clearly its opinion and stance on anthropogenic climate change. When Abbott won, and his new cabinet announced, my personal view was that climate researchers and activists alike need to just plod on for the next few years. That we should just attempt to put up and deal with anything that’s thrown our way and just hope that we can make it through the next three years relatively unscathed and with as little damage done to us, our credibility, and of course our environment, as we could manage.
Today, however, I sit here finishing this entry with a completely reversed mood. After the events of yesterday I feel quite differently, and am no longer disappointed or embarrassed. Well, no longer disappointed or embarrassed with members of the Australian public, anyway.
If the Liberal's motivation was to, so to say, try and bury the hatchet on the contentious issue that is climate change, then they have been undoubtedly mistaken. Simply removing something from government funding and attempting to silence the communicative channel does not make it go away, or stop it from existing. Moreover, through the overwhelming support that the general public has displayed for the Climate Council, it is obvious that the general public want this independent voice, and, by flexing their democratic rights, have conveyed a crystal clear message that they will not be forced to bury the hatchet too.
If, in one day, 39 000 individuals have shown how strong people power can be, than I am eager to see what the next few years will bring.