CANBERRA OBSERVED: News Weekly
Kevin Rudd backs down on climate change
, May 16, 2009
Meanwhile, Malcolm Turnbull's opportunistic position is in tatters and he is likely to win no friends on either side of the debate.The climate change debate is shifting as politicians around the world begin to face up to the realities of trying to "do something" about global warming against a backdrop of collapsing world growth.
And, despite his repeated claims that climate change is the great "moral issue of our times", Kevin Rudd has decided to deftly sweep the issue under the carpet until at least after the next election.
At the same time, he has made life extremely uncomfortable for Malcolm Turnbull who has been accusing the Government of rushing into an emissions-trading scheme (ETS) and calling for a delay of 12 months.
Clearly, Mr Turnbull should have taken a much harder line against the Rudd Government in the first place - calling for a moratorium on any proposed scheme until the major "polluters", including the United States, China and India, had adopted their own schemes. Instead, in an effort to placate the climate-change enthusiasts in his own party and the environmentally-conscious café latte set in his own electorate, he took a soft approach and is now paying the price.Turning point
The global financial crisis and the recent publication of Australian geologist Ian Plimer's seminal work, Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: the Missing Science
debunking much of the science behind the global warming catastrophists (reviewed in this issue of News Weekly
- see page 20), are now emerging as significant turning points in the debate.
Action on climate change is fast becoming a luxury few countries can afford - especially when it is seen to be adding to rising unemployment, to the closure of some industries or to the shift of others to countries which don't particularly care about global action on climate change.
Mr Rudd and his ministers spent almost two years hammering the Opposition for daring to ask for a delay in the introduction of a carbon-reduction scheme which was intended to impose a cost on every tonne of carbon dioxide emitted.
But now the Rudd Government has done exactly that - delaying the introduction of an Australian Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) until July 1, 2011. Mr Rudd is also making it easier for businesses to adjust to the scheme by introducing a phase-in period and cutting the charge for man-made carbon dioxide from $40 to $10 a tonne.
But cleverly, while making a virtue out of doing close to nothing now, the Prime Minister has promised to do much, much more later on. The Rudd Government has now committed itself to a 25 per cent reduction, by 2020, of 2000 levels of man-made carbon dioxide gases - with the proviso that the international community also participates.
In other words, when Mr Rudd goes to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (CCCC) in December, he will be promising to do great things on climate change during a period when he will be happily in retirement.
Other governments are also likely to start back-pedalling on early action on climate change, including President Obama's administration.
The publication last month of Professor Plimer's Heaven and Earth
is a seminal event in the global warming debate. It sits like a bookend with Al Gore's 2006 documentary film and companion book An Inconvenient Truth
. Gore's movie grossed more than $US50 million and earned Gore an Academy Award, and his book, which was turned into a "spoken word album", earned him a Grammy. The following year, Gore also won (together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) a share of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ian Plimer is unlikely to be showered with such honours, nor is he likely to join the celebrity list. However, the fact that he is an internationally-recognised leading geologist, and that he has participated in earlier highly-publicised debates against Creationists in the United States, gives him credibility that many other climate-change sceptics lack.
Even in the Rudd Government there appears to be a shift in thinking.
Minister for Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong, was forced to contradict her junior minister Peter Garrett for his absurd claim that sea levels were set to rise by six metres.
And, according to The Australian
newspaper, another Rudd minister, Dr Craig Emerson, who is a respected economist and former adviser to Bob Hawke, appeared to suggest that at least some of the "science" on global warming was not settled.
Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull's opportunistic position is in tatters and he is likely to win no friends on either side of the debate.