Will Australia's New Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Be A Climate Hawk?

Australia’s new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is probably the nearest the country’s conservative ranks have to a climate hawk.

During his short ten years in public office as a member of the Liberal Party, Turnbull has been a staunch defender of climate change science and an advocate for tackling rising greenhouse gas emissions as a “risk management” issue for the planet. 

Late Monday, Turnbull challenged Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party and within half a day, had been voted the new leader, 54 to 45.

Climate Science Denial Group CFACT Praises Australia’s War on Renewables

wind farm in Victoria, Australia

Bravo Australia,” came the cry earlier this week from one US-based climate science denial group.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow was reacting to the latest efforts by the Australian Government to stifle its renewable energy industry.

For a country that claims to be a “good global citizen” on climate change, the support from an organisation that claims human-caused climate change is largely a hoax should be seen as a major embarrassment.

CFACT sent an email to supporters saying “you’ve got to hand it to the Aussies” after conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered a government-backed clean energy funding institution to stop financing wind farms and small-scale solar energy projects.

Australians Tour Pennsylvania’s Gaslands as Fracking Threat Looms Over South Australia

A group of Australians who made a fracking fact-finding trip to the Marcellus Shale region will report to the Australian Parliament before any decisions are made about the future of fracking in South Australia. 

In June, the group of twelve Australians—including members of Parliament, farmers, medical and legal professionals—visited communities in Pennsylvania and New York. They saw evidence of contaminated water as a result of accidents and leaks connected to the fracking industry, and met with people both for and against the process. 

Which Advanced Country Has the Most Climate Sceptics? Hint: It's Not the United States

It's not necessarily a competition you should be particularly keen to win, but which country in the world has the most climate change “sceptics”?

Most people would probably hazard a guess at the United States, what with its preponderance of climate science denialist think tanks, conservative television and radio hosts and politicians who think it’s all a hoax.

But a new study that analysed identical surveys carried out across 14 industrialised nations has found that when it comes to climate science denial, Australia tops the pile.

Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey Latest Minister To Tout Coal Industry "Energy Poverty" Spin

Australia's Treasurer Joe Hockey barely missed a beat when challenged to justify the country's massive fossil fuel export industry and bottom-dwelling record for domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are exporting coal so that nations can lift their people out of poverty,” the Liberal Treasurer told the journalist Stephen Sackur on the BBC's HARDTalk interview program.

Hockey's argument should be recognised for what it is - a line straight out of the coal industry's newest campaign playbook.

As I wrote earlier this week on The Guardian, the coal industry is attempting to hijack the issue of “energy poverty” by claiming the only way that the world's poorest can prosper is by purchasing and then burning more of their product.

The United Nations Environment Programme wouldn't agree. In a summary report of climate change impacts, UNEP says: “In Africa and other developing regions of the world, climate change is a threat to economic growth (due to changes in natural systems and resources), long-term prosperity, as well as the survival of already vulnerable populations.”
The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of climate change found climate change would “exacerbate multidimensional poverty” in most developing countries and create “new poverty pockets” in both rich and poor countries.

Australia Sea Level Rise Will Rack Up $200 Billion Bill by 2100

Major coastal cities in Australia, that vast southern continent of perpetual surf, sun and endless barbeques, are facing a climate change bill of more than $203 billion in commercial, industrial and residential assets by the end of this century.

A new report by the Climate Council of Australia, Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding, has found that coastal flooding and erosion caused by global warming will become a significantly larger problem with a projected sea level rise of 1.1 metres by 2100.

The report found that Australia is highly vulnerable to increasing coastal flooding because its cities, towns and critical infrastructure are mainly located on the coast.

Australia’s infrastructure has been built for the climate of the 20th century, the report said, and is unprepared for rising sea level.

Coastal flooding is a sleeping giant,” the report said, “If the threat of sea level rise is ignored, the projected increases in economic damage caused by coastal flooding are massive.”

Global Fossil Fuel Companies Running Multiple PR Campaigns Targeting Australians

Both online and on television, one of the world’s biggest oil and gas producers is telling Australians that it cares more about the environment than energy.

How this message might go down with the shareholders of Chevron is anyone’s guess. But then those people are possibly not the target for Chevron’s “We Agree” campaign. 

The targets of this and other campaigns are Australians who might be thinking twice about the social licence to operate that is currently afforded to major fossil fuel companies.

Chevron’s ongoing campaign has been seen on SBS television and on satellite cable channels as well as featured banner ads on popular websites and in print.

The ads ask readers to “agree” to statements like “Value the environment as much as the energy” and “Make Australian Gas Benefit All Australia.” 

Chevron’s multi-billion-dollar gas projects are in the country’s sparsely populated north west where opposition has been weaker than elsewhere.

But the Chevron messaging is just one chunk of a steady barrage of fossil fuel-funded PR flack being fired at Australians by some of the world's biggest mining companies. 

It appears the fossil fuel industry is feeling the pressure from repeated warnings in the scientific literature about the risks of continuing to exploit and burn fossil fuels. 

Nick Minchin

Nick Minchin


  • BEc (Economics), Australian National University 
  • LLB (Law), Australian National University 

Source: Parliamentary Biography.

Australian Report Trumpeted By Coal Bosses Does Not Say What They Want You To Think It Says

WHAT follows are some thoughts about coal from a report just published in Australia.

A longer-term concern relates to the environmental impacts of large-scale coal use, especially its climate consequences….

Coal is a carbon-intensive fuel and the environmental consequences of its use can be significant, especially if it is used inefficiently and without effective emissions and waste control technologies. Such environmental consequences include emissions of pollutants such as sulphur and nitrogen oxides, particulates, mercury, and carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Indeed coal-sourced pollution remains the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Hence most forecasts show a very wide range of future coal demand, based on differing degrees of environmental policy implementation.

Now who might have written that?  An environmental campaigner?  An anti-coal activist in a less bombastic mood? Maybe they’re the words of an advocate for action on climate change?

Actually, these are the views of Ian Cronshaw, a long-standing advisor to the International Energy Agency who was commissioned by the Energy Policy Institute of Australia to write a report about coal and its future economic outlook.

The Energy Policy Institute of Australia’s board includes a number of figures who have spent their careers in and around the fossil fuel industry.

Exclusive: Mont Pelerin Society Revealed As Home To Leading Pushers Of Climate Science Denial

THERE’S a popular talking point coming from climate change denialists that all people who accept the science and the need to act on it are somehow blinded by faith.

In Australia, climate science contrarian columnists can barely touch their keyboards without typing out the words “global warming faith” or explaining how human-caused global warming is some sort of “new religion”.

This “climate religion” narrative often goes hand-in-hand with another favourite denialist talking point where climate scientists are only doing what they do because there’s a dollar in it.

Presumably the laws of physics, the melting ice sheets, the increasing risk of bushfires, the hottest decades on record and the acidifying oceans are also waiting for their cash.

Maurice Newman, the man hand-picked by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be the government’s top business advisor, loves both of these debating points.

Newman has described climate scientists as being a “global warming priesthood” and belonging to a new “religion”. In a second opinion column in two weeks in The Australian, Newman repeats his cynicism over the IPCC and climate scientists, describing them as a “cartel” that “will deny all contrary evidence”.  Newman even repeats the myth that in the 1970s scientists were certain the world was heading for global cooling, when in fact, as this study shows, a healthy majority of scientific papers were predicting the opposite. 

Yet Newman has a deep belief system of his own, having long been associated with a form of “classic liberalism” – a particular world view which advocates small government and low regulation of the activities of businesses.

Not only that, but he is a member of a global society of influential business people, academics and think tank associates known as the Mont Pelerin Society who share the same broad ideology.

The Mont Pelerin Society

The Mont Pelerin Society was established in 1947 by free market economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek.

Maurice Newman, a Mont Pelerin member since 1976, has long been an admirer of the work of Hayek and fellow free market economist Milton Friedman, a past president of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Newman was responsible for bringing Friedman to Australia in the mid-1970s, at a time when Newman was helping to set up the Centre for Independent Studies – a Sydney-based free market think tank.

Mont Pelerin’s website explains that while all members don’t agree on everything, “they see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.”

The Society, which holds a meeting annually in different parts of the world, also explains how its members see their society “as an effort to interpret in modern terms the fundamental principles of economic society as expressed by those classical economists, political scientists, and philosophers who have inspired many in Europe, America and throughout the Western World.”

To become a member, individuals have to be nominated by a current member and then seek endorsement by the membership committee before being endorsed. 

DeSmogBlog has obtained a full list of the society’s members that includes senior representatives of many of the world’s foremost “free market” think tanks actively pushing back on proposed policy solutions to tackle climate change.

The list, from 2010, includes almost 500 people from 52 countries, with the bulk of members coming from the United States and the United Kingdom. The 70-page list includes private contact details. DeSmogBlog has decided to publish only extracts with contact details redacted.

Among the notable members is Charles Koch (list excerpt here), the US oil billionaire who has been a Mont Pelerin Society member since 1970.


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