Former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull has used a speech in Sydney to deliver a vigorous defence of climate change science. The video of his speech can be found here.
Delivering the Virginia Chadwick memorial lecture last night, Mr Turnbull said a war was being waged on scientists by “those opposed to taking action to cut emissions, many because it does not suit their own financial interests”.
Mr Turnbull lost the Liberal Party leadership in late 2009 over his decision to support the Rudd government’s carbon pricing scheme and his successor Tony Abbott once described the climate change science as “crap”.
Speaking to a predominantly Liberal audience, Mr Turnbull said taking action to curb emissions was not a cry from ultra-radical socialists, telling his audience even Margaret Thatcher advocated cutting greenhouse gases.
“The question of whether or to what extent human activities are causing global warming is not a matter of ideology, let alone of belief,” he said.
“The issue is simply one of risk management.
“If Margaret Thatcher took climate change seriously and believed that we should take action to reduce global greenhouse emissions, then taking action and supporting and accepting the science can hardly be the mark of incipient Bolshevism.”
Mr Turnbull said those parties currently attacking the Labor Party for its carbon tax would also attack the Coalition if it tried to implement its plan to reduce emissions.
“If we form a government and then seek to meet that 5 per cent target [by 2020] through purchases of carbon offsets from farmers and payments to polluting industry to cut their emissions, the opponents of the science of climate change will be criticising that expenditure as pointless and wasteful with as much vehemence as they are currently denouncing Julia Gillard’s carbon tax,” he said.
‘Don’t abandon the science’
Mr Turnbull said parties with vested interests were trying to muddy the waters on climate science to prolong the export of coal, comparing their actions to tobacco companies discrediting the connection between smoking and lung cancer.
“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 does not suit their own financial interests, and this has played into the carbon tax debate,” he said.
“Normally, in our consideration of scientific issues, we rely on expert advice [and] agencies like CSIRO or the Australian Academy of Science, are listened to with respect.
“Yet on this issue there appears to be a licence to reject our best scientists both here and abroad and rely instead on much less reliable views.
“So in the storm of this debate about carbon tax, direct action and what the right approach to climate change should be, do not fall into the trap of abandoning the science.”
Mr Turnbull said Australia’s dependence on coal meant it should spend much more on carbon capture technology.
“Many would say no country has a greater vested interest in clean coal,” he said.
“Some people would say that as we have a vested interest in coal being burned, we should oppose that action on climate change and, rather like the tobacco companies who sought to discredit the connection between smoking and lung cancer, muddy the waters on climate science in order to prolong the export billions from coal mining.”
He also rejected the view Australia should wait for China and India to act, saying Australia’s emissions were much higher per capita.
Mr Abbott said this week that Australia’s emissions reduction target, backed by both sides of politics, was “crazy” because it would be overwhelmed by pollution increases in China.
But Mr Turnbull said Chinese emissions per capita were one-fifth of Australia’s and India’s were less than one-tenth.
“Our regular references to their [India and China’s] emissions and ‘Why should we do anything until the Chinese and the Indians do something’ – they find those references incredibly galling,” he said.
“Those of us who have represented Australia at international conferences on this issue know how incredibly embarrassing statements like that are when you actually confront the representatives of those countries.”
Australia is the highest CO2 emitter per capita on the planet.
First posted July 22, 2011 06:12:15