JFormer Prime Minister John Howard remains a veteran among Tories, so when asked on prime-time TV if he doubts climate change is happening, his response is telling.
That moment happened on the ABC on Tuesday night during an interview with actor David Wenham, who asked, “You don’t refute the fact that there’s climate change?”
Given decades of scientific research on the subject, the most obvious answer to this question would have been a firm and declarative “no”.
But instead, Howard came up with this.
“Well…well…I think some aspects of the debate have become very overblown,” he said. “Whenever there is some kind of disaster, it is always attributed to climate change. In some cases it’s fair and in other cases it’s not fair. »
Howard didn’t say which disasters he was referring to, but the freshest on Australians’ minds are the devastating east coast floods and the horrors of the Black Summer bushfires.
Climatologists prefer to conduct studies to carefully attribute the role of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to natural disasters. It is not a simple task.
Studies of these 2019/2020 bushfires have shown that climate change is increasing the risk of these fires occurring and their severity (which one estimate has killed or displaced around 3 billion animals).
Professor David Karoly, a leading Australian climate scientist, said the devastating floods earlier this year were an example of how the burning of fossil fuels had put the climate system “on steroids” and amplified rainfall.
The burning of fossil fuels and the felling of forests have loaded the atmosphere with 50% more carbon dioxide than before the industrial revolution.
Some climatologists will point out that by so fundamentally altering the composition of the atmosphere and adding heat to the ocean, the influence of the climate crisis on all weather is now inescapable.
Even without specifics, Howard’s position tells us a lot about his understanding of science, his respect for the risks of global warming, and how he wants to define the problem.
During the interview, Howard made a philosophical point about the state of political discourse saying there was “too much obsession with identity politics and single issues like climate change.”
Expressing skepticism about the causes of climate change, its impacts, or the motivations behind calls for action, has become part of the political identity of many conservatives, particularly in the United States and Australia.
Howard was trying to pin the label of “identity politics” on progressives.
But continuing to voice his skepticism about climate change seconds later shows how critics of “identity politics” like Howard can still engage with it.
The hidden agenda of the IPCC?
Howard’s public stance on climate change has flip-flopped over the years.
In late 2006 and under political pressure in the run up to an election, he said he was not a climate science denier and cited scientific evidence that rising greenhouse gas levels greenhouse was “significant and damaging”.
But in a speech in London to a climate think tank in 2013, he said he had always been “agnostic” on the issue, which, given the overwhelming evidence gathered over many decades, comes down to a bit to say you’re agnostic about gravity.
During that 2013 speech, Howard quoted Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the main authors of a United Nations climate assessment at the time.
“We have to free ourselves from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy,” Howard said quoting Edenhofer. “It has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”
Revealing his “true agenda”, Howard said Edenhofer went on to say, “It must be made clear that we are de facto redistributing global wealth through climate policy.”
This quote has been used over and over by opponents of climate science for years as evidence that the UN climate convention represents a hidden socialist agenda to redistribute wealth.
Just last week, Maurice Newman – a business adviser to another former Liberal prime minister, Tony Abbott – used the exact same quotes to make the exact same point in a Spectator article.
“At least Professor Ottmar Edenhofer of the Left Institute in Potsdam has the courage to say aloud what is becoming more and more evident day by day,” Newman wrote, not mentioning that the quotes are 12 years old. year.
The source is an English translation of an interview Edenhofer gave to the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 2010.
Edenhofer told Temperature Check that the quotes were taken “completely out of context” and circulated by climate action opponents “again and again.”
“Fortunately, the full version of the interview is still available on the internet,” he said.
“As usual, context matters: what I meant was that climate policy is, by its very nature, economic policy. Economic policy includes the establishment of rules in the distribution struggle for scarce resources, and in such a distribution struggle there are always winners and losers. This is why it is important to always consider climate and development policy together.
“That climate protection is just a pretext and that it is in fact a redistribution from the rich to the poor is complete nonsense.”
He said that pricing greenhouse gas emissions should indeed penalize the use of fossil fuels, and that any redistribution of wealth “is only a consequence of the need to stop using fossil fuels. fossils in order to limit global warming and avoid dangerous climate impacts”.
Climate of reproach
In the Netherlands, farmers and their supporters protested against new rules proposed by the government to drastically reduce the use of ammonia, nitrogen oxides and nitrous oxide.
They are dumping manure on roads and blocking roads, saying the government cuts are unrealistic and will force many farms to close.
Like several other Tory commentators around the world, Sky News host James Morrow was keen to blame the door on climate change policies.
“[Farmers] they’re being told they’re going to have to cut production in a time of global food insecurity to basically follow climate mandates,” Morrow said.
There is no doubt that reducing nitrogen use would have benefits for the climate, but that is not what the rules are about. The Dutch government’s efforts to reduce nitrogen aim to reduce localized pollution threatening habitats next to farms.
The program manager of Dutch environmental group Natuur & Milieu, Rob van Tilburg, told Temperature Check: “The reason for the necessary intervention by the Dutch government is the continued loss of nature resulting from exceeding nitrogen standards for decades. years. It’s definitely not the climate.
He said three-quarters of Dutch nature reserves were affected by nitrogen pollution and the country’s intensive agricultural industry – one that raises 115 million pigs, cows, chickens and goats in a country with just 17 millions of inhabitants.
Nitrogen standards applied to all countries in Europe, but the country’s highest court three years ago ruled the government’s policies invalid.
Van Tilburg said: “As a result, it is no longer permitted to issue permits for activities and projects that cause nitrogen emissions. Nitrogen pollution makes the soil acidic and we are rapidly losing nitrogen-sensitive plant and animal species.