Member for the seat of Warringah Tony Abbott. Picture: Peter Rae
Member for the seat of Warringah Tony Abbott. Picture: Peter Rae

Climate Debate Over: ’We are owed an apology’

COMMENT

The public debate on the existence of climate change is over and we are owed an apology from those who prolonged it for self-serving political purposes.

They might acknowledge their disrespect for science, or for driving rejection as a vehicle for "brutal retail politics".

Voices as varied as the schoolchildren who marched on Friday, the top ranks of Australia's central bank, and federal department chiefs are warning of the consequences of those changes.

The debate continues, but it now is centred on measuring the urgency of a response to increasing climate instability, and the detail of that response.

Emergency services, diplomats and farmers are all seeking the best answers to climate change effects - effects which some of their flecked representatives for the better part of a decade said didn't exist.

Military and intelligence agency leaders have warned climate change is a national security threat to Australia.

There still are holdouts, including a few reactionary MPs who continue to embrace Tony Abbott's belief just over nine years ago that the science was "absolute crap".

And there is a fringe which make cases which can only be resolved by outlandish conspiracy theories, often along the dubious lines of the United Nations and One World Government.

And there are credible sources moving in the other direction.

Deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia Guy Debelle last week made clear climate change is now a factor in tracking and guiding the economy; he gave no hint it was a UN plot.

But he did stress the need for an orderly transition to clean energy; a need for greater backing of renewable energy projects; preparing for new ways we work and the jobs available to us; and the broader task of readying the entire economy for change.

"Financial stability will be better served by an orderly transition rather than an abrupt disorderly one," he said.

Last week, secretary of the Department of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo mentioned climate change in a speech - Seven Gathering Storms - to a think tank.

Mr Pezzullo warned of states which might become ungovernable and a possibility of "mass displacement of people".

Contributions to this displacement could be "poverty, hunger, water and resource scarcity, and a changing climate, which will have to be thought of as a systemic risk factor".

These are just a few elements of government which have appreciated the existence and impact of climate change in ways some elected politicians have been too frightened or deliberately manipulative to acknowledge.

These are the folk who might consider an apology.

Tony Abbott is not the only denier in parliament but over a decade he has been the pacesetter if not the leader of that block of ignorance.

"The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us," he told a regional audience in December 2009.

"Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger."

Just as Mr Abbott scorned majority views on same sex marriage, he early on resolved to ignore voters on climate change.

He used that rejection of evidence and local opinion to wreck the carbon price policy of Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard, his offensive from Opposition against the so-called "carbon tax".

His chief adviser in Opposition and when he became prime minister, Peta Credlin, in 2017 put that campaign into context.

"That was brutal retail politics, and it took Abbott six months to cut through and when he did cut through Gillard was gone," she told Sky News.

And, Ms Credlin said, "It wasn't a carbon tax, as you know."

However, Mr Abbott was "hugely unconvinced" in 2009 and continued to harness his rejection of climate change science in 2017 in a speech he made in along on.

"Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods. We are more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect," he said.

But something happened 10 days ago.

Mr Abbott abruptly endorsed the UN backed Paris agreement on emission reduction, a process aimed at limiting climate change.

A sudden convert, he has yet to say sorry for his past rejection.

- Malcolm Farr is news.com.au's national political editor. Continue the conversation @farrm51



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