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When Turnbull still gave a shit

In July 2011, Malcolm Turnbull addressed the Virginia Chadwick Foundation. The following is an excerpt from his speech:

“….the most significant but least tractable threat to long-term preservation of the Great Barrier Reef is not from illegal fishing or polluted runoff from agriculture or bulk carriers that run aground and leak bunker fuel, but from a much broader collision between human economic activity and the natural environment – global warming, caused in large part by our burning of fossil fuels and the clearing of land and the felling of forests.

The Great Barrier Reef is brutally confronted, it is indeed in the front line of the climate change battle, by two aspects of global warming. Most of the warming which is the consequence of human carbon dioxide emissions increasing the greenhouse effect has been absorbed in the ocean. That’s no surprise. As ocean temperatures rise, coral bleaching, which is another way of saying coral dying, events have increased. Indeed since 1979 there have been eight mass bleaching events on the Reef with no known bleaching events prior to that date.

Furthermore as more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean it increase the acidity of the ocean – the last time the ocean’s acidity was this high was 25 million years ago. This is reducing the capacity of hard shelled sea creatures to form their calciferous shells – whether they are krill in the Antarctic or coral in the tropics.

…let me say straight up that the question of whether or to what extent human activity is causing global warming is not a matter of ideology or of belief. The matter is simply one of risk management.

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that many people are grounding their opposition to the Gillard Government’s carbon tax on the basis that climate change is not real and that the scientific consensus which supports it is not soundly based.

It is important to remember however that the rejection of the consensus scientific position on global warming, rejection of the CSIRO’s position on global warming, is not Liberal Party policy.

Quite the contrary. The Liberal Party’s policy is to accept the scientific consensus that the globe is warming and that human greenhouse gas emissions are substantially the cause of it. It is also the Liberal Party’s policy to take action to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions such that by 2020 they will be at a level equal to 95% of their level in 2000. This is the same unconditional target adopted by the Rudd Government and the Gillard Government and pledged at Copenhagen.

That 5 per cent cut is not expected to single-handedly stop global warming but is a measured and prudent contribution to what needs to be a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to prevent, it is hoped, temperature rises beyond 2 degrees Celsius in the course of this century.

Having said that, 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 is not in their own financial interests – and that this has played into the carbon tax debate.

Normally, in our consideration of scientific issues we rely on expert advice. Agencies like the 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.

…this war on science and on scientists which is being conducted is much worse than the case of a person who ignores his doctor’s advice and follows the advice of his friend down the pub.

Because the consequences of getting our response to climate change wrong will not likely be felt too severely by us, or at least not most of us, but will be felt painfully and cruelly by the generations ahead of us. And the people in the world who will suffer the most cruelly will be the poorest and the people who have contributed the least to the problem. There is an enormous injustice here. When people try and suggest to you that climate change is not a moral issue, they are wrong. It is an intensely moral issue raising grave moral issues.

Those of us who do not believe the CSIRO is part of an international Green conspiracy to undermine Western civilisation or do not believe that leading scientists like Will Steffen are subversives should not be afraid to speak out, and loudly, on behalf of our scientists and our science. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded on this issue.

As Liberals, we have to stake our environmental case and our position on the right way to deal with climate change on the basis that we are supporting the science. That is our policy and we should not allow ourselves to allow people to imagine that it is not. In my view, we cannot afford to allow the science to become a partisan issue as it is in the United States where it appears that it is apparently no longer politically acceptable for any would-be Republican Presidential candidate to say that he or she believes that global warming is occurring and is caused by human activities.

Now not so long ago I was with a friend, a very long serving and distinguished Environment Minister from our region and we discussed the progress of the climate change issue globally. And he said that he thought that human selfishness and greed was so great that there would no effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that by the end of the century our planet would be uninhabitable for billions for people. And as he said that, I felt a chill going down my spine. I feared that he was right but my natural optimism reasserted itself and I thought to myself, ‘we are better than that’. We are better than that but you could not fault him in terms of his objectivity or realism.

Now let me just say this to you: The idea that our country, this great country of ours, can sail through a 3, 4 or 5 or more degrees rise in temperature this century with our prosperity and freedom, let alone the Great Barrier Reef, intact is very naïve. So this is a big issue. So in the storm of this debate about carbon tax and direct action and what the right approach to climate change should be, do not fall into the trap of abandoning the science. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that what Lord Monckton says or what some website says is superior to what our leading scientists or leading universities would say.

We also need to be very clear-eyed about what an effective global response to climate change requires. There are many calculations on the scale of emissions reductions required. But it is quite clear that to achieve the necessary cuts by mid century all or almost all of our stationary energy – and when I say our, I mean the world’s – will need to be generated from zero or near zero emission sources.

This could be renewables like hydro, biomass, wind, solar or tidal power. It could be geothermal power, it could indeed be nuclear power. But it will not be burning coal unless the emissions from that coal are captured in some form or other.

Australia generates most of its electricity from burning coal – much of it very emissions intensive brown coal in Victoria or South Australia. That is why our carbon dioxide emissions are among the highest in the world on a per capita basis – a reason why the Chinese (whose emissions are about one-fifth of ours) and the Indians (whose are less than one-tenth of ours) find our regular references to their emissions – and why should we do anything until the Chinese or Indians do something – why they find those references incredibly galling. Those of us who have represented Australia at international conferences on this, know how incredibly embarrassing statements like that are when you actually confront the representatives of those countries.

Some people would say, I trust that most would not, that as we have a vested interest in coal being burned we should oppose 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.

Others might say that we should not be troubled by the long term prospects for coal because we have abundant resources of the alternatives – gas, the least emissions intensive fossil fuel, uranium, geothermal power and, of course, plenty of sunshine.

A more responsible approach would be to encourage the development of those alternatives at the same time as we promote and develop technologies to capture CO2 emissions from coal burning – whether that is by pumping it into the ground or by turning it into other useful products.

And yet I regret to say to you that neither the Labor government led by Julia Gillard – who is a woman fond of a hard hat, I must say – nor the coal industry itself have shown much enthusiasm for investing in Research and Development or trials for Carbon Capture and Storage. In fact funding has been cut again as part of the recent carbon tax package.

Now one of the most dispiriting parts of Professor Garnaut’s updates was his analysis in volume seven on carbon capture and storage. Essentially he said work had come to a halt in 2008 and no technical progress or commercial pilots of significance were apparent. The estimate of coal capture and storage adding 40-plus per cent to the cost of coal-fired electricity was about the freshest fact on the page.

One need only look at the vast expansion of new investment in coal-fired generation underway in China, India and elsewhere to understand the importance of this issue. Carbon Capture and Storage isn’t just about saving Australia coal exports or generation capacity. It is about addressing the reality which the MIT study on the future of coal baldly stated as long ago in 2007: “We believe that coal use will increase under any foreseeable scenario because it is cheap and abundant.” Now if it increases and emissions increase and the science is right, the Reef is finished. And that is a very small part of it. So this is a very serious issue and it is remarkable that with all the rhetoric about the need for action from the Gillard Government, the single most important area of research and development, the one that is arguably the most important in terms of the world’s future and most certainly most important from the point of view from our own economy, is being neglected.

So the commercial feasibility and large-scale deployment for Carbon Capture and Storage is the only way – in the absence of some great technological shift, and you won’t find me discounting that, I’m a great believer in the disruptive power of technology – the world has any chance whatsoever of achieving the cuts needed to get to the 60 per cent or 80 per cent 2050 targets that leaders have committed to.

The thermal coal industry and the Gillard government both know this. So how should Australians interpret their disinterest in this technology? As an acknowledgement that Carbon Capture and Storage doesn’t work and is too expensive and hence thermal coal is finished? Or a sign they don’t ever expect to be answerable for those 2050 targets? I fear that is probably the answer.

Now it is up to us, as friends of Virginia Chadwick and as Liberals, to be prepared to look beyond the horizon and recognise that we must act responsibly as custodians for the future of this country and this planet. For our children and our grandchildren and the many generations beyond them. We must treat the science with respect and rely on the best science which is the only responsible and prudent thing to do. And above all, we should commit ourselves to ensuring that the Great Barrier Reef, which Virginia did so much to protect, and so many other wonderful but fragile environmental assets are not destroyed. We must ensure all of the good work from Virginia and all of the other people who worked with her are not utterly undone by all of the consequences of global warming, of ocean acidification and these great existential threats to the planet that we enjoy, that we revel in and that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy just as we have done.”

Update: In November last year the government published a review on CARBON CAPTURE AND STORAGE FLAGSHIP SOUTH WEST HUB PROJECT

“CCS currently has no developed method to qualify it for consideration under the Direct Action for the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) under the replacement Federal Government climate change policy regime. The Business Case in the SW Hub Flagship application was premised on an assumption that “carbon is adequately priced”, so the commercial incentive for local industry to undertake CCS no longer exists. Support from industry stakeholders is judged to be mediocre because there is clearly no business case now for geosequestration.”

26 comments

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  1. Dragonlady

    A brilliant speech. Shame he’s sold his soul and sacrificed our children’s future for the chance to be Prime Minister. I hope you feel it’s worth it Malcolm!

  2. Glenn K

    Turnbull said that????? Clearly it came from a speechwriter he employed, rather than from any deeply felt beliefs he may have held. What a pathetic excuse for a leader he is.

  3. townsvilleblog

    Clearly by any measure today’s Malcolm Turnbull is a fraud, a disgusting fraud.

  4. Klaus

    Yes, it came from a speech writer. Turnbull has no conviction, no principles. His guidance is the way to power. He can’t communicate and he never could communicate. He may be much better in a set environment but throw a single question his way, which wasn’t fully rehearsed, he starts to waffle. He can’t keep up with Bill, has no wit and very questionable charm. The guy is a fraud and empty shell. In a free forum, when asked questions, count the times Jobs and Growth, Border Security, Asylum Seekers, Terrorists, Borderforce come out. He is an empty wind bag and has always been. I am surprised so many people have been fooled by this. Kerry Packer wasn’t, he knew what he needed him for. There is only lust for power. He will change opinions as required to retain power. Lack of principles.

  5. Jaquix

    Notice how much younger Turnbull looked 5 years ago before he turned into the “new” Malcolm ?

  6. Clean livin

    We are being to hard on Malcolm. He is one of a mob who put their individual interests, whatever they may be, before that of the Nation, the Global Community and the future!

    This mob are called “Politicians”, and it is a rare individual politician who does not meet those requirements of the mob. They are around, but you will need to look long and hard to detect one!

  7. Jagger

    Turnball is a predator , a chameleon who shows his colours to suit the situation he is in. Malcolm has lived by one principle , what’s best for Malcolm.

  8. jimhaz

    His shining glory seems to be that he is much less divisive than Abbott, even if most of the same policies are in place – as one should expect them to be considering he is only a leader of a cabal of monkeys with cowboy hats on.

    Turnbull is not a predator, he is an opportunist. He lets the predators do their thing, then steps in to partake in the offal remaining.

  9. diannaart

    Words fail… may Turnbull trip up on his own B/S.. and…

  10. Miriam English

    Wow! Thanks Kaye. How do you find these gems?

    Actually, I think most of the comments here about Malcolm Turnbull are wrong.

    He used to be very eloquent and able to answer questions clearly. In unscripted, off-the-cuff moments he came across as someone who honestly believes what he said in the talk above.

    His recent inability to answer clearly speaks volumes. If he was the shallow predator that many of you think he is, then his manner would not have deteriorated. He looks and sounds to me as someone being forced to pretend conviction for something he hates.

    That is actually far more scary than portraying Turnbull as a hollow opportunist. It means there is something very dark and dangerous inside the LNP. It makes me wonder what they have on Turnbull. What are they threatening him with?

    Do they have some sexual indiscretions on video? Are they holding his millions hostage? What is the hold they have over him? And who are “they”?

    We know the fossil fuel industry is run by psychopaths — they spend many millions perverting science and public opinion, condemning countless people to harm, and financing murderous militia in some countries to get their way. I wouldn’t put it past such people to threaten him or his family directly.

  11. diannaart

    @Miriam English

    …He looks and sounds to me as someone being forced to pretend conviction for something he hates….

    Turnbull looks and sounds to me like someone who has eviscerated himself to stay in power.

  12. jimhaz

    Yep, and this could be a godsend for the LNP, thus for Australian politics. He might gradually induce change from within. Without him it is likely the religious nutjob crowd would resume their control of the LNP as they had under Abbott.

    This nutjob group are so much like Islamists – they know they are loosing the war and thus are using offensive tactics (both in sporting terms and literally) to try and renew their support base via polarisation.

  13. olddavey

    @Miriam @di
    “…He looks and sounds to me as someone being forced to pretend conviction for something he hates….’
    and
    “Turnbull looks and sounds to me like someone who has eviscerated himself to stay in power.”

    Somewhere in between, methinks.
    He is a real Nowhere Man.

  14. diannaart

    Whenever I feel that Turnbull’s intelligence and apparent maturity, surely says there is more to the man; that I should hold back judgement, I think back to Utegate and Godwyn Grech.

    Is Turnbull a barrier of sanity holding back the religious freaks of the LNP?

    Or purely self interested?

    Or something else again?

  15. Phil

    Words, words and more words, ever more words – endless flowery rhetoric, but nothing of substance from Turnbull.

    It is by his actions that Turnbull should be judged because – as the truism goes “action speak louder than words”.

    Turnbull’s actions amount to the accumulation of significant personal wealth through investment banking, real estate, trusts and off shore tax haven deposits – he has never produced a physical product of value to Australia in the course of this wealth accumulation.

    Such action tells me that Turnbull is a man of immense self-interest. His politics and his values are like iron filings on a board – they rapidly shift to wherever the magnet moves, and this magnet is his insatiable ego. I see no evidence of love of country in Turnbull’s actions – Turnbull stands for Turnbull – he can talk all day, and he does, but he’s got nothing to say.

  16. Kaye Lee

    Malcolm just rang me and then hung up on me. How rude! Is everyone going to get a recorded phone call during dinner time “Hi it’s Malcolm Turnbull blah blah blah, thanks for your time clunk” or just we poor saps in marginal electorates? He could at least have let me record an opinion but it seems he is not interested in asking me anything.

  17. Miriam English

    heheheh 🙂 Kaye, it’s reassuring to know their call-bot is malfunctioning… perhaps it’s caught whatever is going around in their party.

  18. Wayne Turner

    If he only had a SPINE and GUTS. The all talk and no substance Tony Turnbull and these Libs need to go…

  19. Jack Russell

    It is never, EVER, what one says. It is only and ever what one DOES!

  20. ImagiNation

    LNP solved all arguments for and against by withdrawing funding from the CSIRO. Problem solved. Easy as 123.

  21. ImagiNation

    As for the Great Barrier Reef, Tony solved that argument too with the development of Abbott Point.

  22. Matters Not

    So KL at 5.06 pm cited an article that ‘described’ Malware’s trip to China:

    That takes the total to at least $518,603. The lunch was attended by about 1800 people so it cost about $288 a head. … the first Australia Week in China event in 2014 helped generate $1 billion in export sales and $3 billion in investment.

    AWIC 2016 will help position Australian companies … Taxpayers were also charged for a range of other events across 12 Chinese cities during the week.

    In brief, it cost a lot. (Haven’t ever been to a ‘do’ that cost $288 a head.)

    But in this age when supposedly the Age of Entitlement is over, a number of questions might be considered.

    First, what were the names of the Australian companies who were part of this ‘mission’? Did it include BHP, for example. whose Head office is based in London, Great Britain, where it pays its corporate tax? Did this delegation include any representative(s) of the 579 companies (operating in Australia) who paid no tax In Australia in the recent financial year? In short, could we have the names of these ‘Australian companies’?

    Second, the underlying ‘common sense’ that ‘companies’, (Australian, international or otherwise) can somehow be equated to the interests of all ‘Australians’ needs to be challenged.

    Why do taxpayers pay for ‘delegations’ to visit China and elsewhere when there’s a mountain of evidence that the ‘citizen’ receives no benefit? Why are we subsidising large companies who ‘lean’ on the average citizen while they squirrel away their profits in ‘tax havens’?

    Why haven’t we got access to that info (and critical evaluation) via the MSM?

    Australian really are mugs.

  23. ImagiNation

    Wait for the TPP, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet…

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