Tony Abbott.

Onder de titel, ‘Daring To Doubt’, presenteerde Tony Abbott, voormalig premier van Australië, de jaarlijkse lezing van de Britse ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation’ (GWPF) in London.

Meer dan in enig ander land was en is het klimaat- cum energiebeleid een belangrijk strijdpunt in de Australische politiek. Onder verschillende regeringen zwalkte het beleid van de ene naar de andere kant.

Ongeveer 20 jaar geleden, introduceerde de regering Howard (1996 – 2007) maatregelen ter vermindering van de CO2-uitstoot: de ‘Renewable Energy Target’ (RET), een soort verhulde CO2-belasting, die energieproducenten verplichtte om een deel van het productie uit hernieuwbare energie te halen. Maar dat was slechts 2%. Howard weigerde echter het Kyoto-verdrag te ratificeren uit vrees voor de schadelijke effecten daarvan op de elektriciteitsprijzen en de economie meer in het algemeen.

Maar voor de daarop volgende linkse Rudd-Gillard Labour-regering was klimaatverandering niet minder dan de ‘greatest moral challenge of our time’. De regering was voorstander van een handelssysteem in emissierechten (ETS) en een tienvoudige verhoging van het verplichte gebruik van hernieuwbare energie.

In die periode begon Tony Abbott in toenemende mate de twijfelen aan de juistheid van de menselijke broeikashypothese (AGW = ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’). In 2009 verklaarde hij: ‘the so-called settled science of climate change was “absolute crap”.’

De verkiezing in 2010 ging meer over elektriciteitsprijzen dan over het redden van de planeet. Onder grote politieke druk verklaarde de toenmalige eerste minister, Julia Gillard: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.” Maar in het voorjaar van 2011, als onderdeel van een overeenkomst van haar minderheidsregering met de Groenen, beloofde zij een CO2-belasting in te voeren, die de elektriciteitsprijzen op de beurzen met 40% zou verhogen.

Na een nieuwe regeringswisseling, schafte de regering Abbott (Liberal-National Coalition) in juli 2014 de CO2-belasting af, hetgeen de gemiddelde huishouding een besparing van $ 500 per jaar opleverde. Ook de (RET) werd verlaagd, zij het niet zo veel als de regering wenste, want steun daarvoor in de Senaat, waarin de regering geen meerderheid had, bleef uit.

In de daarop volgende jaren bleef het energiebeleid een strijdpunt, zowel tussen als binnen partijen. Ondertussen brachten megastroomstoringen, in het bijzonder in Zuid-Australië, rampspoed waarbij de onbetrouwbaarheid van hernieuwbare energie niet meer kon worden genegeerd. De nachtmerrie waar klimaatsceptici en critici van hernieuwbare energie (wind en zon) reeds jarenlang voor hadden gewaarschuwd, was werkelijkheid geworden: een landelijke stroomuitval met alle desastreuze gevolgen van dien. Deze was primair te wijten aan de totale uitval van windenergie als gevolg van hevige storm.

In september 2015 vond een paleisrevolutie plaats binnen de liberale partij, waarbij Tony Abott het in de strijd om het partijleiderschap moest afleggen tegen Malcolm Turnbull. Deze laatste volgde hem daarmee tevens op als premier.

Hoewel Abbott destijds akkoord was gegaan met de doelstellingen van de overeenkomst van Parijs (zo’n 28 % CO2-reductie in 2030 in vergelijking met 2005), heeft hij zich onlangs openlijk voorstander verklaard van afschaffing van subsidies voor hernieuwbare energie. Het werd gepercipieerd als een aanval op de premier, die een gematigder standpunt voorstaat. Wat de uiteindelijke beslissing van Turnbull zal zijn is op dit moment nog onzeker.

In het begin van zijn speech voor de GWPF wees Abbott op het verlies van vertrouwen in de gevestigde politiek partijen in Australië en vele andere Westerse landen. Ik pik er een aantal elementen uit.

We are not alone in this. The Trump ascendancy, however it works out, was a popular revolt against politics-as-usual. Brexit was a rejection of the British as well as of the European establishments. Yes, the centrist, Macron, won in France but only by sidelining the parties that had ruled from the start of the Fifth Republic. And while the German chancellor was re-elected, seemingly it’s at the head of an unstable coalition after losing a quarter of her vote.

Everywhere, there’s a breakdown of public trust between voters and their leaders for misdiagnosing problems, for making excuses about who’s to blame, and for denying the damage that’s been done. …

Climate change is by no means the sole or even the most significant symptom of the changing interests and values of the West. Still, only societies with high levels of cultural amnesia – that have forgotten the scriptures about man created “in the image and likeness of God” and charged with “subduing the earth and all its creatures” – could have made such a religion out of it. …

Beware the pronouncement, “the science is settled”. It’s the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages. Almost as bad is the claim that “99 per cent of scientists believe” as if scientific truth is determined by votes rather than facts.

There are laws of physics; there are objective facts; there are moral and ethical truths. But there is almost nothing important where no further enquiry is needed. What the “science is settled” brigade want is to close down investigation by equating questioning with superstition. It’s an aspect of the wider weakening of the Western mind which poses such dangers to the world’s future.

Physics suggests, all other things being equal, that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide would indeed warm the planet. Even so, the atmosphere is an almost infinitely complex mechanism that’s far from fully understood.

Palaeontology indicates that over millions of years there have been warmer periods and cooler periods that don’t correlate with carbon dioxide concentrations. …

Prudence and respect for the planet would suggest taking care not lightly to increase carbon dioxide emissions; but the evidence suggests that other factors such as sun spot cycles and oscillations in the Earth’s orbit are at least as important for climate change as this trace gas – which, far from being pollution, is actually essential for life to exist.

Certainly, no big change has accompanied the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration over the past century from roughly 300 to roughly 400 parts per million or from 0.03 to 0.04 per cent.

Contrary to the breathless assertions that climate change is behind every weather event, in Australia, the floods are not bigger, the bushfires are not worse, the droughts are not deeper or longer, and the cyclones are not more severe than they were in the 1800s. ….

It may be that a tipping point will be reached soon and that the world might start to warm rapidly but so far reality has stubbornly refused to conform to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s computer modelling. Even the high-priests of climate change now seem to concede that there was a pause in warming between the 1990s and 2014.

So far, though, there’s no concession that their models might require revision even though unadjusted data suggests that the 1930s were actually the warmest decade in the United States and that temperatures in Australia have only increased by 0.3 degrees over the past century, not the 1 degree usually claimed.

The growing evidence that records have been adjusted, that the impact of urban heat islands has been downplayed, and that data sets have been slanted in order to fit the theory of dangerous anthropogenic global warming does not make it false; but it should produce much caution about basing drastic action upon it.

Then there’s the evidence that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (which is a plant food after all) are actually greening the planet and helping to lift agricultural yields. In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heat waves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial. …

A market that’s driven by subsidies rather than by economics always fails. Subsidy begets subsidy until the system collapses into absurdity. In Australia’s case, having subsidised renewables, allegedly to save the planet; we’re now faced with subsidising coal, just to keep the lights on.

We have got ourselves into this mess because successive federal governments have tried to reduce emissions rather than to ensure reliable and affordable power; because, rather than give farmers a fairer return, state governments have given in to green lobbyists and banned or heavily restricted gas exploration and extraction; and because shareholder activists have scared power companies out of new investment in fossil fuel power generation, even though you can’t run a modern economy without it. …

In the longer term, we need less theology and more common sense about emissions reduction. It matters but not more than everything else. As Clive James has suggested in a celebrated recent essay, we need to get back to evidence based policy rather than “policy based evidence”.

Even if reducing emissions really is necessary to save the planet, our effort, however Herculean, is barely-better-than-futile; because Australia’s total annual emissions are exceeded by just the annual increase in China’s. …

Environmentalism has managed to combine a post-socialist instinct for big government with a post-Christian nostalgia for making sacrifices in a good cause. Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods. We’re more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect.

So far, climate change policy has generated new taxes, new subsidies and new restrictions in rich countries; and new demands for more aid from poor countries. But for the really big emitters, China and India, it’s a first world problem. Between them, they’re building or planning more than 800 new coal-fired power stations – often using Australian coal – with emissions, on average, 30 per cent lower than from our own ageing generators.

Unsurprisingly, the recipients of climate change subsidies and climate change research grants think action is very urgent indeed. As for the general public, of course saving the planet counts – until the bills come in and then the humbug detector is switched on. ….

That’s the reality no one has wanted to face for a long time: that we couldn’t reduce emissions without also hurting the economy; that’s the inconvenient truth that can now no longer be avoided.

The only rational choice is to put Australian jobs and Australia’s standard of living first; to get emissions down but only as far as we can without putting prices up. After two decades’ experience of the very modest reality of climate change but the increasingly dire consequences of the policy to deal with it, anything else would be a dereliction of duty as well as a political death wish.

Aldus Tony Abbott.

Zie verder hier.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3apjjlShgE

Uit deze speech blijkt dat Tony Abbott niet heeft opgegeven om voor zichzelf na te denken en zich niet achter een vermeende (want niet-bestaande) klimaatconsensus wenst te verschuilen. Wat zou het mooi zijn als we meer van dat soort politici hadden.

 

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