Intergenerational theft Hockey style

How many times have you heard Joe Hockey, in his characteristically boisterous way, warning us all about the pending ‘intergenerational theft’ that the previous government’s policies will bring about unless as a nation we begin to ‘live within our means’? Painting a grim picture of our children and grandchildren labouring to repay the debt we are incurring now as we continue ‘to spend more than we earn’, he warns of their deteriorating standard of living as they struggle to pay off the nation’s debts. It’s all part of the disquieting rhetoric the government’s spin doctors have woven to coerce us to timidly endorse the punitive budgetary measures Hockey introduced in the 2014 federal Budget, and accept as credible his Intergenerational Report 2015.

This piece is not to argue the whys and wherefores of Hockey’s use of the term ‘intergenerational theft’. It is to highlight a much more serious form of intergenerational theft that his IGR 2015 perpetrates: taking away from our children and theirs the right to live on a sustainable planet that is able to accommodate the ever-growing global population by ensuring ample arable land, food and water, housing, vital biodiversity, and congenial, peaceful living conditions.

It is about intergenerational theft Hockey style, occasioned by the Abbott government’s scandalous disregard of the threat of global warming in its Intergenerational Report.

Tony Abbott, along with Joe Hockey and Environment Minister Greg Hunt and many other ministers have never seriously acknowledged the importance of global warming; they have scarcely accepted its reality. Intellectually, Abbott still seems stuck with his infamous Beaufort utterance: “the science behind climate change is crap”. This attitude shows in IGR 2015.

Kevin Rudd once called climate change “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time”. He pointed specifically to its economic cost and the moral imperative of Australia doing its part to confront this dangerous long-term global problem. Sadly he went to water when it came to ensuring appropriate remedial action.

This piece examines IGR 2015, looking for evidence of any serious attempt to address this grave threat to the planet and all that lives on it.

That reference to climate change was scant in IGR 2105 should not surprise us. We know only too well Abbott’s stance: his advocacy for coal mining and the exploitation of fossil fuels, and his resistance to renewables and his cavalier attitude to the RET. We remember too his and Hockey’s unsuccessful fight to keep climate change off the agenda of the G20 meeting in Brisbane last November, based on the spurious grounds that the G20 was an economic forum, and therefore unsuitable for discussing climate change!

Find me if you can one evenhanded economist, find me one environmentalist who does not believe that climate change will bring about profound changes in the global economy, perhaps more profound than any other to date.

Since our five-yearly Intergenerational Reports are specifically designed to project global growth, to predict changes, to forecast the evolution of national, regional and world economies, why on earth would the instigators and authors of IGR 2105 make such paltry reference to arguably the most important factor underlying all of these: climate change, and more specifically, global warming?

So what did IGR 2015 say about climate change?

In the 25-page Executive Summary of over six thousand words, (which is all that will be read by those who bother to read it at all), there were just 121 words that addressed this subject. The words: ‘climate change’, ‘global warming’, ‘carbon dioxide’, and ‘greenhouse gases’ were not used. For your information here it is:

“The environmental changes that unfold over the next 40 years will affect Australians’ quality of life across a range of dimensions.

“It is difficult for individual governments to control or affect the collective and cumulative impact of human activity globally, but there is a role for the Australian Government to continue in its efforts in leading and coordinating domestic environmental policies to drive better environmental management and economic growth for the generations to come.

“Economic growth and strong environmental outcomes are complementary objectives. Policies that create strong economic growth and a sustainable budget will mean that governments are better placed to invest in environmental protection. Additionally, protecting the environment can also contribute to economic growth, particularly in sectors such as tourism.”

Note the usual Abbott cop out: “It is difficult for individual governments to control or affect the collective and cumulative impact of human activity globally…”. Note too the juxtaposition of ‘economic growth’ and ‘environmental outcomes’. The Abbott government puts economic growth ahead of environmental protection; indeed it argues that the former is necessary to achieve the latter.

In the full IGR Report, ‘climate change’ was mentioned twelve times in various contexts, but ‘global warming’ was mentioned just once, in this sentence: “The international community has agreed to aim to keep global warming to a less than 2 degrees C increase above pre-industrial climate levels.” Acceptance of this necessity by the Abbott government was not acknowledged. ’Carbon dioxide’ was not mentioned once. ‘Carbon’ was used twice: in reference to ‘soil carbon’ and ‘low carbon technology’. ‘Greenhouse gas’ was mentioned three times in the context of reducing their emissions. The terms: ‘coal’, ‘fossil fuels’ and ‘oil’ were nowhere to be found. Look for the terms ‘Renewable Energy Target’ or ‘RET’ or even ‘renewables’ and you won’t find them, a stark reflection of Abbott’s destructive anti-renewables mind-set.

How can IGR 2015 be taken seriously on its preparedness to address genuinely the danger to life from global warming, when it makes such paltry reference to the key factors that are creating it: burning fossil fuels and this nation’s negligible attempts to mitigate the carbon dioxide that results?

Its avoidance of discussion of the greenhouse effect that is bringing about global warming and with it the melting of the Arctic permafrost, glaciers and Antarctic ice; sea level rise and the inundation of low lying islands and costal areas; ocean acidification, and the serious threats of global warming to biodiversity, illustrates the Abbott government’s careless approach to this grave global threat. Protection of the Great Barrier Reef is mentioned, but mainly in the context of ensuring its economic viability.

The criminal neglect of the threat of global warming in this crucial document, one that is purposed to describe the economic challenges and opportunities for this nation in the years to 2050 and beyond, is all the more reprehensible when we hear world leaders highlighting the urgent need to do something..

During his visit to Australia, Barack Obama announced the joint China-US move to combat global warming and warned of its threat to the Great Barrier Reef. More recently he has renewed his push for action with his intent to take Air Force One to the Everglades in Florida to deliver his latest speech about his fears of global warming. He will say that global warming is damaging tourism and people’s health and that climate change is a national security risk. He will point out that the Everglades is one of the most special places in the US, but it’s also one of the most fragile, one that rising sea levels are putting it at risk.”

His words could hardly be clearer: “There’s no greater threat to our planet than climate change… it can no longer be denied or ignored.”

He will push harder at his global warming goals: “We’ve committed to doubling the pace at which we cut carbon pollution, and China has committed, for the first time, to limiting their emissions…and because the world’s two largest economies came together, there’s new hope that… the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late.”

What has the Abbott government done? It’s got rid of the carbon tax that was bringing down emissions and generating much-needed revenue, and has put in its place its Direct Action Plan. It doesn’t have a climate policy beyond 2020; local analysts believe is unlikely to reach its 5 per cent reduction target by 2020.

Nonetheless, the Abbott government insists it will achieve Australia’s carbon reduction targets. Here it is, halfway through its term, only now calling for bids in the first round of funding to pay for emissions cuts from the $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund. There is no sign of the 15,000 strong Green Army that is supposed to clean up Australia. That was never more than an ill considered thought bubble and will likely never eventuate.

Australia’s recalcitrance is now attracting international attention. Read these excerpts from Adam Morton and Tom Arup’s article this week in the Sydney Morning Herald: China and other big emitters challenge Australia over its climate change policies . “Only this week, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters, including China and the US, have questioned the credibility of Australia's climate change targets and ‘Direct Action’ policy in a list of queries to the Abbott government.

“China accused Australia of doing less to cut emissions than it is demanding of other developed countries, asked it to explain why this was fair, and questioned whether the Abbott government's Emissions Reduction Fund, the centrepiece of its Direct Action Policy would be enough to make up for the axed carbon price and meet Australia's commitment of a minimum 5 per cent emissions cut below 2000 levels by 2020. The questions have been lodged with the United Nations for Australia to answer in the lead-up to the December climate summit in Paris, where the world is supposed to sign a global deal to combat climate change.

“The Abbott government is also facing questions in diplomatic circles about why it is not sending a minister or its chief climate change negotiator to a meeting next Sunday of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington DC that will bring together ministerial representatives from 17 major countries in a bid to accelerate work on a climate deal.

“Compared with most developed nations, the questions directed at Australia are notably and repeatedly forceful in challenging its emissions targets and the credibility of its domestic policy. Australia now emits more than every European country except Germany.

“In other questions posed to Australia through the UN, the US asked whether the Emissions Reduction Fund was the main replacement for carbon pricing, or whether Australia planned to introduce other policies. Brazil accused Australia of having a ‘low level of ambition’, and asked whether it would boost its target to cut emissions more quickly.

“Erwin Jackson, deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute…said the questions showed the international community saw Australia's commitments as "woefully inadequate" for it to do its fair share in meeting the agreed global target of keeping warming to within 2 degrees. This is the first salvo. If the government doesn't come forward with a credible post-2020 target this kind of criticism will continue and only increase as other countries accelerate and deepen their own action.”

To add insult to injury, the Abbott government has found $4 million in its faltering budget to enable climate contrarian Bjørn Lomborg to establish a ‘consensus centre’ at the University of Western Australia. Lomborg was looking for long-term funding after the Danish government defunded his consensus centre in 2012. While Labor’s spokesman on the environment, Mark Butler protested: “Tony Abbott has deputised one of the world’s most well-known renewable energy sceptics to continue his climate change denial and attacks on renewable energy”, the Institute of Public Affairs responded by saying, “Bjørn, it’s great to have you!” That just about says it all!

Hockey’s IGR 2015 reflects Australia’s attitude and inaction on climate change. It cares more about protecting the viability and profits of the fossil fuel industry than it does about the future of the planet and everything that lives on it. This is the intergenerational theft of which Hockey is guilty. It is more than reprehensible. It is scandalous that such culpability should go almost unnoticed, certainly unpunished. We will have to wait for the 2016 election!

What do you think?

Ad astra is a retired medical academic, appalled that our elected leaders so dangerously ignore global warming. More about Ad astra here.

Comments (10) -

  • ad astra

    4/22/2015 3:22:47 PM |

    We are not the only ones decrying the Abbott government’s dilatory behaviour about climate change. Just this morning there was a report from the Climate Change Authority, which Abbott tried unsuccessfully to remove, on what Australia’s target should be for cutting carbon emissions in the years ahead.  A report in this morning’s The Guardian reads:

    “Australia should aim to slash its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025, compared with 2000 levels, in order to catch up to other countries’ efforts and prove it is a “good global citizen”, according to a Climate Change Authority review.

    “The CCA, an independent statutory agency that advises the government, also recommended that Australia ramp up its emissions cuts even further by 2030, within a target range of 40% and 60%, again based on 2000 levels.

    “The report restates the authority’s position that Australia should raise its immediate emissions reduction target from 5% by 2020 to 19% by the same year, warning that in the absence of stronger action “the task of achieving credible 2020 and subsequent targets will become progressively more challenging.”…

    “The US has already committed to a 26-28% cut in emissions below 2005 levels by 2025, while the European Union has a goal of a 40% cut on 1990 levels by 2030. China has agreed to peak its carbon output by around 2030, while the UK, Russia and Germany have all also submitted new targets.

    “Australia, by comparison, has missed a UN deadline to reveal its post-2020 emissions target and has faced questions from China, the US and Brazil over the effectiveness of its Direct Action policy, which replaced the carbon pricing system, scrapped by the Coalition last year.

    “The CCA report notes that while Australia contributes only 1.3% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, its fossil fuel-heavy economy is the largest per capita emitter in the industrialised world and that its efforts “should be comparable with those of other wealthy developed countries and free of any special pleading.”

    “The report adds that it is in Australia’s interests to keep to an internationally agreed goal of limiting warming to 2C above pre-industrial times, noting that if this limit is breached, the Great Barrier Reef will be greatly diminished, the number of heat waves will soar and southern Australia could face an 18% drop in spring rainfall by 2090.

    “Bernie Fraser, chairman of the CCA, said that if the 30% target was adopted, Australia would still be an ‘outlier’ in terms of high per capita emissions but it would gain credibility at the Paris talks.

    “This would likely be considered the behaviour of a good global citizen, and go some way to answering those who have questioned Australia’s commitment to climate change policy in recent times,” he said. “It would also give Australia the right to expect other countries to behave in like fashion.”

    The graphs in this article are worth a glance:

    Will Abbott respond to this advice? My guess is that he will procrastinate and obfuscate, and take his usual cavalier, hairy chested denialist approach, built on his Beaufort proclamation: 'the science behind climate change is crap'.

    What do you think?

  • ad astra

    4/22/2015 3:39:53 PM |

    In today’s Climate Spectator Tristan Edis writes in Climate Authority dares Australia to....catch-up:

    “As we get closer to the June deadline when the Abbott Government must explain to the international community how far it will cut emissions in the period between 2020 and 2030, the Climate Change Authority has given its verdict – a 30% cut from 2000 levels by 2025. This comes on top of advice they gave in early 2014 that Australia would need to cut emissions by between 40% to 60% by 2030 to play its “fair part” in any global effort to contain global warming below 2 degrees centigrade.

    “Such a recommendation is likely to have many choking on their Weeties as they contemplate how this might be achieved. It represents a major acceleration in the rate at which Australia would reduce its emissions relative to the government’s current 2020 target of a 5% reduction, although it’s not unprecedented.”

    His article concludes:

    In the forthcoming December climate agreement negotiations in Paris, other countries will be asking why Australia somehow can’t reduce the emissions intensity of its electricity supply to levels reasonably in line with a range of other nations. What’s rather ironic for the commenter on my prior article is that Australia’s large land area, and where it happens to be positioned, gives us no excuse. We have huge amounts of sparsely populated land, not all that far from power transmission lines with access to world leading wind and solar resources. In the past these were very expensive to exploit, but that is unlikely to be the case into the future.

    “And the reality when you boil it all down is that Australia is a very wealthy country compared to most of the world’s population. If we don’t bother to show leadership on addressing this problem, then how can we expect countries like India, Indonesia and China to do the same?”

    Abbott and Co. will have more and more of such articles confronting them, except perhaps from the Murdoch stable. How will they respond?

  • ad astra

    4/22/2015 8:05:47 PM |

    Those two articles reveal what could be done to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, given the political will.  Abbott is wedded to coal, and does not have the will.  So little or nothing will happen.

  • ad astra

    4/24/2015 9:52:31 AM |

    Do you sometimes wonder if Greg Hunt lives another world?  Following his recent award of emissions reduction contracts using over $660 million of taxpayers’ money, he has already declared it a ‘stunning outcome’, as if the mere awarding of contracts is all that is necessary to reap the rewards promised by the bidders. Environmentalists remain deeply skeptical, but Hunt remains supremely confident, as usual. Does he also believe in fairies at the end of the garden?

    Read all about it in today’s The Guardian:

    Both Hunt and Abbott might be surprised that AGL has decided that the future is renewables.  By 2050 it will close its coal-fired power stations at Loy Yang in Victoria (the dirtiest of them all), and Bayswater and Liddle in NSW.  AGL is now investing heavily in renewable energy, battery storage and demand management such as smart meters.

    I wonder what Abbott thinks about that?

  • DoodlePoodle

    4/24/2015 4:12:59 PM |

    While I don't like Leigh Sales or her interviewing style, I thought Greg Hunt was quite rude on 7.30 last night.  He just talked over the top of her to stop her from asking questions.  

  • ad astra

    4/24/2015 5:42:33 PM |

    Doodle Poodle
    Hunt's problem is that he can't answer reasonable questions; so he does a Morrison and talks and talks and talks, but says nothing worthwhile.

  • ad astra

    4/25/2015 10:46:20 AM |

    Doodle Poodle
    Greg Hunt’s deviousness is revealed today in The New Daily in Greg Hunt’s dubious carbon claims exposed:

    "Environment Minister Greg Hunt is misleading voters when he claims that Australia will “breeze past” its carbon emission targets, official figures reveal.

    “On Thursday Mr Hunt said that Australia is “well on track to achieve our target of reducing emissions by five per cent from 2000 levels by 2020″, following the first Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) auction.

    “His unambiguous confidence, however, is in stark contrast to the figures released by the Clean Energy Regulator, which carried out the auction.”

    The piece ends: "So while the auction may have gone much better than expected, Australia is still miles off meeting the target. Greg Hunt’s statement that we will “breeze past” the emissions reduction target is therefore either blind optimism, or plain dishonesty.”

    Read it all here:

  • BSA Bob

    4/26/2015 1:14:34 PM |

    The foisting of Lomborg on us is about as blatant as it gets. The obvious & probably only purpose is to provide the Abbott government & its supporters/installers with a "go to" source of pseudoscientific support. Which will of course be obligingly disseminated by a media using the excuse of "balance" as it seeks a way to neutralise Abbott's increasing isolation.

  • ad astra

    4/26/2015 9:03:54 PM |

    BSA Bob
    It's good to see you back commenting.

    You are right. To support its untenable and scientifically bereft climate change policy, Abbott and Hunt require pseudoscientific 'evidence', with which it can confuse and 'convince' the people who are unable to appraise the evidence for themselves. Lomberg will readily provide them with what they want - he is being funded with $4 million after his Danish setup was defunded. $4million buys a lot of climate change crap.

Comments are closed