Letter to Andrew Robb, AO MP
For 25 years or more, Claudio Veliz, a noted Chilean scholar and author, sometime professor of sociology at Latrobe University, and more recently the holder of a distinguished chair at Boston University, has been conducting what many would call seminars, but what he describes as "conversatziones" in Melbourne, Boston and in the UK.
The formula for these gatherings has been to invite a distinguished scholar or public figure, to give a paper on a topic of general interest, to invite a comment from someone also distinguished in a related field, and then to adjourn for dinner and a series of questions from the floor and answers from the primary guest for the evening.
The attendees at these functions have come from a wide sphere of intellectual and public life, and many absorbing discussions have taken place.
On November 27th and 28th last Professor Veliz organised a conversatzione spread over two evenings on the topic of Climate and our Discontents. The aim of this discussion was to spread some illumination on one of the most contentious and politically divisive issues of our time---climate change and its causes.
The lead speaker for the anthropogenic global warming or carbonista school was David Karoly, now a professor at the University of Melbourne. The most authoritative anti-carbonista figure there, although not formally on the programme, was Bob Carter, Research Professor of Geology at James Cook University in Townsville.
Andrew Robb, recently appointed by Malcolm Turnbull as shadow minister for the Emissions Trading Scheme, was invited to give a paper, and it was this presentation which sparked me to write the letter which now follows. I have had no reply from him.
7 January 2009
3 December 2008
Andrew Robb AO MP
Member for Goldstein
368 Centre Road
Bentleigh Victoria 3204
I have been thinking about your speech last Friday at Claudio's conversatzione and getting increasingly depressed as a consequence.
That speech was, I regret to say, a manifestation of the Liberal Party's current state of hopelessness and helplessness.
On industrial relations, on the global warming scam and the ETS, on the GFC, on the constitutional issues which arise from Gillard's "national curriculum", on education generally, on fundamental issues such as homosexual marriage and abortion, we see a confused and demoralised group of politicians with no moral compass and no clear convictions or understanding about Australia 's position in the world, or about Australian society and its historical and moral foundations.
All this is particularly apparent in the persona of Malcolm Turnbull.
However, I wish to focus on your speech of Friday evening last.
The first problem is your obsession with polling data. Of course we know, as Edmund Burke told us, "All government is based on opinion", but Burke above all, showed us that political leadership is based on changing opinion when the nation is imperilled, and opinion has to be changed. Almost single-handedly he changed English opinion on the French Revolution with historic results.
Particularly depressing was your repeated references to opinion amongst 18-30 year olds. These people have been indoctrinated at school and university with Environmentalist religion and there has been no attempt (apart from Cardinal Pell's occasional sallies), to contest these beliefs. John Howard is particularly blameworthy in this regard. The idea that national policy should be whatever a particular demographic believes in is ridiculous, but that it should be driven by 18-30 years olds is bizarre.
Your comments on the cooling trend of the last ten years and how it would take at least another 3 or 4 years for it to become statistically significant were just as depressing. I don't know where you get this nonsense from but the relevant facts are these.
As recently as July last year David Karoly was denying, emphatically, that the world had cooled. He claimed then that increasing CO2 had driven temperatures higher (as the GISS data showed) and would continue to do so. What he was saying was representative of the IPCC cabal which, given that he is a senior member of that group, is not surprising.
What is at issue here is the credibility of the IPCC. Mann's Hockey stick (used by the IPCC as a reredos at their 2001 TAC launch) had two messages. The first was that the Mediaeval Warm Period was a myth; the second was that CO2 was driving temperatures higher and would continue to do so without remission.
Those two argument were not credible in 2001 and have been destroyed completely since then. Mann's hockey stick has been shown to be fraudulent. But instead of drawing the sensible conclusion, viz, that the IPCC has lost all scientific credibility, we are told that statistically ten years of cooling is not really significant.. The IPCC line is that warming will resume some time soon and that the current cooling is due to "natural variability". So warming is due to anthropogenic CO2 and cooling is due to natural variability!
But most serious was your lack of concern about the economic and political consequences for Australia if we go down this decarbonisation road. Do you accept Garnaut's and Treasury's faith in the miraculous appearance of currently unknown carbon-free technologies (excluding nuclear power) for generating electricity at prices comparable to current technology? If not, why don't you say so? Silence in these situations is usually taken as assent.
Australia's enviable place in the contemporary world is based in large measure on the advantages we enjoy of low cost coal and low cost electricity. In the period from, say, 1910 until the 1960s, Australia's prosperity was based primarily on the exports of wool, wheat and meat. We used to ride on the sheep's back. We now ride on the dump trucks and conveyor belts which take the coal to the power stations and, of course, to the ships queuing up at the coal loaders.
If after WWII it had been seriously argued that every year, every third merino sheep should be shot, because the sheep were despoiling the environment, the protagonist would have been regarded as a lunatic. The idiocy of a decarbonisation policy at home which is equivalent (in 1940s terms) to destroying the merino flocks, and at the same time (to come back to the 2000's), exporting coal to the power stations of China, and India should be apparent even to the Parliamentary Liberal Party.
The Greens have made such extraordinary progress in this debate because no one of any political stature (apart from Vaclav Klaus) contests the language they use or the religious nature of their demands. Why don't you use words like "decarbonisation"? Why don't you talk about electricity blackouts? Why don't you use the current British experience as an example of where we are heading?
If you really wanted to change opinion on this issue you'd be getting advice from leading world scientists who could come out here and explain the fraudulent nonsense which the IPCC has been peddling. You'd be getting people from the power industry to explain how decarbonisation will affect electricity supplies and electricity prices. It's marvellous how a bit of determined leadership can generate support.
What is in front of us is the most dramatic and serious attack on Australian economic and social life since the twin evils of protectionism and labour market regulation were foisted on us by Alfred Deakin. The Liberal Party doesn't know which side to take. How embarrassing it is to be a member of that party at this time.
I conclude with two comments from newspapers in India and Australia.
The Economic Times of India warned: "The electorate is not known to favour the gutless, clueless and senseless." (27 November 08)
and in The Australian, Paul Kelly noted (29 November 2008)
"FUNDAMENTAL to the idea of political leadership on the economy is the ability to move public sentiment, shift expectations and educate the community about economic reality"