Flat White

EXCLUSIVE Jim Molan: what the Q&A audience wouldn’t let me say

9 March 2020

12:33 PM

9 March 2020

12:33 PM

My views on climate change are shaped by inquiry and pragmatism, not by blind faith or ideology.  

I accept that the climate is changing as it has done throughout history. We saw a hotter and drier continent over recent times even though it is pouring rain as I write. We all know that Australia is not a stranger to drought, flood and fire. There are many explanations for the causes of the recent fires, both direct and indirect, some of which have been expressed by the CSIRO at Senate Estimates. I do note that there have been other times in Australia’s history when we have seen similarly extreme weather conditions. The recent fires may have been unprecedented in terms of length of the campaign, in ferocity in some areas and in concurrency. In previous fires, more houses burnt and lives have been lost, and far greater areas burnt. But for we in the path of the fires, it was a terrifying experience and regardless of precedence of the fires, the recovery must now be totally unprecedented. 

Some claim that in relation to the causes of climate change ‘the science is settled’. I met many of those on a recent edition of the ABC’s Q&A program. My view that the science was not yet settled was not permitted in that tax-payer funded, supposed bastion of open inquiry. The minds of the presenter, my fellow guests and many in the audience were firmly closed. “Do you believe in climate change?” they demanded. One religion for me is enough. 

I deny nothing in the area of climate change. I merely made the point that there are other explanations of the changing climate. Sadly, it becomes even harder to accept supposed orthodoxy if it is imposed by bullies. Despite that, my mind remains open.  

Because I was shouted down and was not able to put a view on Q&A, many of you have asked me what my views actually are.  

Scientific understanding should always be challenged by contrary evidence. The scientific method revolves around collecting data, setting a hypothesis, then testing that hypothesis. The poor predictive track record of alarming model-based climate change scenarios in recent years suggests that we still have much to learn about this subject.  

The challenging of the data which lies behind the models continues. The existence of a predictive model is not proof of a particular cause of climate change. What’s critical is the data behind each model and the assumptions made. Often data lying behind the models is honestly challenged and some climate scientists even deny access to that data. Yet they claim to be peer-reviewed. Perhaps they think they have no peers. 

The simple existence of contrary views by many scientists that there are other explanations for climate change means that keeping an open mind while the scientists try to convince each other, would be very wise. That is my view.  

So unlike many in the ABC and Q&A, my mind remains open on the causes of climate change. What I do see every day is the need to adapt to a changing climate, and that accords with the Morrison Government’s policies. 

Because my mind is open, I support the government’s balanced policies on emission reduction and adaption. Once again, I emphasize that I deny nothing, except ideological bullies. 

It is prudent for Australia to meet our Paris CO2 emission reduction targets as we agreed, despite the fact that few other countries are meeting their targets, especially the greatest emitters, India, China, and Russia, with the United States out of the agreement. It is prudent because we agreed to do it, we can justify anything we do if it benefits the environment, and CO2 may be causing climate change.  We have met our Kyoto 1 and 2 targets, we are ahead of our targets for 2020 and we will meet our 2030 Paris obligation. Few other countries in the world are in that situation. 

Although achieving our Paris target is prudent, what ‘science’ there is, including the Chief Scientist, indicates that regardless of how much Australia reduces its emissions, we can have little to no impact on the world climate. So unless all the nations of the world reduce emissions to the same extent as Australia, and even if climate change is in fact driven by CO2, then any effort by Australia to mitigate the risk of climate change will still be a waste of effort, jobs, the economy and our standard of living. This limitation is illustrated by the number of new coal power plants under construction in China, India, and elsewhere.  Mindlessly idealistic banning of coal exports and total reduction in emissions as demanded by the more aggressive parts of the orthodoxy would immediately be replaced by increases elsewhere in the world in a matter of days. If CO2 is the cause, then we need to take a different view, one based essentially on technology. 

Those advocating massive emission reductions say even though we cannot impact the world climate, we should destroy our economy to show leadership to the world. This is the single most impractical proposal I have ever heard. We should be a responsible world citizen but the view that China, India, Russia and the US will go ahead and destroy their economies because Australia showed the way is bizarre. 

The methods that we adopt to adapt to the changing climate must be pragmatic, intelligent, and balanced. We cannot make decisions that do not align with reality and the very real constraints that Australia faces. It might in some circumstances be the right policy to have net zero emissions by 2050 but not in the absence of at least an outline plan, and not at the cost of those who are most vulnerable to impractical, idealistic target setting. 

Contrary to the claims of many critics, Australia has already made significant progress in emissions reduction. Since 1990 the emissions intensity of our economy has fallen by more than 60 per cent, and our emissions per capita have fallen by 40 per cent. But nothing is ever enough for the Q&A fringe.    

Rather than leading the world in pledging CO2 reductions in the distant future, Australia should seek to lead the world in developing the advanced technology that can offer other benefits for the environment including lower emissions, and for people. Much of that has to do with the generation of cheap energy. Because I have an open mind, I personally have been a very early adopter of solar and battery technology, and an advocate for the adoption of nuclear power. 

The Energy Minister has recently announced the Technology Investment Roadmap, which when released will outline the government’s goals in prioritising energy and emissions reduction technologies, whether hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, or other technology. The goal is to use government investment in technology to promote further private sector investment, with the goal of encouraging new technologies that can become commercially-viable and part of Australia’s energy mix, and not subsidizing offshore interests.  

The goal is not to identify and adopt technologies that are ideologically acceptable but to encourage technologies that work. This will bring a range of benefits to Australia, and not only in the area of emissions reduction. 

These are the kinds of practical policies that Australia needs in relation to climate change. We must get beyond the stale arguments of recent years, and focus on the practical things we can do to benefit all Australians.  That is what I believe and my mind remains open. 

Jim Molan is a Liberal Senator for New South Wales.

Illustration: ABC TV.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Show comments