Leading article Australia

Through the ABC’s looking glass

7 March 2020

9:00 AM

7 March 2020

9:00 AM

‘How can you look at future technologies? They’re not invented yet!’ retorted Leigh Sales gleefully. If Lewis Carroll had created a newsreader character for Alice to spar with in Wonderland, he couldn’t have made her questioning any more absurd. As it was, it was Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the ABC’s flagship news and current affairs program, 7.30, who had to jump through the looking glass and fend off a plethora of gobbledygook, including this doozy: ‘a plan without a target is meaningless.’

That the PM managed to do so without losing his temper is testament to good media training. Self-evidently, the entire purpose of research and development and of putting money into future technologies is to, er, invent technologies that don’t exist yet. And obviously you can have a plan without a target to, say, reduce obesity or to improve road safety. Although a target certainly helps define or sharpen such a plan, ultimately a target is merely a useful measurement gauge as opposed to a prerequisite to success.

For sure, you can have a plan without a target, as the Libs do, but you cannot have a credible target without a plan, as Labor pretends. Comically, opposition leader Anthony Albanese and his mad hatters are now parading their own quasi-Carrollian logic: ‘Of course we know where we’re going! We just don’t know how to get there!’

Mr Morrison’s current common-sense formulation of ‘I’m not going to commit to a target when I can’t look Australians in the eye and tell them what it costs or how it’s going to be achieved’ is a sensible and pragmatic one. And it is in keeping with his commitments in the last election and encapsulates what most hard-working, tax-paying  ‘quiet Australians’ no doubt feel.

Not content with making those hare-brained comments, Ms Sales instinctively burrowed deeper down the Left’s rabbit-hole, quizzing Mr Morrison about the cost of not doing something: ‘Have you done any of the modelling of the costs of not going to net-zero by 2050? …Melbourne University’s had a look at it. They’ve found that the potential economic risk to Australia if global emissions patterns remain the same are $584 billion by 2020 and $762 billion by 2050.’

Where to begin with this silliness? Well, again self-evidently, logic dictates that the cost of not doing something is zero. Perhaps what Leigh meant to say was ‘have you done a complete cost-benefit analysis of what climate change, if it is actually occurring to the degree many fear, will mean for Australia? In other words, have you considered what might be the costs to our economy if the worst-case scenarios of the hypothetical anthropogenic global warming scenario were to play out in full, despite the fact that all historical modelling for the last forty years has invariably been shown to be either exaggerated or simply wrong, and have you contrasted those costs with whatever benefits may arise from such a scenario, particularly in a country such as ours, from the known benefits of the greenhouse effect, such as increased plant life, and drawn a conclusion as to whether or not there are infrastructure or adaptation measures such as dams, erosion walls, floodgates, increased bushfire preparation including land-clearing, more fire trails, lower fuel loads and so on that would be worth our while investing taxpayers’ resources in? And if so, what are the energy requirements we will need to meet those adaptation measures and will we have sufficiently-affordable energy supplies to do so without coal or nuclear power? Finally, given the Chief Scientist has already said that curtailing our own emissions can have no effect on global temperatures, what is the likelihood of other major emitters reducing theirs, and if they don’t what competitive disadvantage does reducing our own emissions put us at, and what will that cost us?’ But clearly that was all a bit too hard for Ms Sales to get out in one breath. Mr Morrison did his best to try and steer the conversation towards hydrogen technology, but Ms Sales showed little interest.

The problem with the whole climate change/emissions reductions/energy debate is that it has turned logic on its head, forcing politicians, academics and commentators to operate in a topsy-turvy world where the immutable laws of physics and economics are forced to compete with a fantasy world of hypotheses, modelling, projections, cronyism, self-interest, dogma, fake news and alarmist hysteria. As such, any common-sense counter-argument always ends up provoking the dreaded, medieval and unscientific accusation of ‘Denier!’ (a label that covers everything from being sceptical about the AGW theory to any realistic appraisal of the limitations of renewable energy), which is pretty much the modern equivalent of ‘Off with your head!’.

Following his interview last week, Mr Morrison and his media team should seriously ask themselves what is the value in continually hopping through the looking glass into the ABC’s climate wonderland?

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