Yesterday’s AFR published a letter on climate change I sent it last week (see below). Surprisingly given the many G20/climate change reports and views, the AFR did not have a letters column on Monday and it does not have one today. Apart from The Australian and the Herald Sun, there is as yet no recognition of the adverse implications of the US/China agreement for the warmists and the Paris conference.
Obama’s attempt to use that agreement as a model for reducing emissions of CO2 has gone down badly in Australia (see article below on “G20 host’s fury over Barack Obama jab on climate and coal”) and may go down badly in the US too. Unusually, the Wall St Journal has published this article by our Greg Sheridan, which concludes that “the only thing fraught with more danger than being Mr. Obama’s enemy is being his friend”. (Sheridan had a similar article in The Australian yesterday).
Importantly too, the Obama initiative now makes it even less likely than it was that any substantive international agreement on reducing emissions of CO2 will be reached before 2030. The reasons for reaching this conclusion are set out in my AFR letter.
This means that there is now no cause for Australia to adopt or commit to emissions-reduction policies additional to those already announced. In fact, there is an opportunity to publish a review of existing policies and include an assessment that it is likely there will be no international agreement before 2030. Such a review could include an explanation to the community of the uncertainties on which the dangerous warming thesis is based and of the reality that there is no scientific consensus.
Such an explanation could help restore the Coalition’s polling, which slumped further in the latest Newspoll and is now 10 points behind on a TPP basis (see below). Looked at broadly, there may be a message here that, while Abbott is handling foreign policy issues (incl the G20) well, the weakness in growth in the domestic economy and employment requires more attention to domestic policies.
Part of the problem here is the failure of the Abbott government to explain publicly the many uncertainties in the dangerous warming thesis and the absence of any scientific consensus. The belief that “more needs to be done” to reduce emissions is still surprisingly widely held despite (for example) the 16 year pause in average surface temperatures. This reflects the view taken by the Fairfax press and the ABC/SBS, both of which give very little coverage to sceptics or to the flaws in the analyses promulgated by the IPCC. It also reflects the penetration of the education “system” at secondary and tertiary levels by the supposed “saviours” of future generations. A “Green Paper” on Climate Change would expose the deficiencies in the dangerous warming thesis and help reduce support for action to reduce emissions.
A similar public explanation approach is needed on other important policy issues, such as the budget, workplace relations and the response to Islamic driven terrorism.
The Mid Year review of the budget, due in mid-December and foreshadowed as likely to show a considerably larger than expected deficit, provides an opportunity to more clearly explain the need to cut expenditure and to respond to criticism that the budget is unfair. The small savings made in social welfare, which have passed the Senate (see report below “Abbott to save $2.7b with social service bill”), could be used as an example of how “fair” savings can be made by cutting spending to middle and higher income groups. The limiting of the Family Tax Benefit Part B to those with incomes below $100,000 a year provides an obvious example which could be used in other parts of the welfare system – and could be a carried further on this particular benefit too.
The MYEFO also needs to deal with the question of whether spending should be reduced at a time when the economy is slowing. Note, for a start, that even if the initial revised deficit estimates for 2014-15 show an increase of $20 bn this would still leave an estimated deficit as large as last year’s (over 3% of GDP). If, as seems quite likely, slower growth continues in the post mining boom period, this would mean that, unless a start is made in cutting spending (the budget provided for a small increase in 2014-15), there would be a real risk of on-going large deficits. If government spending reductions are concentrated on middle/higher income groups, that need not reduce their spending or total domestic demand. And reducing spending on wasteful environmental projects (such as renewables), would improve the efficiency of the economy.
Finally, the report that even President Obama is prepared to consider US troops on the ground (see article below “US speeds Iraqi troop training to encourage allies to commit more”) provides an opportunity for the Abbott government to more fully explain the threat from fundamentalist Islamic groups, why it needs to be accepted that we are not facing just a few extremists, and how it is likely that this problem will continue for some considerable time. On Monday I attended a lunch at AIJAC addressed by an expert analyst from The Washington Institute, who expressed the view that there is no US “plan” of how to handle the problem and that the US is operating on an ad hoc basis. He also said that, in the Syria/Iraq area, most of the “moderate” Muslims have disappeared either by having been killed by fellow Muslims or by emigrating. His “hope” was that the remaining Muslim groups would not turn on Israel.