Having drenched the work of climate scientists with contemptuous spittle, the real Tony Abbott has emerged. The former prime minister’s incendiary speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London strips away all his previous pretence.
The Tony Abbott who as host leader of the 2014 G20 affirmed Australia’s belief in climate change, humanity’s contribution and the need for effective action, has been banished by the real self.
Climate change science, he now asserts, has the spirit of the Inquisition.
It is the “thought police down the ages” and invoked a post-Christian nostalgia for sacrifice in political response.
“Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods,” he said.
“We are more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect.”
After all, he has studied photographs of Manly beach over the past 100 years and can see no evidence sea levels have risen.
But in any case, climate change is “probably doing good; or at least, more good than harm”.
Now freed from any belief he will be prime minister again, Mr Abbott claims virtue in saying it as he sees it. Even if it is from the fringe.
This is ruinous to Malcolm Turnbull’s ambition to end the climate wars, which is what he had originally hoped for the review conducted by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel.
The prospect of a bipartisan peace on climate policy with Labor, however unlikely, is now impossible. Mr Abbott will not be satisfied even by orthodox expressions of environmentalism.
The Clean Energy Target, once tentatively embraced by Mr Turnbull, is already facing major surgery. It is the only one of Dr Finkel’s recommendations not to have been formally endorsed.
Abandonment of the Clean Energy Target would, in Mr Abbott’s mind, be his victory.
Mr Turnbull has already elevated affordability and reliability above emission reduction in the energy debate. The PM sees this as crucial in his fight against Bill Shorten.
But Mr Turnbull’s authority requires renewed assertion of ownership on climate policy when it comes to developing an investment mechanism demanded by industry and business alike.
He must ensure that any reconfiguring of the Clean Energy Target is perceived as being in spite of Mr Abbott and not because of him.
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