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Climate change politics after the Australian elections

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

We now have a new government (for those from overseas:”Liberals” plus “Nationals”, i.e., right-wing) under Prime-Minister Tony Abbott, a practising Catholic and apparently friend of Cardinal George Pell, both climate change “sceptics” (see my post “On the road to fascism? Climate change and media concentration“). Abbott is on record as having earlier referred to climate change science as “crap”, although he now says that he believes in climate change and human contribution to it. Among the first actions of this new government was the dissolution of the Climate Council headed by Professor Flannery, a scientific body that had advised the previous government and the Australian public on climate change. Further actions were funding cuts to public services leading to the reduction by hundreds of staff of the CSIRO, the major Australian research organisation which – among many other projects of vital importance to the country – has done much work on climate change.

Miranda Devine in the Murdoch tabloid Sunday Telegraph November 10, 2013 illuminates the attitude of he new government on climate change politics very well. She writes in an article headed “Change is in the wind on climate”: “What a delicious decision of the Abbott government not to send a minister to the latest UN climate-change conference… Environment Minister Greg Hunt can’t go to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change talks in Poland. He’ll be too busy…repealing the carbon tax! Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the other end of the RSVP.”……. “Howard’s” (an earlier liberal Prime Minister of Australia) “takeaway is that politicians should not allow themselves to be browbeaten by the alleged views of experts….laws affecting the daily lives, including sensitive social issues, should never be made other than by politicians.” (Devine’s comments are not meant to be sarcastic, they reflect what she has expressed in numerous earlier articles in the Murdoch press).

Some articles by various commentators in other newspapers on recent events illuminating the government’s approach to climate change and related environmental issues in the following.

Southeastern Australia recently experienced particularly wide-spread and seasonally early bushfires that caused considerable damage. Christiana Figueres, head of the UN climate change negotiations, was in Australia at about that time. She drew a link between the strength of the bushfires and climate change. The Sydney Morning Herald (25.10.13), a Fairfax newspaper, reported about the reactions of the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Environment Minister Greg Hunt to this statement as follows: “Hunt taps Wikipedia for bushfire backing…Greg Hunt says” (in an interview with the BBC World Service)” Wikipedia, the online answer to everything, provides evidence that the unseasonal bushfires plaguing NSW are not linked to climate change…..Mr Hunt has been at the centre of a storm about climate change since Prime Minister Tony Abbott accused the head of the United Nations’ climate change negotiations, Christina Figueres, of talking “through her hat” on the issue.” “The fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they are a function of life in Australia, Mr.Abbott said.”…”The rebuke prompted Ms.Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, to release another statement in which she pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had already found a causal link between climate change and bushfires and its next report in 2014 would build on that.” … In the Sydney Morning Herald October 26-27: “Professor Will Steffen, who co-authored the soon-to-be-released bushfire report by the Climate Council, was responding to Mr. Abbott’s assertion in a newspaper interview with the leading climate sceptic Andrew Bolt that drawing a link between the savage bushfires now plaguing NSW and climate change was “complete hogwash”…”The Climate Council report, a summary of which was revealed by Fairfax Media on Friday, found a clear link between rising temperatures and a longer, more dangerous bushfire season in south-eastern Australia”….”The Climate Council, which was reformed as an independent body after Mr.Hunt abolished it on his second day in the job, will release the report in full next month”….

Interesting that Peter Hatcher, the international editor of the SMH, concluded in the same issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, that Tony Abbott really meant the same thing as Christina Figueres. (???? difficult to believe).

In the election campaign, Abbott made abolishment of the carbon tax, which was introduced by the previous Labour government, a key issue. He wants to replace it with a “direct action” policy, paying polluters to pollute less. The Sydney Morning Herald contacted 35 economists and found that 33 of them supported carbon pricing, rejecting the Direct Action policy. However, Abbott rejects any form of carbon pricing and will not make any binding commitments above a 5% reduction by direct action by 2020 “in he absence of very serious like-binding commitments in other countries….” (SMH 13.11.13).

The Silence of Animals

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

John Gray’s Godless Mysticism: On “The Silence of Animals”, as interpreted by Simon Critchley, see here:

A conclusion? “What will define the coming decades? I would wager the following: the political violence of faith, the certainty of environmental devastation, the decline of existing public institutions, ever-growing inequality, and yet more Simon Cowell TV shows. In the face of this horror, Gray offers a cool but safe temporary refuge.”

Can science explain everything?

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Among many scientists and the general public the view is widespread that the only justifiable approach to solving problems in nature is the scientific one. Is there a role for philosophy? What is the evidence for the multiverse approach to cosmology and for evolutionary explanations of why our universe seems to be fine tuned to the evolution of life? Can questions of ethics be resolved by science alone? Professor Austin L. Hughes, a distinguished biologist at South Carolina University, has given a penetrating analysis of the problems. See here:

Cardinal George Pell and Richard Dawkins

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

These two personalities had a discussion on Australian TV on religion and God. I did not see it but read various comments on it in newspapers. Good to hear that the CardinaI would admit atheists into Heaven, if he had a say in it. I have discussed The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins earlier, as well as views on religion by Heisenberg, Max Planck, Karl Marx and some others. See the attached link:

Ethics and the responsibility for animals and nature

Friday, April 13th, 2012

In the current debate on climate change and other human induced effects on the environment it is important to reflect on the moral justification for large scale destruction of habitats and animal species by man. Do we have to consider only the well-being of fellow humans or of animals as well? Schopenhauer was, to my knowledge, the first Western philosopher who spoke out for the rights of animals.
For details see here:

Freedom of the Press, and Separation of State and Church in Australia

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

In today’s Daily Telegraph, Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, had the following to say about the elections, when asked for advice on how to vote.

It is not really my role to give advice on how to vote, however, one should consider the personalities of the parties’ leaders. And: the Greens are antireligion, their philosophy is that of the “notorious” Peter Singer (Australian, Professor of bioethics at Princeton University, USA, and laureate Profressor of Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, probably the most prominent advocate of animal rights today), who believes that humans are not unique and differ from animals only in the complexity of their minds, and who advocates euthanasia, among other things.

Although Cardinal Pell claims to be concerned about the environment, he says the Greens’ policy is poisonous because it disadvantages the poor. He had earlier, in a different context, said that “some of the hysteric and extreme claims about global warming are also a symptom of pagan emptiness…..belief in a benign God who is master of the universe has a steadying psychological effect….In the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans to placate capricious and cruel gods. Today they demand reduction in carbon dioxide emissions”.

There are about five million catholics in Australia, and Cardinal Pell’s “advice” will have some influence. So much about the separation of church and state, for which, since the Enlightenment, people in Europe have fought with some success in many countries.

This leads to an even more important question, that of the role of the press in Australia.

The Daily Telegraph, in which this and earlier articles by Cardinal Pell were published, is a tabloid newspaper with a circulation of about 409000, the largest in Sydney. It belongs to Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, along with The Australian, Australia’s only nationwide non-tabloid paper, and the most popular metropolitan dailies in most other Australian metropolitan cities. It is obviously (like Fox News in the US, also run by Murdoch) totally (I would say ridiculously) biased to the right. In the current elections, the bias towards the Liberals is what I would say extreme.

In other words, there is no freedom of the Press in Australia in the sense that objective and accurate information is disseminated. But there is freedom for Rupert Murdoch to disseminate his views.

Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition, and Joe Hockey, his deputy, both devout catholics, appear to base their view on climate change (“crap” in the words of Abbott) not on science but on the dogma of the Church. One can only hope that the electorate will see through the spin, although I doubt it.

Godlessness and Nazism, Stalinism etc.

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (April 2-4, 2010), the Archbishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, launched a scathing attack on atheism in his inaugural Easter message. “Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating.”-“Nazism, Stalinism, Pol-Pottery, mass murder and broken relationships: all promoted by state-imposed atheism or culture-insinuated secularism”.
Sorry, this is sheer nonsense, at least as far as Nazism is concerned (and perhaps one should not forget that Stalin began his career at a seminary for priests in Georgia, although he later became the chief preacher of atheistic Marxism-Leninism).

I quote from “Hitler’s Secret Conversations 1941-1944″ (English translation by Norman Cameron and R.H.Stevens 1953, A Signet Book, The New American Library).

It is important that these conversations were not meant for publication and can therefore be accepted as expressing Hitler’s real beliefs.

Some quotes:
page 36: “Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this all-mighty, which we call God (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe). The priests, who have always succeeded in exploiting this feeling, threatening punishments for the man for the man who refuses to accept the creed they impose”.

page 86: “I envisage the future, therefore as follows: First of all, to each man his private creed. Superstition shall not lose its rights…”

page 158: “Christ was an Aryan…”

page 330: “If my presence on earth is providential, I owe it to a superior will. But I owe nothing to the Church that trafficks in the salvation of souls, and I find it really too cruel. I admit that one cannot impose one’s will by force, but I have a horror of people who enjoy inflicting sufferings on others’ bodies and tyranny upon others’ souls.”

Somewhere (I could not find the reference) he says that the justification of the war against the bolsheviks really was their atheism. This explains, of course, why the catholic church was fairly ambivalent about Hitler. Even Cardinal Graf von Galen, Bishop of Münster during the Nazi era and a close friend of the later Pope Pius XII, supported Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union, in spite of his opposition to other aspects of Nazism.

So, does this sound like an atheist? Hitler certainly was not a Christian and he was a fanatic antisemite, but he certainly was not an atheist.

The most violent opponents of Richard Dawkins, the high priest of contemporary atheism, argue, like the archbishop above, that atheism is at the root of all (or much) evil. It seems that in their opinion one needs to be threatened with punishment in Hell to be good. Well, Hitler did evil without being an atheist. (see here:

Man cannot destroy the Earth, only God can.

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Listen to this one:

I wonder how many of the so-called climate change deniers are influenced by this sort of thinking.


Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, January 19, Pat Robertson, one of the leading American evangelicals, has the following to say about the reasons for the earthquake that destroyed much of Haiti:

” Haiti had been cursed by a pact he said its slave founders made with the devil two centuries ago to overthrow their French rulers.”

For the historical background, click here

Don’t be fooled by the media

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

A few days before the beginning of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, the media are full of reports on supposed falsification of climate data at the University of East Anglia, England. Where did the information come from? Apparently, professional hackers broke into large numbers of emails between climate change researchers and put a selection of those emails on climate skeptic websites, just in time for the conference. Certainly not cheap, who paid the hackers? Have a guess.

Any evidence that there was indeed falsification of data? Not as far as I am aware. But does it matter? The damage is done.

In this context, a number of years back, the media were full of reports on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction etc. What were these reports based on? Among the most important pieces of evidence, apparently, were a student essay, and a conversation between passengers which an Iraqi taxi driver overheard and reported two years later. All this comes out again now at the hearings in Britain about the Iraq war. A few million dead! Don’t bother, it all was done in the interest of whom?

For details see:,1518,665944,00.html