We know that climate change was discussed in private talks between US president Barack Obama and Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott, but it wasn’t mentioned in their heavily scripted public comments to the media.
Now we know why.
Just one day after his meeting with Abbott, Obama told an audience at the University of California that those who denied the science of climate change – presumably including those who thought that the science was “crap” – were akin to people believing that the moon “was made of cheese.”
Obama has been dealing with a lot of climate denialism during his tenure. Most of the Republican Party, for instance, which has fought against carbon pricing and pretty much any other environmental legislation.
Now he has to do the same with other countries such as Australia and Canada who are doing the same. Abbott, having once described the science as crap, now insists that he accepts the science, although he does not rate the issue as one of the most important.
But all the businessmen he has appointed to head key economic reviews – Dick Warburton, David Murray, Tony Shepherd and Maurice Newman, have made no secret of their disdain for the science. Which is probably why most analysts think Tony Abbott’s climate policies are crap.
According to the NY Times, Obama likened those who deny climate change to people who would have told John Kennedy, at the dawn of the space program, that the moon “was made of cheese.”
Obama’s most scathing words were for lawmakers who say they are not qualified to judge the issue because they are not scientists. These people, Obama, recognize the truth but will not utter it for fear of being “run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot.”
(Many in Abbott’s government openly suggest that climate science is a left-wing plot. Certainly his “friends”, such as conservative commentators Andrew Bolt and Allan Jones are firmly of this view).
“I’m not a scientist either,” Obama said. “But we’ve got some good ones at NASA. I do know the overwhelming majority of scientists who work on climate change, including some who once disputed the data, have put the debate to rest.”
Later, he said:
“No matter what you do in life, you will run up against a stubborn status quo and people determined to stymie your best efforts, who say you can’t do something and shouldn’t bother trying. I’ve got some experience with this myself.
“I’ve got to admit, though, it’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter someone who says the problem you’re trying to solve doesn’t even exist.
“When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, I’m sure some made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it. But I don’t remember anyone ignoring science. I don’t remember anyone saying the moon wasn’t real, or that it was made of cheese.”
“Today’s Congress,” Obama said, “is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence. They will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad. One member of Congress actually says the world might be cooling.”
“We also have to realize, as hundreds of scientists declared last month, that climate change is no longer a distant threat, but ‘has moved firmly into the present. In some parts of the country, weather-related disasters like droughts, fires, storms and floods are going to get harsher, and they’re going to get costlier.”
“Today’s Congress,” he declared, “is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence. They will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad. One member of Congress actually says the world might be cooling.”
Giles Parkinson is a journalist of 30 years experience, a former Business Editor and Deputy Editor of the Financial Review, a columnist for The Bulletin magazine and The Australian, and the former editor of Climate Spectator.