josh rosner

Posts Tagged ‘Climate change’

DOES GARNAUT BELIEVE HIS OWN RHETORIC?

In Australian Culture and Society on March 1, 2011 at 2:05 am

The Gillard government’s climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, couldn’t have asked for a better alignment of the stars with the timing of the release of his updated Garnaut Climate Change Review 2011, which coincided with two devastating natural events in Queensland. It was, I suppose, inevitable that Garnaut would use his speech at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute to link the natural disasters with an urgency to act on climate change.

Before I’m accused of climate change denial, let me state at the outset that I believe man-made global warming is a serious issue and Australia has its part to play in curbing global emissions.

In the first of eight papers to be released during February and March 2011, Garnaut asks, “Would the substantial costs of climate change mitigation exceed the benefits?” Garnaut rightly suggests that the costs to community, business and the economy will be substantial – regardless of the mechanism used to reduce greenhouse emissions – while the benefits (beyond the obvious) are difficult to observe and are very likely benefits that will only be realized long into the future.

Although I am not suggesting the mitigation costs would exceed the benefits (given the obvious benefit, as Garnaut notes, is avoiding the impacts of climate change – a benefit that should far outweigh any cost), I do believe Garnaut may be less than honest (or at least, less than transparent) in his public statements and media interviews following the launch of the first paper.

On 28 March 2008 I was an attendee at the Way Forward on Asian Economic and Political Security conference, organised by the Australian National University’s Crawford School, in Sydney. Attendance at the conference was small and select. Most attendees were experts in Asian economics and politics, including a prominent Australian journalist and a then recently overthrown Leader of the Opposition. I was in attendance in my capacity as an adviser to the then AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty. Ross Garnaut, employed by the Crawford School, was a guest speaker at the conference.

During his short presentation to the group, Garnaut made a passing comment that has gone unreported and which, in the moment, astounded me. He stated that, at the end of the day, he believed the scales had already tipped too far and there was nothing we could do to reverse the effects of climate change.

The Garnaut Review’s website states, “The Garnaut Climate Change Review – led by Professor Ross Garnaut – was first commissioned … to conduct an independent study of the impacts of climate change on the Australian economy.”

Let me make myself clear. It is my belief that the government’s climate change adviser, commissioned by the Rudd government three years ago to report on the economic impacts of climate change, told attendees at a conference six months before the release of his report, that the effects of global climate change can no longer be mitigated, regardless of our best efforts. Despite this assertion amongst what I am sure Garnaut thought was a friendly and sympathetic crowd (after all, until now no attendee has reported his comments), his comments are most concerning because I have been unable to locate any statement or disclaimer to this effect in the original or recently updated reports.

Presumably Professor Garnaut is receiving, or will receive, a not inconsiderable remuneration for his recommendations to the Gillard government. These recommendations will have immense economic and social impacts on our nation for decades to come. As he takes taxpayer money in return for his expert opinion, the community has a right to know whether Professor Garnaut believes the effects of climate change can be halted.

Garnaut should make a statement which clarifies his position on man-made climate change and, if he does not believe mitigation efforts will be successful,  whether he has ever advised the Australian Government of that position.