Always good for a laugh, Australia’s high priests of the catastropharian faith have been peppering acolytes with missives about each other’s motives, competence and acumen. If someone hasn’t called a lawyer, they’re even sillier than the current contretemps suggests
Emeritus Professor of Climate Catastrophism at the ANU Will Steffen and his Climate Council team appear to have belatedly realized that they are not immune from the law of libel. On September 6, Steffen sent out an urgent missive that re-wrote his email circular of September 5. “Please delete our previous email,” he begged.
The two emails were headed, “Breaking ranks”. From the email’s wording, I’d say a heading “Breaking banks” would be more appropriate as far as Steffen’s and the council’s finances are concerned.
Steffen’s two emails were despatched to a big contact list of “Friends”, including myself, from the Council’s computer and in Steffen’s capacity as a Councillor.
Steffen, famous for his ‘death threat’ panic in 2010 after an overheard conversation about kangaroo culling, blathers on in the email about an alleged dissenting report to the official Climate Authority’s report on how Australia should meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement.
Apart from the naughty bits of the email (which I’ll get to eventually), the “dissenting report” itself has been disowned by the Authority. In a website posting on September 5, headed, “Clarification—misleading report”, chair Wendy Craik AM says,
“The Climate Change Authority is aware that a report released on 5 September 2016 incorrectly purports to be a minority report to the Authority’s third and final report of its special review, Towards a Climate Policy Toolkit . The report released this morning was not released or endorsed by the Authority, and has no status as an Authority report.”
How odd that Steffen and the Council, set up to tout the alleged “facts” on climate change, can’t get even their own basic facts right.
Today the Authority’s chair, Craik, added further:
“Firstly, the suggestion that the Authority secretariat staff are inexpert or incompetent is manifestly false. The staff have a truly impressive depth of knowledge on all aspects of climate policy and have worked tirelessly, with a high degree of professionalism, to produce a high quality report under difficult circumstances. The Authority acknowledged this great effort by the secretariat staff in our report: Towards a Climate Policy Toolkit.
I also reject strongly any suggestion that the Authority has been politically influenced or motivated by political considerations in its work on the special review. In preparing Towards a Climate Policy Toolkit , the Authority exercised its independence in recommending a set of policies that we believe can chart a sustainable, durable and scalable course for Australia’s climate change response in the years and decades ahead. To suggest otherwise is both offensive and untrue.
With the move to Canberra, the Authority looks forward to taking its place amongst a number of other independent agencies, including the Productivity Commission and the Clean Energy Regulator.”
But back to the chatty Steffen email, which continues:
“Sounds good in theory – but in reality the report’s plan for emissions reduction is woefully inadequate, and completely disregards the science.
Now, two of the Authority’s 10 members are speaking out. Climate scientist David Karoly and economist Clive Hamilton have released a dissenting report highlighting their disagreements with the Authority’s recommendations.”
In the original email there follows a paragraph deleted from the revised email of the following day. That paragraph includes an abusive reference to some individuals on the Authority:
“It’s not the first time there’s been dissent in the ranks either – many of the original Climate Change Authority members resigned after they weren’t being listened to, and were replaced by members who were strong on political connections but short on scientific expertise and understanding.” (My emphasis).
He continues with blather
“A strong, independent voice for science is more important than ever. If you believe the public deserve to hear the facts, then please help fund the Climate Council’s ongoing work by chipping in $10.,,If you’re as angry and disturbed by all this as I am, let’s all chip in to keep standing up for science. Thank you.” [His emphasis].
So who could those people be whom Steffen describes as “strong on political connections but short on scientific expertise and understanding”?
Well, the background is that the Gillard government set up the Climate Commission in February, 2011, headed by non-climate scientist Tim Flannery, who pocketed a taxpayer-funded salary of $180,000 for three days work a week. This Commission included Steffen.
The devilish Abbott government, demonstrating its indifference to both Gaia’s torments and certain catastropharians’ yen for the spotlight, abolished the Commission, which had been costing $1.6 million a year. The sacked Commission members, including Flannery, Veena Sahajwalla, Lesley Hughes, Will Steffen and Gerry Hueston, then went crowd-funding to set up the private-sector Climate Council, which they did in October, 2013. It raised $1 million in the first week and has been obliged to rattle the tin for donations ever since, given that its expenses run to about $1.7 million a year.
Flannery initially pledged that the Council would not go in for politics: “We won’t be running any political campaigns, we won’t be running any agendas.” Yeah right.
He also announced at inception that councilors, including himself, would provide their invaluable services gratis. But what Flannery calls the “titanic struggle” to save the planet is important work deserving emoluments, so six months later the Council changed its mind and rewarded itself with fees-for-services, amounts undisclosed.
A second official climate body, the Climate Change Authority, was set up by Gillard in July, 2012, to advise the government on emissions targets and reductions. The Abbott government wanted to abolish the Authority as well, but this needed parliamentary approval — thwarted by Clive Palmer in the Senate — whereas the Council’s abolition could be done by executive order. Four Authority members resigned, followed by the chair, Bernie Fraser, in September, 2015. The Authority has lingered on as a lame-duck entity ever since.
The authority’s original board at establishment by Gillard in July, 2012, was John Marlay, Elana Rubin, Prof Ian Chubb (government chief scientist), Bernie Fraser, David Karoly, Heather Ridout, Dr Lynne Williams, Clive Hamilton and John Quiggin.
Its current board comprises Dr Wendy Craik (Chair), Stuart Allinson, Kate Carnell AO, Professor David Karoly, Professor John Quiggin, Professor Clive Hamilton, The Hon. John Sharp, Dr Alan Finkel and Danny Price. A tenth member, Andrew Macintosh, sits as an associate member until the conclusion of the Special Review. Dr Finkel is an ex officio member of the Authority as Australia’s Chief Scientist, replacing the former Chief Scientist Ian Chubb.
I won’t go into exactly which members Steffen has described as “strong on political connections but short on scientific expertise and understanding”, but they’ll know who they are. And even though they are sadly deluded in imagining that dams will never fill again, the Great Barrier Reef is in mortal peril and small children need to be terrified by tales of drowning puppies, they are no doubt smart enough to know where to get the best legal advice.
Tony Thomas’s new book of Quadrant essays, That’s Debatable – 60 Years in Print, is available here
 The agreement commits China and India to issuing pious statements about their emissions intentions, while they in fact work towards increasing their emissions by 50% and 300% respectively by 2030.
 From the council’s website: “8. Are the Councilors volunteers or do they get paid for their time?
When the Climate Council was first set up, all Councilors committed to volunteer their time for six months, to ensure we could continue to produce authoritative, independent information about climate change following the abolition of the Climate Commission.
After the first six months, our Board decided that Councilors would receive remuneration for time spent on Council activities. This ensures we can continue to draw on the knowledge and experience of world-class experts to provide Australians with the best possible information on climate change.”