More than a million dollars raised by crowd-funding late last year was clearly not enough for the non-taxpayer-funded Climate Council. The Council is successor to the taxpayer-funded Climate Commission, which ran on about $1.6m a year. Hence former Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery now stars in an expensive-looking video for the Climate Council, rattling the can for more donations.
His goal, he says, is to counter the ‘unprecedented rise in climate denialism’ and respond with ‘the facts to call out these fringe views’. That’s why, he says, he wants urgent public donations “to support me and discredit deniers in the media”. Here is the full transcript of Flannery’s cup-rattling spiel:
“Right now we are witnessing an unprecedented rise in climate denialism in the Australian media and politics. [Cuts to shot of ex-ABC chair Maurice Newman saying, ‘I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence’.] Personally, I have never seen anything like it. [Montage of skeptic-looking press headlines]. Which is why the most powerful thing I can do is respond with the facts.
The Climate Council is the best placed group to call out these fringe views on all sides of the debate firmly and publicly. Which is why I am asking you to make an urgent donation to support me and discredit deniers in the media. It means we can add more capacity to our small group of staff and volunteers to rapidly respond to misinformation in the daily media cycle with press releases, calls for corrections, fact based responses and briefings for journalists. We are at such a critical time, our action now will decide the kind of world our children will grow up in and as a father, this is what drives me to keep fighting and this is why I am asking you to join me to make a difference.”
At first glance, the phrase ‘support me’ seems innocuous. He doubtless means, ‘support my cause’. After all, Climate Council councilors are working pro bono, according to Flannery last September. Notice him in the video below, gesturing to Climate Council offsiders Will Steffen and Gerry Hueston, and saying, “My two colleagues here, sitting on the bench — three ugly mugs — we are volunteering our time to make all this happen.”
It’s an act of selflessness referenced on Wikipedia:
“In a YouTube video released on 24 September, Flannery revealed that the Council members were working pro bono. Flannery had previously been criticised for his $180,000 a year salary from the old Climate Commission.”
I am only a young-at-heart, perpetually naïve reporter for Quadrant Online, and it never crossed my mind that Flannery might be seeking your money for any but the most altruistic purposes. However, trolling through the Climate Council’s website, I came across this update (emphasis added):
“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.”
So there it is. When Flannery asks you to support “me [Flannery]” he seems that he really does mean “me, Flannery.”
So what might Flannery be worth, or more correctly, what might he be paid by the Climate Council? As Chief Climate Commissioner, he trousered $180,000 a year from the Labor Government for three days work a week. Back-of-envelope calculation and allowing for holidays etc, that’s $1300 a day. And well deserved, too. As a climate celebrity/entertainer/all-round, world-class expert, he has entertained us with statements like,
- “I think there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century’s first ghost metropolis.”
- “So even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems.” This prediction was immediately followed by the great Eastern states’ floods. However, the Victorian Labor government was so impressed with Flannery’s forecast that it wasted $4-5 billion building the Wonthaggi desalination plant.
- “This planet, this Gaia, will have acquired a brain and a nervous system. That will make it act as a living animal, as a living organism, at some sort of level. That to me is the most exciting threshold for humanity. It’s as if the little embryo is about to hatch out of the shell, as a formed being. After four billion years, I think that’s where we’re at. We’ll see it, I think, this century.”
The Australian Academy of Science was so impressed by these and other of the paleontologist’s climate-related revelations that it immediately made Flannery a fellow.
I admit, I don’t know what pay and expenses Messrs Flannery, Steffen and Hueston are drawing from the Climate Council. Nor do I know what percentage of supporters’ donations go towards keeping the councilors in the style to which they were accustomed under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd regime. But to coin a phrase, your donations are fungible.
I hate to be self-referential, but this Quadrant Online piece is exactly the sort of misinformation that Flannery needs to combat with crowd-funded ‘fact based responses and briefings for journalists’.
Tony Thomas is available for climate briefings at the Flower Drum in Market Lane, Melbourne, any lunchtime well-wishers care to pay his bill. He blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com