[permaculture] 3 . Flip-flop Flannery is a climate changeopportunist

Scott Pittman scott at permaculture.org
Thu Feb 5 22:57:10 EST 2009

Biochar is also Lovelocks solution to global warming, and the only solution,
according to him, and he has no faith that mankind will heed his advice.

Scott Pittman
Permaculture Institute
-----Original Message-----
From: permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:permaculture-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Nicholas
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2009 4:34 PM
To: permaculture
Subject: [permaculture] 3 . Flip-flop Flannery is a climate

3 . Flip-flop Flannery is a climate change opportunist

Clive Hamilton writes:

Malcolm Turnbull's new climate change plan is another in a long line
of diversionary policies aimed at taking the heat off the coal

His emphasis on biochar -- turning agricultural waste into charcoal
and spreading it onto paddocks -- is reminiscent of attempts by the
Bush Administration to sabotage the Kyoto Protocol by allowing fossil
pollution to be 'offset' by changes in agricultural practices.

The move was rejected by the rest of the world in 2000 because it
would have removed entirely any obligation on rich countries like the
United States and Australia to cut their fossil emissions. No wonder
the coal industry backed the US move enthusiastically.

The new Coalition focus on soil carbon has been supported by
Turnbull's confidant and de facto greenhouse advisor Tim Flannery, for
whom biochar is the latest fad.

One of the last prominent scientists in Australia to acknowledge
global warming, Flannery has been flip-flopping on solutions to
climate change since The Weather Makers appeared in December 2005.

He initially argued that we should forget about governments and rely
on the good sense of individuals to cut Australia's emissions, urging
others to follow his lead and install their own solar panels.

When he was criticised for shifting responsibility onto individuals
and away from polluters and the Government Flannery changed tack,
abandoning his "firm belief" that consumers should not wait for
government to act, and advocating a carbon tax. He later changed his
mind and endorsed emissions trading instead.

Flannery has moved seamlessly from one technological enthusiasm to the
next. In 2006 he lent his support to the development of nuclear power
in Australia. "Only nuclear power can save us", he declared, playing
straight into the hands of Prime Minister Howard who was happy to
quote Flannery in support of his nuclear push that formed part of his
climate denial strategy.

But after criticism in 2007 Flannery changed his mind, giving a
"resounding 'no'" to nuclear power in Australia. No explanation seems
to have been offered for the reversal.

Flannery's next burst of enthusiasm was for geothermal energy which he
spruiked heavily in 2007, arguing that hot rocks "potentially have
enough embedded energy in them to run the Australian economy for the
best part of a century". (He properly disclosed that he held shares in
hot rock developer Geodynamics.)

He has had little to say about hot rocks since taking up the biochar
idea in 2008. He now believes biochar "may represent the single most
important initiative for humanity's environmental future". Turnbull
referred to Flannery's endorsement when announcing his latest plan.

But it is the future of the coal industry that has been the platform
for Flannery's most spectacular back-flips.

As a skilled media player, throughout 2006 and 2007 Flannery made
headlines by calling for the closure of "filthy" coal-fired power
plants. He argued for the withdrawal of the industry's "social licence
to operate" and said the time has come to end coal exports. He likened
coal to asbestos and attacked proposals for carbon capture and storage
as "stupid".

Then last year he executed a complete about-face, accepting
Australia's financial interest in burning and exporting coal and
supporting "clean coal" technologies like carbon capture and storage.

The effect of Flannery's frequent contradictory public interventions
on climate change has been to confuse those who look to him for
guidance. Which of his expressed opinions should they believe? What is
his solution to greenhouse pollution -- solar energy, nuclear power,
geothermal, "clean coal" or biochar?

The mish-mash of policy proposals also plays into the hands of the
polluters because a Flannery statement can be found to support almost
any position.

The same can be said for his direct political interventions.

As Australian of the Year Flannery expressed the view of many when he
condemned a "decade of delay" in which Australia under the Howard
Government had become "the worst of the worst in terms of addressing
climate change".

Yet a week before the last federal election Flannery declared that if
he were voting in Turnbull's Wentworth electorate he would vote
Liberal, thereby helping to return John Howard as Prime Minister.

Flannery's ability to write engagingly about climate science has led
some to believe he must have something sensible to say about the
solutions to global warming, a misconception Flannery amplifies by
venturing instant opinions on any topic.

But a talented science populariser can be a policy flake. When in May
2007 Tony Jones quizzed him on Lateline about emissions trading his
answers became increasingly incoherent until he had to admit "I have
no idea".

Despite his statements being available for checking, when challenged
about his back-flips Flannery claims that he has been
"misrepresented", even referring to a "conspiracy" of powerful people
trying to tear him down.

There's no conspiracy, Tim, just a deep skepticism about opportunism
when it comes to something as important as global warming.

Clive Hamilton is the author of Scorcher: The dirty politics of
climate change (Black Inc.)
Nicholas Roberts
[im] skype:niccolor
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