In Locked-Down Australia, Bad News Good, Good News Bad

Peter Smith09 Aug, 2021 5 Min Read
Once a penal colony, always a penal colony.

Disdain for the progressive media cuts me off from 95 percent and more of news commentary. Luckily, from very little that’s true or uplifting. How do I know, you might ask, if I don’t read or watch it? Well, I have to admit to occasionally refreshing my disdain.

Living in the hermit kingdom of Sydney under yet another dystopian Covid stay-at-home order, replete with troops on the streets, I had time on my hands and switched idly from watching Fox News to BBC World News. As it happened, the presenter was interviewing Professor John Thwaites, chair of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and of Climate Works Australia; a professional climate alarmistWhy was Thwaites being interviewed? Basically, to add to the gloating about Australia earning a wooden spoon; having been awarded last place in taking “climate action,” according to a U.N. sponsored report.

Notice something about those alarmed by the impending climate catastrophe. They get immeasurable sanctimonious pleasure from bad news. Whether it is bush fires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, etc.; or, as I will come to later, coral bleaching. Bad news is good news for them.

A face only a mother could love: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

The report, issued by a bunch of economists calling themselves Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), evaluated the “sustainable development” performance of almost 200 countries across 17 categories; climate action being one of the categories. Oh yes, I should mention, Thwaites is one of the co-chairs of a council overseeing the work of SDSN.

Climate action, we are informed by SDSN, is judged on four criteria: CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production; CO2 emissions embodied in imports and, separately, in exports; and progress in implementing carbon pricing. Being the second largest coal exporter obviously didn’t do Australia any favours. At the same time, I can’t work out how Australia managed to beat Indonesia, the exporter of the largest amount of coal, and China, the builder of most new coal-power stations, into last place.

Last in terms of taking climate action, really? Those disquieting reports of wind and solar farms being built across the Australian landscape must be gross exaggerations. I looked at some numbers. To wit, per capita generation of electricity from wind plus sun in 2020. Lo and behold, Australia (1584 KWH) outdid the USA (1421 KWH), the UK (1284 KWH), Canada (1006 KWH) and China (505 KWH). I’m beginning to feel aggrieved that our magnificent achievement in erecting ugly, inefficient and intermittent energy totems is not being sufficiently appreciated.

I think the U.N. and their hangers-on have it in for Australia because we won’t agree to go along with the globally-woke in-crowd and voice commitment to zero-net emissions by 2050. My advice to Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is to just say it. You know you want to but for those few pesky conservatives still clinging on in your party room. And, best of all, you don’t have to mean it, nobody else does. Nobody else has a clue about how to get there either.

Morrison: good thing he's a "conservative."

Coming last on climate action was compounded by more bad news. Or, was it? And then there was relief from good news. Or, was it? Again, it all depends on your point of view.

UNESCO threatened to declare the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) “in danger;” which would give this highly politicised and compromised organisation license to busy-body itself into Australia’s climate affairs. You might recall that Donald Trump sensibly withdrew the United States from UNESCO. Not a chance Australia will have the gumption to follow suit.

A first view was that China put UNESCO up to it. Australia is firmly in Xi Jinping’s bad books for wanting an inquiry into the Wuhan lab, among other wanton anti-Chinese provocations from another of America’s running dogs. Though it turns out that hypocritical oil and gas exporter, pipsqueak Norway (pop. 5½ million) was the principal party behind it.

Anyway, Australia’s marine scientists were overjoyed at this “bad news.” Nothing they would like better than the reef being declared in danger. After all, they have spent decades foreshadowing its imminent demise. Keeping the research funds coming depends on keeping the reef endangered.

Then just as things were going swimmingly, ill-timed “good news” from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). It reported an upsurge in coral on the reef. Whether it’s the Northern part of the reef (up 27 percent since 2018/19), Central (up 26 percent), or Southern (up 39 percent), it’s all on the up and up. And that indeed was “bad news” for marine scientists, coming shortly before UNESCO was to pronounce judgement. Sure enough, UNESCO backed off, for now.

Peter Ridd, former professor at James Cook University, and expert on the reef, averred that coral on parts of the GBR was at a “record level” (The Australian 23 July, paywalled). The real danger he said is that the coral, as a matter of normal course, will fall from this record level, providing a fresh pretext for alarmism. But then he’s an outcast. He criticised the quality of his colleagues’ scientific research on the reef in 2017; maintaining that the reef was robust and healthy. He was sacked in 2018. Toe the party line or be cancelled.

His case for unfair dismissal has now reached the Australian High Court and will be decided shortly. At stake is the free speech of a dwindling sub-species: academics wedded to evidence rather than to an activist agenda.

We're still all right, mate!

And, as for the evidence on the state of the GBR? It’s unequivocal. The reef’s blooming. Ridd has been proved right. Ergo, those who’ve been relentlessly propagating scare stories recanted? Wrong! They immediately went into face-saving mode. Some examples.

Coral reef scientist Susan Ward: “another heat wave could wipe away this good progress.” Marine scientists James Cook and Scott Heron: “signs of recovery should not distract from the underlying threat to the reef.” And here is chief executive of AIMS Paul Hardisty, no doubt feeling guilty about his organisation’s upbeat report: “There is some encouraging news in this report and another good year would continue the recovery process, but we also have to accept the increasing risk of marine heatwaves that can lead to coral bleaching and the need for the world to reduce carbon emissions.”

There it is. When bad news is good news and good news bad. This is the perverted worldview I prefer not to have streamed into my living room, as I said at the start.

After a career in economics, banking and payment-systems management, Peter Smith now blogs on the topics of the day. He writes for Quadrant, Australia’s leading conservative online site and magazine. He has written Bad Economics, of which, he notes, there is much.

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