Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Double-speak on Coal

By Ian Lowe

The Turnbull government’s support for the coal industry relies on twisted logic.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

As world leaders gathered in Paris for the long-anticipated climate change talks, the Australian government appeared frozen into embarrassing inaction by the deal done to secure the prime ministership for Malcolm Turnbull.

To reassure the nervous members of the lunar right, who conspired to remove Turnbull from the leadership in 2009 because he supported action on climate change, it seems clear that Turnbull agreed to stick to the Abbott government’s discredited “direct action” approach.

He and his ministers have also continued to support expansion of the export coal industry, using a twisted logic that Tony Abbott himself would have been proud of. As Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute has pointed out, Turnbull defended the export coal industry with two arguments that cannot possibly both be true. He said that it would not reduce greenhouse gas emissions if Australia did not export coal, as other producers would fill the gap. He also said that Australia’s coal was lifting some of the poorest people in the world out of “energy poverty”. As Denniss said, if our coal is helping those without electricity by adding extra energy, it is therefore increasing greenhouse gas emissions. If it is not adding to the climate change problem, then it is not providing extra energy and alleviating “energy poverty”.

It is now clear that the government’s...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.