‘Absurd’: Barnaby rips into climate expert
Barnaby Joyce has clashed with a climate expert in a fiery debate about bushfires, coal and climate change.
And it comes as Australia considers adopting a net zero emissions target by 2050, similar to the United Kingdom and dozens of other nations, ahead of a UN climate summit in November.
The Nationals MP and US climatologist Professor Michael Mann went head to head during a 60 Minutes panel discussion which included former fire chiefs.
Prof Mann said Australia faced even more devastating bushfires in the future unless the government acted on climate change.
But Mr Joyce quickly rejected the argument: "We're not going to (put out fires) by having this incredible debate in Canberra".
He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison thinks Australia "has got to do its part and is doing its part" to combat climate change and the fire threat.
That response provoked the ire of Prof Mann.
"In all fairness Barnaby, Scott Morrison and his government have played a destructive role in global negotiations to act on climate.
"(The Coalition) have literally dismissed the connection between climate change and these unprecedented bushfires that we're experiencing.
"The scientific community has spoken authoritatively on this matter."
When asked if he accepted that the fires have been driven by global warming, Mr Joyce admitted climate change had played a role.
"I can absolutely accept that we've had a massive change in the climate. That is not my argument. My argument is one of immediate efficacy," he said.
"We're going to put back into our fire breaks, we're going to make sure we build central watering points so that no (fire) truck has to travel more than 20km.
"These are the things that I want to concentrate on."
But Prof Mann argued politicians "can't solve the problem if they refuse to accept the cause of the problem".
Mr Joyce said Australia has complied with international agreements.
"No that's not true," Prof Mann fired back.
The outspoken MP then went on to discuss the economic benefits of coal exports.
"The money that comes from that - whether you like it or not - supports our hospitals, our schools, our defence force," he said.
"(We aren't going to) say to the Australian people 'we're going to get rid of that income stream and you've got to accept that this money is not going to turn up'.
"And I'll tell you what happens in politics if you do that - you lose the election."
That prompted this response from Prof Mann: "How about the hundreds of millions of dollars being lost in tourism, the damage that's been done in these unprecedented bushfires?.
"The cost of climate inaction far outweighs the modest cost of taking action."
But again, Joyce hit back. "Are you saying that if Australia changes its domestic policies then the climate will change?.
"This idea that Australia unilaterally will make a decision that is going to change the climate is absurd."
Prof Mann said some world leaders are "basically sabotaging climate action for the entire planet".
"You can count (these countries) on the fingers of your hand. It's Saudi Arabia, it's Russia, it's the United States and Brazil. Does Australia want to be part of that family?"
But Mr Joyce said Australians will lose their "dignity" if coal exports stop and weaken Australia's economy.
"If you want to sell this program, you have to say to (the Australian people) how you're going to make their lives more affordable and put dignity back into their lives," he said.
Army General Major General Peter Dunn then jumped in with angry response.
"But what dignity have you got, Barnaby, when you are standing in the middle of rubble and saying 'how on earth did this fire happen?'," he said.
He said the "head of the serpent" fuelling bushfires is climate change.
"This country wants politicians to step up. It is the existential issue that the public have raised," he said.
"It defeats me as to why you won't step up to it. All (scientists) predictions have, damn it, turned out to be right."
ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS TARGET 'ABOUT EMOTION'
Liberal senator Eric Abetz says the prime minister should not commit to a net-zero emissions by 2050 emissions target.
It comes as the government considers a long-term emissions reduction strategy to take to the COP26 meeting in Scotland.
Mr Abetz said a long term target was based on the "emotion and not about the substance of the issue".
"Trying to forecast to 2050 is 30 years in advance. If you were to wind the clock back 30 years and say 'did men and women 30 years ago predict what is happening today?' The answer is no," Senator Abetz told Sky News.
"Similarly, trying the figure on 2050, why 2050 why not 2040 or 2060? That is all about I think the emotion and not about the substance of the issue.
"What we need to deal with is ensuring we have a sustainable energy supply while reducing our emissions as much as possible."
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said told Nine newspapers "development and deployment of new technologies" are key to reducing global emissions.
"That is where Australia can have the biggest impact on reducing global emissions," he said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said coal still had a future in Australia but renewable energy supplies would continue to grow.
"We're assessing what is both environmentally appropriate and economically responsible," Senator Cormann said.
"We will continue to make our judgments based on Australia's national interests."
Nationals MP Michelle Landry said Australia needed cheap, reliable power for the manufacturing sector.
"That's what this (strategy) is about," Ms Landry told reporters.
"What does annoy me is that there are people in Melbourne who are dead against coal, but where does the power come from?"
Inner-city Liberals are agitating for more government action on climate change. But former resources minister Matt Canavan is ramping up calls for a new coal-fired power station in Queensland.
Senator Canavan described renewable energy providers as dole bludgers.
"Renewables are the dole bludgers of the energy system, they only turn up to work when they want to," he wrote in an opinion piece for the The Courier-Mail.
Independent MP Zali Steggall is preparing to release details of her private member's bill to MPs and interest groups.
Ms Steggall wants to establish an independent climate change commission.
"It is time to take the party politics out of climate policy," she said.
"Now is the time for a rational approach to climate change."
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said the prime minister was a fool for pursuing a net zero target.
"Lets base it on science, lets base it on fact before we head down this path," Senator Hanson said.