"Fossil fuels protect us': Liberal backbencher tells party not to worry about climate
Craig Kelly, a prominent Liberal Party backbencher, has told party members in Sydney they should not worry about climate change and that fossil fuels were among the reasons "we are so safe".
Addressing a gathering of members last week at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club, Mr Kelly said "we've always had dangerous weather" and that "even the climate has changed in space".
"The reality is today, we live in a time where our generation has never ever been as safe from the climate at any time in human history," Mr Kelly told the group on Wednesday, according to a recording of his speech.
"The climate was always dangerous. We didn't make it dangerous, [and] it's fossil fuels that protect us from that climate."
Mr Kelly's comments come as scientists from around the world gather in South Korea before next Monday's release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's special report into the effects of a 1.5-degree warming.
The report is expected to detail likely impacts, including that as much as 90 per cent of the world's coral reefs will die at that threshold.
The Bureau of Meteorology and other international agencies estimate the planet has already warmed more than 1 degree in the past century. The Paris Climate accord, signed in 2015 by almost 200 nations including Australia, agreed to cap warming to 1.5-2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change that would include more extreme weather.
Mr Kelly, though, told his audience - that he numbered at about 100 people - "30 years ago, the temperature was the same globally about where it was today".
For its part, the bureau says all of the 10 warmest years on record have happened since 1998. 2016 was the warmest, with 2015 and 2017 "effectively indistinguishable" in second place.
Mr Kelly, who is chair of the backbench energy committee, told Fairfax Media his argument "was not something I've made up - it's based on empirical evidence". Droughts had not got worse, nor had tornadoes, cyclones or other extreme weather, he said.
Among his sources was a 2011 report by the US-based Reason Foundation, "Wealth and Safety: The Amazing Decline in Deaths from Extreme Weather in an Era of Global Warming, 1900–2010".
"The decreases in the numbers of deaths and death rates reflect a remarkable improvement in society’s adaptive capacity, likely due to greater wealth and better technology, enabled in part by use of hydrocarbon fuels," the report said.
The foundation has close links to David H. Koch, one of the billionaire Koch brothers who have been big backers of the fossil fuel industry, according to climate action advocacy groups such as DeSmog.
Mr Kelly said Australia's Paris target was "the most onerous of any nation in the world because of our high rates of population growth".
"The vast majority [of nations] have only signed up [to Paris] because they want to get their hands on a pile of cash," he told the group.
Mr Kelly cited a 2015 report by climate sceptic Bjorn Lomborg in Global Policy journal, that argues if all the nations acted on their Paris pledges, global warming would be just one 20th of a degree by 2100.
Critics of Mr Lomborg's paper, though, responded that the Danish economist's results were "almost entirely due to the assumptions he makes", and failed to acknowledge temperature projections will be "determined primarily" by the effect of emissions that accumulate after 2030.
Senator Jim Molan, who was also present, described Mr Kelly's speech to party members as "absolutely fabulous".