Australian news, and some related international items

The Institute of Public Affairs has poisoned climate discussion in Australia

How one think tank poisoned Australia’s climate debate, Crikey  NAPIER-RAMAN, JAN 29, 2019  One of the Institute of Public Affair’s greatest successes has been to stitch climate denialism into the very fabric of the conservative political identity.

From anti-vaxxers to climate deniers to a general simmering scepticism of science, denialism in all its forms is everywhere. Crikey is presenting a four-part series on how the seeds of doubt are planted and how they blossom through media and politics. Read the first three parts here.

In the 1980s, long before there was widespread public awareness of the proximity of imminent environmental apocalypse, before climate change became a wedge issue that toppled Australian prime ministers and divided politics, free market think tanks like the Institute of Public Affairs were busy sowing the seeds of doubt.

Today, those seeds have grown into vast tendrils which have a stranglehold on politics. The IPA exists as a conduit between the respectable mainstream right, represented by the Liberal Party, and fringe climate deniers, whose marginal views are largely rejected by the rest of the scientific community. Their greatest success, mirroring that of other free market think tanks in the United States, has been to stitch climate denialism into the very fabric of the conservative political identity.

The Operation

The IPA’s fingerprints can be found across climate denialism in Australia. “Of all the serious sceptics in Australia”, IPA executive director John Roskam told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2010, “we have helped and supported just about all of them.”
The modus operandi of the IPA is clear, and ruthlessly effective. It’s most important function is to provide funding and a platform for denialism. Back in 2008, for example, it facilitated a $350,000 donation from long-term member Bryant Macfie, a Perth based doctor and prominent shareholder in a mining company, to the University of Queensland for “environmental research”.
 As deniers are increasingly pushed out of universities, the IPA continues to give their work a quasi-academic fig-leaf, bestowing titles like “research fellow” and publishing their articles in the “IPA Review”. The institute regularly publishes articles and books, with a recent tome, Climate Change: The Facts, bringing together a who’s who of Australia’s denier fringe (you can read a chapter-by-chapter review on the IPA’s website, if so inclined).
With this platform, the IPA’s warriors are able to pass themselves off as experts, and enter into the political debate, often through the airtime they are given by sympathetic conservative media. During the Rudd-Gillard years, when the institute was heavily involved with the campaign to repeal the carbon tax, its researchers made 363 radio and 261 television appearances to discuss environmental economics. Between 2010 and 2014, its research was cited 209 times in print media.
Finally, the IPA maintains financial, ideological and tactical ties with similar free market think tanks in the US. The Atlas Network, a loose configuration of free-market think tanks brings many of these organisations together, and in 2015, shortlisted the IPA for a prize over its key role in getting Gillard’s carbon tax repealed…….
The Network
The IPA is the most visible face of a labyrinthine network of smaller, more obscure organisations with which it remains indirectly connected. In 2004, it created the Eureka Forum, an attempted grassroots gathering of people from rural communities to fight back against “environmental fundamentalism”. Readfearn says the forum was part of a classic IPA tactic of creating front groups, with banal, euphemistic names…….

while a majority of Australians now believe climate change is a real threat to their future, and want more investment in renewable energy, the IPA and its allies still has a stranglehold on Australian politics.

It’s unlikely to let go without a fight.


January 4, 2020 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, politics

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