Carbon Dioxide

Extract from Senaor Nick Minchin’s Valedictory Speech-

“Perhaps the most curious thing to me on reflecting on my career is the amount of time and energy occupied by consideration of the issue of carbon dioxide. Little did I know when I entered this place 18 years ago that carbon dioxide would play such a significant role in mycareer.Education, health, defence, foreign affairs,taxation and fiscal and monetary policy—all of these I expected to dominate political discourse. But carbon dioxide? Never. As I learnt in school, carbon dioxide is a clear, odourless, tasteless and invisible gas that is actually vital to life on earth. It constitutes 0.04 per cent of the atmosphere. Nature is responsible for 97 per cent of the earth’s production of CO2; humans, just three per cent. And yet many now see anthropogenic CO2 as the greatest threat to humankind on our planet, a threat which demands no less than an economic revolution to avert. Anyone who dares question this as yet unproven theory of anthropogenic global warming is branded a denier, as we heard from my good friend Senator Evans today, and treated as a veritable pariah.

I must say that when I first learned of the existence of the Australian Greenhouse Office, I assumed it was responsible for supplying tomatoes to the Parliament House kitchen. But, no, as I soon learnt as industry minister, it was in fact a government funded redoubt of veritable soldiers in a war against carbon dioxide.The zealotry and obsessive passion of these warriors in the battle against the apparent evils of carbon dioxide remains a curiosity to me. After fighting these people for three years as industry minister, I really did wish they would just go away and grow tomatoes. I am quite surprised and rather disappointed by the loneliness, isolation and indeed demonisation the sadly misunderstood CO2 is experiencing. Thus,upon leaving the parliament, I am contemplating the foundation of an organisation called ‘The Friends of Carbon Dioxide’. Membership will of course be open to all, including the plants whose very existence depends on CO2. I think this organisation’s slogan, ‘CO2 is not pollution’, self-selects. It has both accuracy and melody to commend it. I do acknowledge the remarkable power of CO2. After all, it led me to have to do something I had thought unthinkable, and that was to resign from the coalition frontbench at the end of 2009—albeit for only a very short time. CO2 played a significant part in the demise of Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.It may well result in the demise of our current Prime Minister, so that really is some gas!

I do remain optimistic that one day the world will realise that carbon dioxide is more of a friend than an enemy to the earth’s flora and fauna, and I do seriously believe that, given the extraordinary complexity of the natural forces controlling our climate, which have done so for millions of years, the only sensible policy response to the natural process of climate change is prudent and cost-effective adaptation.”

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