Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott listens to a question from a reporter during a press conference at RAAF base Pearce on March 31, 2014 in Perth, Australia.
Credit: Paul Kane-Pool

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott does not care about the environment. Full stop.

Since taking power almost a year ago, Abbott's administration has done some really terrible things when it comes to climate change and environmental protection. He's axed a carbon tax, slashed funding to green initiatives, authorized dredging near the Great Barrier Reef, overseen a shark cull off the coast of Western Australia and asked UNESCO to remove 74,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania from its list of world heritage sites. (Fortunately, he failed on this last one.)

These things are insane. And you've got to wonder: Who's giving Abbott his policy advice?

A lot of evidence points to this guy: Maurice Newman.

Newman, a known climate denier and  chair of Abbott's Business Advisory Council, raised eyebrows this week with an opinion piece in the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Australian newspaper in which he warned of the threat posed by "global cooling."  What's worse, he argued, is that all the time and effort people have spent worrying about global warming has left Australia unprepared to deal with falling temperatures caused by a sharp drop in solar activity. 

Yep, that’s right, folks. Scientists and other reasonable, Earth-dwelling humans aren't just wrong about climate change — they've got the whole thing backward. As for all the scientific evidence that the planet is heating up as a result of greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity? Nope. It's the sun, dammit!

Before we go any further, check out the Guardian's "fact check" of Newman's claims. 

Newman argued in the piece that we're heading toward a period of cooling that could threaten global peace, food and energy supply. It's out of our hands. And current government measures tackling climate change, such as the now defunct carbon tax, are like “primitive civilizations offering up sacrifices to appease the gods.” The sun does what the sun does.

“What if the warmth the world has enjoyed for the past 50 years is the result of solar activity, not man-made CO2?” Newman said. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its acolytes pay scant attention to any science, however strong the empirical evidence, that may relegate human causes to a lesser status.”

Newman, who is not a scientist, said the “political establishment” was ignoring the risk of global cooling because “having put all our eggs in one basket and having made science a religion, it bravely persists with its global warming narrative, ignoring at its peril and ours, the clear warnings being given by mother nature.

His conclusion? “If the world does indeed move into a cooling period, its citizens are ill-prepared.”

Mic drop.

The piece was, not surprisingly, ridiculed on social media and by actual climate scientists. Many people began calling for Abbott to dump Newman as chief business adviser.

“Maurice Newman's latest statements are channelling the flat earth commentary of a lunatic fringe,” said Adam Brandt, who represents the Greens party in parliament.

“There’s nothing credible to what he says," Professor Matthew England of the University of NSW Climate Change Research Center in Sydney told the Guardian. "I can’t believe this stuff about cosmic rays is being raised again after it has been discredited so often... Saying we aren’t prepared for global cooling is like saying we aren’t prepared for an alien invasion. There is no credible scientist saying this is on the horizon.” 

It's hard to know much influence Newman has on Abbott's environmental policy. But given Newman's senior advisory position and Abbott's disregard for climate change — he once described the science behind climate change as "absolute crap" — it seems like they're on the same page when it comes to destroying the environment for financial gain.

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