A tiny Pacific island nation whose existence is threatened by climate change has invited Tony Abbott to see for himself whether increased global temperatures are doing “more good than harm”.
Mr Abbott sparked outrage on Tuesday for likening climate scientists to “thought police” and claiming climate change is “probably doing good, or at least, more good than harm”.
The former PM’s remarks to London’s Global Warming Policy Foundation were branded “loopy” by Labor, “bullsh–t” by the Greens, and come as the Turnbull government agonises over its response to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s clean energy target proposal.
The suggestion global warming was beneficial because “far more people die in cold snaps” also raised eyebrows in the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu, where global warming was “already like a weapon of mass destruction”, according to Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga.
Sakavae Taomia, a spokesman for Mr Sopoaga, told The New Daily Mr Abbott was welcome to see for himself the damage being wrought by global warming in his country.
“We are at the forefront of climate change and we know things are changing,” he said by phone from the capital Funafuti, a 2.4 square kilometre coral atoll where more than half the population lives.
“I think Tony Abbott needs to revisit his climate change perspective. It would be good to have a definition of what is ‘good’ from him. To see what he means by doing more ‘good’.
“A visit would be a good opportunity for him to experience it for himself.”
According to the London School of Economics, up to 1.7 million people could be displaced by climate change across the Pacific Islands.
Tuvalu, which consists of three islands and six scattered low-lying atolls, has become a symbol for the human impact of global warming.
Amid warnings the world’s fourth-smallest nation could be completely swallowed up by rising sea levels in 30 to 50 years, Fiji recently said it would offer refuge to Tuvaluans displaced by climate change.
“The impact will be the reality of living with less land available if the sea is rising. There will be increased intensity in terms of cyclones. You can see, Cyclone Winston in Fiji wiped out one-third of the economy. That will certainly affect Tuvalu,” Mr Taomia told The New Daily.
“The coral bleaching will affect our fish and therefore our economy, which depends on fisheries. People will have to deal with less crop land being available due to salt water intrusion.”
Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn next month, Mr Sopoaga recently claimed Australia was “stuck in the dark ages” by relying on fossil fuels.
Mr Taimoia said Tuvalu had not given up hope of saving the country.
“We don’t want to be labelled climate change refugees,” Mr Taimoia said.
“We want to stay here. It’s our heritage. It’s our cultural identity. We don’t want to leave Tuvalu, but the consequences are real.”
Mr Abbott, who once described human-caused climate change as “crap”, argued on Tuesday that it was “climate change policy that’s doing harm”.
“In most countries, far more people die in cold snaps than in heat waves, so a gradual lift in global temperatures, especially if it’s accompanied by more prosperity and more capacity to adapt to change, might even be beneficial,” Mr Abbott said.
He also likened environmentalists’ approach to tackling climate change to “primitive people once [killing] goats to appease the volcano gods”.
Mr Abbott’s political ally Craig Kelly, a Liberal MP, backed the former PM’s comments, saying he was right to say that as a low-emitter Australia could have no impact on global temperatures.
In 2015, the then-Prime Minister was overheard laughing at a joke from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton about the plight of Pacific Island nations facing rising seas from climate change.
Mr Abbott’s spokesman was contacted for comment.