Australia’s newly appointed Minister for Energy and Resources, Gary Gray, admitted he was once a fierce climate sceptic, but now says he is embarrassed by his former position on climate science.
Asked on ABC TV’s Lateline program, Gray admitted that he had once branded climate science as a middle class conspiracy, as pop science, and he had attended the inaugural meeting of the Lavoisier Group in May, 2000, an Australian group dedicated to repudiating climate science.
“I was a vocal climate skeptic,” Gray said. “I said things that frankly embarrass me when I hear them played back.”
He added later: “I attended the inaugural meeting of the Lavoisier group. I counted and still count as friends members of that organization. I just don’t agree with them any more.”
Gray said there was “no doubt” about the climate science and there was an undeniable link between carbon pollution and industrial activity, which the world needed to address, and “we can address.”
As the Minster for Resources, Gray – a former executive with Woodside Petroleum – will oversee projects worth several hundred billion of dollars in coal mining and liquefied natural gas.
He said he saw little difference between himself and his predecessor Martin Ferguson, or indeed Ian Macfarlane, who preceded Ferguson and will likely emerge as Energy and Resources minister again should the conservative parties win the election in September, as polls predict.
“I fit comfortably in that vein,” Gray said. “It will be business as usual.” In an interview with Radio National’s Breakfast program, Gray said it was true that he was “close” to the resources industry.
That may not offer much comfort to The Greens or environmental groups, who have decried his appointment as favouring the fossil fuel industry.
“I wouldn’t expect my appointment to be applauded by the Greens. I’m not a green, and any Green who thinks I am a Green is mistaken,” Gray said.
However, Greens leader Christine Milne – referring to the global carbon budget that has been highlighted by the UN, International Energy Agency, the IMF, HSBC Bank, and Standard & Poor’s – says that Gray could not have it both ways.
“So Gary Gray you have changed your mind on climate science … what does that now mean for expanded coal mining and exports?” she said in a statement.
“You either accept the science and accept the overwhelming volume of existing fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground in order to have any hope of constraining global warming to less than two degrees.”
“Or you accept the science and with informed consent you drive fossil fuel extraction, climate change and extreme weather events. Which is it Gary Gray?”
He was not posed any questions about the electricity industry, or on renewable energy. The former union leader is the member for Brand, in Western Australia, which has one of the highest penetrations of rooftop solar in the country.