Hereís the transcript from my confrontation yesterday with alarmist Tim Flannery on MTR 1377. (Listen here.)
It was extraordinary to have Flannery deny what I had before me in black and white - his wilder predictions, his previous support for nuclear power - and even stranger to have him claim that non-existent desalination plants save cities such as Brisbane from avoiding the warming-caused dry he predicted.
Iím sorry I ran out of time to ask him about the $90 million his geothermal investment received from the Rudd Government last year, his conflicts of interest, his concession that there had been an inexplicable pause in global warming, his frequent-flying hypocrisy, his baseless scare about Antarctic melting, his involvement in Sir Richard Brazenís joy-flights in space and more. But enjoy:
Flannery: Iím unlikely to vote for him because my trust has been eroded awayÖ He promised to deliver an emissions trading scheme and heís then withdrawn that with very little justificationÖ
Bolt: He said he wouldnít move now until the rest of the world did something which is a direct repudiation of what he said before. But, Tim, part of the reason, of course, that heís backed down is that thereís been a great swing in sentiment against this kind of thing, thereís a rising tide of scepticism. How much are you to blame for some of that?
Flannery : There is some swing in sentiment. And I think itís very hard to maintain any issue with that sort of very high level of support for a long time. So thereís some, but what is happening around the world should give us all heart. Weíve seen China now pledged to reduce is emissions intensity by over 40 per cent.
Bolt: Itís still going to build a coal-fired power station every week or so.
Flannery: And what that is going to do if thatís achieved by 2020 is put us on track to avoid dangerous climate change. But for us to do that, places like Australia and the US, the wooden spooners in this debate, actually have to do their part.
Bolt: But, Tim, Iím just wondering, there has been a rise in scepticism. Thatís precisely why the Liberals, for example, have switched from supporting an ETS to opposing it ... and they dumped their leader over it. Now Iím wondering to what extent are you to blame for rising scepticism about some of the more alarming claims about global warming.
Flannery : Well, many of the things that scientists highlight may happen are very alarming. Theyíre not alarmist but they are worrisome. Rises in sea-level for instance are a significant issue.
Bolt: Well, letís go through some of your own claims. You said , for example, that Adelaide may run out of water by early 2009. Their reservoirs are half full now. You said Brisbane would probably run out of water by 2009. They are now 97 per cent full. And Sydney could be dry as early as 2007. Their reservoirs are also more than half full. How can you get away with all these claims?
Flannery: What I have said is that there is a water problem. They may run out of water. And ..
Bolt: 100 per cent full, nearly!
Flannery: And thankfully, Andrew, governments have taken that to heart and been building some desalination capacity such as in Perth.
Bolt: Only in Perth.
Flannery: No, thereís plans in every capital city..
Bolt: No, no, no, you said Brisbane would run out of water possibly by as early as 2009. Thereís no desalination plant, thereís no dam. Itís now 100 per full.
Flannery: Thatís a lie, Andrew. I didnít say it would run out of water. I donít have a crystal ball in front of me. I said Brisbane has a water problem.
Bolt: Iíll quote your own words: ĒWater supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months.Ē That was, on the timeline you gave, by the beginning of 2009. Their reservoirs are now 97 per cent full.
Flannery: Yeah, sure. Thereís variability in rainfall. They still need a desal plant.
Bolt: You also warned that Perth would be the 21 centuryís first ghost metropolis.
Flannery: I said it wasÖ may.
Bolt: Itís all ďmayĒ.
Right? Because at that stage there had been no flows into that water catchment for a year and the water engineers were terrified.
Bolt: Have you seen the water catchment levels here, see, theyíre tracking above the five year level. Iím showing you now.
Flannery: You know what I came in here to talk about, Andrew, here? itís our farm day weíre doing with our Deakin lecture series in Bendigo, at the Bendigo town hall today. And itís a really exciting eventÖ
Andrew: All thatís lovely, Tim. But I think you need to be held to account for the alarmism that is in part your stock in trade, your schtick,, and is responsible for what you now see -- the retreat from global warming policies.
Flannery: You want to paint me as an alarmist.
Bolt: You are an alarmist.
Flannery: Iím a very practical person.
Bolt: I 'm asking you to defend these quotes.
Flannery: Well, Iíve done that already
Bolt: You said the Arctic could be ice free two years ago.
Flannery: No I didnítÖ
[Price interrupts, and we argue over the questioning.]
Bolt: Iím asking Tim whether he repents from all these allegations about cities running out of water, cities turning into ghost cities, sea level rises up to an eight storey high building. Donít you think that is in part why people have got more sceptical.
Flannery: I donít, actually, because some of those things are possibilities in the future if we continue polluting as we do. And weíve already seen impacts in southern Australia on all of those cities. Everyone remembers the water restrictions and so forth. Just because we get a good, wet year doesnít mean we should forget about the problem. We actually have to deal with this long term drying trend and that means securing our water supply.
Bolt: You warn about sea level rises up to an eight-storey building. How soon will that happen?
Flannery: Asking that question is itís a bit like asking a stock analyst when the next stock market crash is going to happen and how big itís going to be. No one can. We can all see the underlying weakness in the market in the months before the crash..
Bolt: Thousands of years?
Flannery: Could be thousands of years.
Bolt: Tens of thousands of years?
Flannery: Could be hundreds of years.
Bolt: Hundreds of years?
Flannery: It could be hundreds of years. The thermo- dynamics of ice sheets are very, very difficult to predict., but what we do know when we look back is the fossil record is that when the world is a degree or two warmer than it is now seal levels rise very significantly - between four and 14 metres above where they are. We canít say how long it takes for that rise to happen because the fossil record just isnít good enough, it isnít accurate enoughÖ
Bolt: Should we also have nuclear power plants?
Flannery: In Australia I donít think so. Weíve got such a great load of assets in the renewable area that I donít think thereís an argument here that they are ever going to be economic.
Bolt: Four years ago you did. What changed your mind?
Flannery: No, I never did. Iíve always had the same argument.
Bolt: No, no, no. Hereís your quote: ďOver the next two decades Australians could use nuclear power to replace all our coal --fired power plants. We would then have a power infrastructure like France and in doing so we would have done something great for the worldĒ. That was your quote.
Flannery: I donít recall saying that at all.
Bolt: You wrote it. You wrote it in The Age. There it is, highlighted.
Flannery: Well ,very good.
Bolt: Thatís the point, you know, you make these claims and when people confront you , you walk away from them.
Flannery: But that was about ďmayĒ. No, no, you said ďmayĒ. And Australia may be able to do that. Itís not what I recommend and I never have recommended it. But what I do sayÖ
Bolt: ďWe would have done something great for the worldĒ.
Flannery: But what I do say, nuclear power, right, getting away from coal would be great for the world. Why should we take the most expensive option in this country, which has always been recognised as having the most expensive and difficult option. We are going to see a whole lot of other technologies and innovations which are now well under way which we could use instead of nuclear power.
Bolt: Such as?
Flannery: Such as concentrated PV technology, geothermal technology, wave power, wind powerÖ
Bolt: Youíre an investor in geothermal technology , arenít you?
Flannery: Yeah, I am. Indeed.
Bolt: How come you donít declare that.
Flannery: Well, Iíve just done it.
Bolt: You just did because I told you. You said that geothermal , which you are in investor of, youíve got a plant, youíve invested in a plant in Innamincka and you said the technology was really easy. How come.that plant....
Flannery: Not really that easy.
Bolt: Well, yes. Itís actually had technological difficulties and itís been delayed two years because itís not that easy, after all, is it?
Flannery: Well, any new technology is going to be difficult to bring to fruition. Itís a bit like generation for nuclear. Thereís challenges all the way. But in terms of geothermal there are many places in the world where you can actually drill down and get into a hot rock body such as ...
Price: Andrew, weíre going to have to go.