Rupert Murdoch is chairman and CEO of News Corporation, one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, which includes Fox News and The Wall Street Journal. Since launching The Australian newspaper 50 years ago he has also become one of the richest people in the world. In a wide-ranging interview aired Sunday in Australia to mark this 50-year anniversary, Murdoch reflected candidly on climate change, saying he thought it should be approached with great skepticism.
“At the moment the north pole is melting but the south pole is getting bigger,” he said. “Things are happening. How much of it are we doing, with emissions and so on? As far as Australia goes? Nothing in the overall picture.”
While Antarctica has been losing ice more slowly than the Arctic, and the geopolitical implications are less salient, studies show that parts of the massive continent’s ice sheet have entered irreversible decline and that melting is likely to accelerate.
Australia is one of the most greenhouse gas intense economies in the world, relying heavily on coal exports. The country passed a carbon price in 2011 but since last year the conservative government led by Murdoch-supported prime minister Tony Abbott has been trying to repeal it. The latest attempt ended in disarray last week after several senators rebelled at the last minute.
Murdoch said that if temperatures rose under the worst case scenario 3C (5.4F) over the next 100 years ”at the very most one of those [degrees] would be manmade.”
He did not explain this back-of-the-envelope calculation. Or that average global temperatures could increase by as much as 11.5°F by 2100, depending on the level of future greenhouse gas emissions, according to recent climate models. A recent study found that temperatures are likely to rise by at least 4C by 2100, twice the level deemed safe and an outcome that would lead to widespread devastation.
This would be especially harmful along coastlines, where much of the world’s population lives. Murdoch addressed this issue saying ”If the sea level rises six inches, that’s a big deal in the world, the Maldives might disappear or something, but OK, we can’t mitigate that, we can’t stop it, we have to stop building vast houses on seashores.”
While six inches of sea level rise would certainly be life-threatening to low-lying coastal communities, which can include millions of people such as is the case in Bangladesh, Murdoch again lowballed the numbers. According to the IPCC’s recent projections, sea level will rise 9.8 to 48 inches — far over a meter — by 2100. This could impact five percent of the world’s population, or 600 million people, and reduce global GDP by up to 10 percent.
Australia is often referred to as the sunburned country, and on top of massive fossil fuel deposits it is endowed with outstanding renewable resources such as wind and solar. A recent study found that Australia could cut emissions from its energy sector to zero by 2050 and still grow GDP by an average of 2.4 percent over that period.
However Murdoch is far more concerned with his bottom line than that of emissions. ”We can be the low-cost energy country in the world,” he said. “We shouldn’t be building windmills and all that rubbish.”