Fiona Kotvojs has been selected as the Liberal candidate for the July 4 Eden-Monaro by-election recently vacated by Mike Kelly, who has resigned from parliament. Kotvojs lives at Dignams Creek1, which is about 15 km southwest of Narooma and 10 km northeast of Cobargo, and Kotvojs is a member of the Cobargo Rural Fire Service brigade. The odd thing about the launch of Kotvojs’ campaign was that it was in Murrumbateman, with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison in attendance. One would have expected a campaign to start in the area where she has the most recognisability, coupled with the possibility of capitalising on her membership of the Cobargo RFS. Murrumbateman is almost as far away as you can get from Cobargo and still be in the same electorate2. Why would they do this? The reason is likely to be that Murrumbateman was not burnt to a cinder like Cobargo was during the Black Summer fires, and because Cobargo was the site of Morrison’s hopeless post-fire foray, forcing a young pregnant woman (who had lost her house in the fires) to shake his hand, and an exhausted RFS volunteer to do the same3. To say this was not well received, and not only by the locals, is an understatement.
In a piece to camera during the Murrumbateman launch, Kotvojs parroted the current Liberal Party line about climate change; i.e. that they have always believed in climate change and that humans are contributing to it4. This is a way of saying ‘we don’t really believe it, but we have to say we do because even some of the people who voted for us are starting to realise that it is already happening’. However, the veracity of this statement of her ‘beliefs’ can be judged by comparing it to an opinion piece she had published on August 21, 2019 in the Australian Financial Review, which was headed ‘Disease is devastating the Pacific, not sea level scares’. It was subtitled: ‘Australia should focus on fixing real threats to Pacific Islanders rather than exaggerated ones’. The article refers to the August 2019 Pacific Islands Forum, and how that concentrated on climate change risk. She wondered whether climate change really is the greatest threat to Pacific Islands at all5. Unfortunately, she then sank to a Craig Kelly level of stupidity, using the same argument that Kelly used in one of his incoherent rants about climate change6. In this, she states that the land area of nations like Tuvalu has actually increased5. This is true but, like most Liberals, including Kelly, she lies by omission. While some of the larger islands of Tuvalu have increased in land area, the smaller islands have decreased in land area and one has disappeared entirely6. I suppose it is a bonus that she does not go the full Kelly and try to maintain that atolls float on the ocean. However, she does assert that it is a myth that these islands will eventually drown5. This shows a singular lack of understanding of the progress of sea level rise. Between 1901 and 1990 sea level rose at an average of 1.1-1.9 mm per annum. Between 1993 and 2010 sea level has risen at a rate of 2.8-3.1 mm per annum7,8. Now it has been demonstrated that the rate of sea level rise is increasing at 0.1 mm per annum9. That may not sound like much, but it means that by the end of the century, sea level could well be rising by 11 mm per annum. That is assuming that the rate of increase itself does not increase.
Kotvojs is probably more concerned with the health of those in Pacific Islands, rather than the impacts of climate change on them, because it is one of the ways she makes a quid; from government aid contracts to Kurrajong Hill Pty Ltd of which she is a prinicpal10,11.
Kotvojs also states that it is a myth that tropical cyclones are ‘increasing due to climate change’. She does not elaborate whether she means increasing in frequency or intensity, or both. In support of her assertion, she refers to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which she states says there is no evidence for the claim that they are. This is true, but in true Liberal fashion it is a lie by omission. The IPCC report to which she apparently refers, says: “There is no consensus regarding the conclusions of studies related to the behavior of tropical cyclones in a warmer world” (p. 854). However, on the same page it says “individual studies have reported the likelihood of a possible increase of approximately 10–20% in intensity of tropical cyclones under enhanced CO2 conditions (Holland, 1997; Tonkin et al. 1997)” and that other studies have shown that while the number of cyclones might decrease, their intensity is highly likely to increase12,13. Another factor seemingly ignored by Kotvojs is the interaction of tropical cyclones with sea level rise. Higher sea level causes more flooding due to storm surges. As the IPCC has reported: “Tropical cyclones are perhaps most commonly associated with extreme wind, but storm-surge and freshwater flooding from extreme rainfall generally cause the great majority of damage and loss of life (e.g., Rappaport, 2000; Webster, 2008). … Projected sea level rise will further compound tropical cyclone surge impacts”14.
There are many ways of lying and lying by omission is one of the standard ploys of the Liberal Party15. Denying science is also standard operating procedure for the Liberal Party when it suits them and their donors. However, they will lie in pretending they don’t deny it.
- Kotvojs, F., 2020. Disease is devastating the Pacific, not sea level scares. Australian Financial Review, Wednesday, 21 August.
- McCarthy, J.J. et al. (eds), 2001. Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1032 p.