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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The Big Scare « Previous | |Next »
June 4, 2007

So John Howard at the Liberal Party's federal council embraced the need to do something about climate change with a plan for an emissions trading scheme by 2012 .It involves the "aspirational goal" for reducing emissions to be set next year and short-term caps to be set in 2010, and so cannot be taken as a serious policy to address a key problem. There is a disconnection between any meaningful policy platform and the rhetorical objectives.

What the speech was about was developing a scare campaign--a Garrett recession resulting from cutting greenhouse gases at the expense of the economy.


Was there any modelling referred to? Nope. The proof is that Labor had set a target to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent of 2000 levels by 2050 and an 20% cut in emissions cuts by 2020. This would shut down the country's entire coal-fired electricity network and take every car off the road. As there were no targets or no measures Howard is addressing climate change as a political problem.

Trust me says Howard. I'm not a destroyer. I'll protect you from recession. But he doesn't talk about price to make the shift away from greenhouse emissions. The price will be set by the market. Price presupposes caps. There are no caps to to cut emissions.

Why trust Howard when the modelling that has been done does not produce doomsday predictions. Rather, it shows the size of the Australian economy will double by 2050 even with big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions:

Modelling last year by the Allen Consulting Group for the Business Roundtable on Climate Change estimated gross domestic product would rise at an annual rate of 2.1 per cent if Australia adopted a target of 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared with 2.2 per cent if nothing was done.The analysis showed the economy, now about $1 trillion, would reach $2 trillion by 2047 if there was no greenhouse gas policy change. But it will only take another 2½ years to reach that level with a 60 per cent greenhouse gas reduction target.Another way of putting it is that GDP will be about 5-6 per cent lower than it would have otherwise been by 2050, with an ambitious abatement scheme.

A paper by the economists Steve Hatfield-Dodds, of the CSIRO, and Philip Adams, of Monash University, built on the Allen Consulting Group modelling, says that with a 60 per cent reduction in carbon emissions the economy will grow by 169 per cent over the 45 years to 2050, rather than by 184 per cent.

So we have a Liberal campaign about fear on interest rates (the economy) the unions (IR) and climate change (economy). It's all been reduced to creating fear about managing the economy and scaring the voters. Not very future orientated, is it.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:46 AM | | Comments (27)


Heard Howard on a.m. this morning, and he sounded awful.

His delivery has really left him.

As to the content, yep - this is going to be a pure fear campaign from the Coalition.

Every scary bogeyman they can drag up from the depths is going to be thrown at the ALP.

Will it work? Possibly, fear is a pretty powerful emotion. Labor has to be able to counter the fear effectively with a hopeful message that conversely plays on the fear of the consequences of inaction.

are you referring to the extract from Howard's speech to the Liberal Party's federal council that was played on ABC AM?

It sounded like a list of cliches and stock phrases strung together. Headlines for the media--eg., a Garrett recession we don't have to have?

But this rhetoric is having an effecton the electorate judging from the boost in support in the Galaxy polling.

Way too early to look at the Galaxy results - it feels like an outlier to me, c.f. the other polls.

5 points in a month? Unlikely, especially as no other poll has seen that. I had to laugh at Chris Ullman's interpreatation, which was basically that we in the know know better than the polls, na na na. An awful bit of analysis by him. No hint from him that 5 points out of the blue sounded a bit suspicous. Nope, found a poll result he liked and off he went. The man should be on Howard's staff - his bias is palpable in every report now.

Howard's speech was full of cliches and stock phrases, which were bad enough, but the actual delivery, where he placed emphasis in the words was jarring - something I can't remember him doing previously - it felt like he was straining too hard to deliver his (negative) message - it was almost a begging tone.

are you referring to this transcript on the ABC's The World Today---the Chris Uhlmann who is their Chief Political Correspondent? That's Friday's transcrpt.

Was he on today?

Yep, on A.M. Had some excerpts from Howard, and Ullman salivating over a relatively good Coalition poll.

what disturbs me about this at a policy level is that Treasury hasn't done any modelling on the costs of climate change for the Australian economy. They have a small Greenhouse unit but they only started work six-seven weeks ago --about the time the speech by Ken Henry, the Treassury Secretary was leaked.

The unit has not been asked to do any modelling by the Treasurer (great economic management huh) nor did they do anything for the Prime Minister's Trading Task Force.

According to the head of greenhouse unit (Ms. Marryanne Mrakovcic) they (around 11 people) are only at the stage of trying to understand the modelling that is out there.

So theLiberals have no figures to back up their economic destruction claim re the ALP's policies. Hence the whole exercise --Howard putting off any decisions on targets until after the election--is designed to attack the ALP 's commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 60% of 2000 levels by 2050.

Focus polling must indicate that Garrett cannot be popular in the outer suburban seats. Presumably he looks reckless and fanatical. So the risk of change is too great. Trust me to get things right says Howard. Any change is a change for the worse. Don't judge the ALP by what they say, but by what they have done he adds.

These were the political messages from Howard's Liberal Federal Council speech.

They really are hoping that this Greenhouse thing isn't that bad, aren't they!

Their place in history, if it is bad is going to be truly awful. The great deniers, the great shirker's of responsibility, trapped in a dysfunctional paradigm of their own creation.

Basically monsters, because it is fairly evident that the level of concern in the electorate is high on the issue.

I sincerely hope that we have a change of government, giving this mob another three years to fiddle at the edges is a truly apalling prospect.

Indeed - Howard well knows that "fear and greed" are the two great motivators. Along with his "Honest John" presentation, Howard has successfully manipulated the voting public for the past 10 or more years, with mantras on these two themes.
He can probably do it again.
Not a mention in the Liberal "climate change policy" of making it attractive for the community to cut down on their energy use. The renewable energy targets are set to disappear altogether. As for any real action on reducing fossil fuels - well the only real policy on action is to delay it, (except for the industry of course, and we conveniently forget its carbon emissions in the uranium to nuclear cycle!)

yep--the marketing profile for those to whom Howard is speaking would have to be something like this:

those of us who are aspirational--we have two cars including a 4wheel drive, a McMansion, record wages, a boat, kids in a private religious school to get some values , and an investment property---need a realistic approach to climate change. We are not going to vote to sack a successful government that has delivered prosperity because there is no evidence that this would be a change for the better. The ALP has not changed its unionist spots. We need to go slow on this climate change stuff because it's not clear that there is any need to take steps to fix the problem of a small rise in temperatures.

The message is that John is on the right course. He just has to get his messages out there, whilst the Lberals need to avoid getting trapped in being spooked by the polls.

My position is that without targets to reduce emissions Howard's climate change policy has little policy credibility. He doesn't actually care about climate change per se. He just trying to pretend so as to win the election. The report gives him the legitimacy to move slowly and to put nuclear power on the table.

I have yet to read the Shergold Report from the Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading. From what I can gather from a skim through the good news is:

#Australia should begin to implement an emissions trading scheme and not wait for other countries.
#the market not the government should decide howbest to reduce emissions.the Australian Government sets a national framework for reducing greenhouse gases and
then lets the market set the carbon price.
#"technology neutral", which means mandatory renewable energy targets would be abolished in favour of letting the market decide which energy source is the most likely to reduce emissions.
#the broadness of the scheme in term of covering emitters(70%) Agriculture is exempted.

On the other hand, the downside of the Report is that:

#the low impost of carbon in the early years will not put enough pressure on industry to invest in cleaner energy.
# the failure to set caps (targets) until 2010
#the safety valve of free permits for big energy users
#nuclear power is the key.

The Report reads like delaying making the shift to a non-carbon economy. We must move slowly and carefully. The executive summary reads like a document to protect industry:

Australia’s natural resource and fossil fuel–energy endowments have helped underpin our economic growth and prosperity. Access to low-cost energy is a source of competitive advantage for Australia, contributing to the development of a range of energy-intensive industries.

It's about lots of protection for the power and resources industry.

The Report's focus is more about the cost to industry than makign the shift to sustainable or clean energy. I found no mention of a tipping point. There seems to be little concern for the effects of climate change on Australia, what it could mean apart from higher prices for electricity, and no thought as to what an ecologically sustainable future might look like.


That's my definite impression. Of course, it is no surprise that the inquiry delivered exactly what Howard was asking for.

I don't think that the idea of a tipping point has penetrated their thinking.

If we reach it, then what follows is out of our control until the climate re-equilibrates itself. Goodness knows what sort of world we will have left to live on.

What you have in Canberra is the hope that somehow nuclear power will come in around 2017 and beyond. Problem solved.

A core problem in energy is the lack of meaningful policy actions to get renewables and energy efficiency into the mainstream.

A reason for this failure is conservative thinking within the Canberra bureaucracy. The different departments assume that new renewable energy technologies are not capable of providing a secure energy supply to keep the economy growing.

What you have is a culture amongst senior civil servants that it is akin to fairy tales to get Austrlia's energy from decentralised, renewable, new ways. The only way to get your energy from big centralised power plants. Hence big coal-fired power station and the modern nuclear power plants.

So you have a certain need to pay lip service to renewables in Canberra but no attempts to seriously try and solve the problems to make renewables happen.

So they go offshore to California or China taking jobs with them.

Gary, your point about Howard not caring is right on the mark I feel. Nuclear power stations are on his agenda and all else is just a reason to fast track it.
The only other thing I can add is that Chairman Beattie has just proclaimed a phasing out of electric hot water systems by 2010 in Qld.

I have previously predicted the election date to be August 25 but am inclined to think that it has moved closer to the 18th now which is 10 weeks from this Saturday.
The first "Enrol to Vote" ads have just begun to surface.

John Howard knows just how easy it is to sway voters his way, but all the tricks of the political trade that he comes up with now that the time is near for a federal election, but this time, he stands as much chance as a snowball in hell, Boat people children overboard his role in the murder of innocent people in Iraq,at the request of that dimwit George Bush, and last but not least,his IR Laws that has caused so much problems for the working families.

We need change, change for the better of all Australians, which is not so under the Howard Government. He has to go, as he is far too long in the tooth and also his IR Laws will become more draconian if elected and we the working families do certaintly not want his replacement Peter Costello, as that is what the sly old bugger has in mind, win the election and Costello will be Prime Minister, but the voters are well aware of that, and will make bloody sure that he John Howard will not have it his way,eleven years under Howardism will come to an end, at the next federal election

This is an interesting mapping of the effects of climate change on capital cities. It pictures the scale of the changes in a way that cuts through the current debate of environmental zealotry versus responsible economic management.

The article refers to Europe. The approach is to translate the information we get from climate models in a way that is easy to understand. It can be hard to appreciate what a three degree rise means, but people can look at this and really grasp the scale of some of the changes.

They predicted the scenarios for 2071-2100 for 12 European capitals, using two different climate models and assuming that carbon emissions continue to rise. They used predictions of two key weather variables - aridity and temperature - and compared them with conditions recorded at thousands of places across Europe and north Africa from 1961-1990.When they got a match, they looked for the nearest large town or city, which they describe as "climate analogues" of the 12 capitals.

What comes up is that that Paris moves to the south of Spain. Just a few degrees rise make a difference. The implication is that Paris is currently designed to deal with a very different climate, which means designs in future will have to be very different.

It would work differently in Australia of course. But we are beginning to redesign our houses in Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne so they both capture rain water and recycle water; as well as to make them much more energy efficient (Canberra).

Yes things change.
Lets not forget that we are all standing on a big rock spinning around and around in the big icky blackness of the unknown.
Expecting things to always remain the same is unreasonable.

It's not that change is bad, it's the rapidity that is forecast that is the concern.

It takes a long time for natural systems to re-establish their equilibrium after major disturbances.

Already we have caused extinction rates rivalling those of the great geological ones. We have had as much impact on earth's systems as a major meteor collision or a huge increase in volcanic activity.

Yet that could all be dwarfed by what we are about to unleash. We really are on the edge of stepping into a very dangerous and unpredictable future.

Some inheritance to pass on to future generations.

yes I understand that bob and you are right. Seems to me though that Environmentalism is becoming a religion now and bringing with it the types that pass through religions.
Some I think need to put away all their stats and stuff and go outside and enjoy the day.

So the CEO of Origin has got religion and become a barefoot prophet? Hardly

Since when has market talk about emissions trading become environmentalism?

I appreciate that's what an Andrew Bolt would enmotionally express to his conservative tabloid readership, but then he has a little understanding of ecology or economics. He doesn't even grasp the Econ101 point that it is market failure that caused the problem in the first place.

My reference between the 2 is directed to all the new people that have jumped on board Environment issues because it is a trendy/topical issue.
I do not read andrew bolt so I would not care what he writes. I only see him when he appears on the sunday morning abc show. I really have no time for teary eyed sooks and depression sufferers opinions. Kicking them is much more fun than listening to them.

so it is a trendy issue for business --Business Council of Australia--because it has just jumped on board.

Yes people in business are people too. I didn't mention the BCA. I think you are seeing things in my comment that arn't there again.

do you mean Virgin Blue then?

You are in the minority on this issue along with Piers Ackerman. Yesterday, Australian environmentalist John Dee issued the results of a survey conducted across 14 countries on the issue of climate change.

It reveals 88 per cent of Australians want governments to do more to combat climate change. Other findings include 85 per cent of Australians want governments to raise fuel efficiency standards for cars, 89 per cent want more power generated from renewable sources, 54 per cent want an environment tax on four-wheel-drives and 84 per cent want governments to increase public transport.

This is a level of public awareness that has gone well beyond the need for explanatory brochures, chirpy slogans and chatty websites. People want real results, and real engagement not waffle.

Your 'its all akin to a religious fad' places you in the world of a Hugh Morgan and other rag tag right wingers on the fringe of the consensus formation of public opinion.

yes its all in the questions you ask re stats.
88% of austalians want lower taxes....88% think they should win lotto eventually. 88% blame the government for a dog shitting on their front lawn.

sorry Les the policy debate, in response to the scientific consensus and the formation of public opinion has moved on from paying attention to the opinions of the denialists and sceptics, to a debate on how to best implement realistic climate change policy.

It is about how to create markets for the risk management of long term climate uncertainty, in which there is a real wealth gain for the economy and an incentive for large-scale energy projects to move forward with substantial benefits.

Denialists and Skeptics are the public too.