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

Climate change: rhetoric+reality « Previous | |Next »
October 23, 2007

Jim Douglas, writing in the Canberra Times on climate change, says that:

You get the feeling, under these circumstances, of being in a luxury car accelerating towards a sheer drop, as its demented driver ignores your shouts of alarm and regales you with enthusiastic details of what a wonderful vehicle it is, and how well he has maintained it.

That's what the Liberal's "Go for Growth "campaign slogan signifies. It means more of the same kind of growth with the economy machine being run with energy produced by dirty coal power.

Patclimatechange.jpg Pat

Some reality is dawning. The Liberals are backtracking on nuclear power as the key solution, due to the unpopularity of nuclear power plants in the electorate. Clean coal is the key. But that's ten years down the track, if not more. In the meantime?

What is lacking is an acknowledgment that any plan for deep cuts in greenhouse emissions entails a major roll-out of renewable energy technologies and the introduction of ambitious renewable energy targets to reduce emissions and to secure Australia’s share in the boom in renewable energy occurring globally. The danger is that Australia is becoming a renewable technology importer and it's losing the chance to move to a clean energy economy.

If the Liberal's "Go for Growth" campaign slogan was modified to read "Go for Sustainable Growth", then I'd start listening to them. So far they give every indication that they do not understand the significance of an increase of 2 degrees in temperature.---its impact on the Great Barrier Reef, the melting of the Arctic sea ice, prolonged drought and less water. They talk incessantly about the costs of an emissions trading scheme on economic growth but never about the costs of acting too late.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:16 AM | | Comments (14)


They are in denial over climate change. They are avoiding putting in place what is required to ensure a transition to a low carbon economy--strong emission targets or a carbon tax.

The Coalition still talks in terms of a trade off between economic gowth and cutting emissions and continues to subsidise old industries who have their snout in the public trough.

The ALP has realized that without an environment there is no economy; and that climate change will create new industries and alternate forms of growth. But they are spooked by the neo-liberal agenda that is so hostile to strong interventions by the government.

It's crippled the responses by the Rann ALP Government in SA. They just talk the talk and do nothing. It's been this way for 3 years.

I should add that I'm reading Kenneth Davidson's 'Playing Politics: the environment is the economy, stupid' in the latest issue of Dissent.

How you encourage people to reduce their carbon emissions when you're subsidising their power usage from coal fired power stations?

Clean coal development is well advanced.

and of course, there's nothing to be done about it. politics is only for 'them', your betters.

the fatal passivity of what passes for intellectuals in oz is an integral part of the nation's heritage: the total disconnection from power of the ordinary people. it's a very powerful demonstration of national culture over-riding national survival.

truly, orwell was right to set '1984' in britain, and oz is even more british in it's supine submission to the (laboral) party. only god can help you, for you will not help yourselves.

The Get-up video is so true. The lead time is still a decade or more. So what do we do in the meantime? Energy efficiency. As an editorial in The Age puts it:

This is the first federal election in Australia in which climate change is one of the crucial issues. Not that this has been easily discernible on the campaign landscape: at this early stage of the long trek to November 24, the environmental imperatives from the two main party leaders have been as purposeless as tumbleweeds — largely insubstantial and inconsequential, tossed hither and thither by heated rhetoric. Meanwhile, in the real world, the realities of climate change continue their inexorable, inevitable path.

I see that Ziggy Switkowski,who chaired the Government's nuclear task-force, is saying that he doesn't see

nuclear replacing existing coal infrastructure. It will be new and in addition and arguably it may even be co-located with some existing coal-fired power stations.

He does add that burning coal more cleanly and then capturing emissions and storing them - is an appropriate national priority:
Arguably it is the most important energy and climate change priority we should have.

Renewables, such as wind and solar power and geothermal, and more efficient appliance design and power conservation, seem to be an afterthought for Ziggy.


The new Quarterly Essay is about climate change and nuclear. I saw it today but didn't buy it. Ian Lowe I think.


Don't despair on the climate change/technology front just yet. Australia is out front in the development of solar technology. We love nothing better than to claim such stuff as our own, so it's popular. The technology is in demand all over the world so it's economically beneficial with a bit of investment.

I've heard whisperings that Garrett has compromised on other things because he'll get his way on solar over nuclear or clean coal. The people may get what they want.

If ever a warning has been necessary for all nations to take action on climate change it was delivered this week as the United Nations Fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4). This report has been well covered by Australian news services as has been noted by at least one European country - France. The president has announced a decision to revise aspects of their capital works program away from road construction to rail.
We might also note the last weeks horrendous fires in California. The Whitehouse Administration is still preventing the American Congress from learning about the effects of global warming on the health of that nation. A recent report on the subject to Congress was heavily edited by Whitehouse staff to remove references to problems caused by global warning, such as disease spread . Our current Prime Minister may have more difficulty than he apparently expects, by his recent statement, in persuading President Bush to change his mind on target setting.
Skeptics in Australia, politicians and normal people like you and me should have no doubt that we are at least five minutes past mid-night. Tipping point is right here, right now, not only will global warming speed up but it will be much more difficult to claw our way back.
For the past ten years our Federal Government has been in aggressive denial of the facts about climate change. It has vilified and sneered at those who have tried to point out the impending disaster and has actively impeded action by industry and the community. It is time all of our Governments and those who would Governmen urgently reviewed what actions they can implement now and those that can be implemented in the immediate future. Targets for renewable energy can be set now. Actions such as setting intermediate green house gas emission targets need careful consideration as the Labor Party is currently undertaking. Encouraging the construction of wind farms and voltaic sets and other solar devices can be undertaken right this minute. Certainly audit reviews of major energy users, which have to be acted on, can also be undertaken right now.
The community and members of all political parties should urge politicians and would be politicians to re-examine all their policies from the point of view of the concerns expressed in the new United Nations Report. Think what we could do to hold back climate change with those multi million dollars that are being rolled out in pork barrels for road construction in marginal electorates.
To assume that Australia can sit back and wait for those who are recognised as the largest emmitters to take appropriate action will further isolate Australia internationally. The governments which continue to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol will find themselves ostracised from the rest of the world. France is already moving towards refusing imports from non-signatory countries. Already across Europe goods displayed for sale have their carbon footprint displayed on their labels. The views of two academics in the UK about Kyoto, that action should be left to the big boys smacks of the old colonial attitudes and is the wrong approach. This is an issue that effects all life on this planet. All humans must be involved in finding and implementing solutions now.

"Clean coal" is probably not even possible. The object of generating energy is to generate more energy than is used in the process of generating that energy. If this is not the case than "clean coal" will be a non starter.

Clean coal does not represent anything new, wonderful, novel or smart and certainly not anything very wise. What "clean coal" really represents is two things.

One, it is an example of diminishing marginal returns where growth comes harder and more expensive with each incremental increase of production. With a far smaller global production of coal the need to "clean" it would simply not exist.

"Clean coal" also represents the west doing things in the same old way. Burying our rubbish somewhere and not questions behavior at the most basic level.

The Australian Financial Review weekend edition reported that Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed Australia should ratify the Kyoto Protocol to try to nullify climate change as an election issue.

Turnbull had argued the Government would get kudos and lose nothing by ratifying. But cabinet, in a discussion about six weeks ago, decided a U-turn would not be credible after Mr Howard had argued so strongly against ratification for so many years.

Michelle Grattan says that:

Howard's (and later Turnbull's) failure to deny it [Malcolm Turnbull proposal that the Government, even at this late stage, ratify the Kyoto Protocol] has effectively confirmed the report about Turnbull's proposal. It is very damaging for the Government, showing ministers divided over what has been a key difference between Labor and the Coalition. Turnbull also emerges publicly as the good guy on climate change, something that won't endear him to a few of his colleagues.

Turnbull leaked the Kyoto story to the AFR to protect himself in Wentworth --that's my interpretation.

Rightly said. I see that Dr Graeme Pearman (a former chief of CSIRO atmospheric research, and one of Australia's foremost experts on climate change) says that the science coming out even in the past week shows the global situation deteriorating more alarmingly than scenarios anticipated just a year ago. that alarm is not reflected in the policies being put out by the major political parties:

I hear people talking about getting our emissions under control by carbon trading and other interventions sometime in the next 10 years. We don't really have 10 years. We're bang in the middle of the window identified by scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report - between 2000 and 2015 - when a turnaround might just hold warming to two degrees, beyond which the consequences become dire. But there's no sign of it happening.You have to recognise the urgency, and it doesn't seem to be there.

The bottom line is to tackle inefficiencies in power use.You can get cuts of 20 per cent or more in energy use that pay for themselves in one or two years. This requires a commitment in the form of targets for energy efficiency, and programs supporting the rollout of hardware to help people get there.

The next task or step is to diversify the energy system - developing a power portfolio of cleaner, clean and renewable energy sources.

Glen Milne in the Australian questions your view that Malcolm Turnbull leaked the Kyoto cabinet submission to distance himself from the government on Kyoto in order to save his seat in Wentworth.

Turnbull says he didn't leak the story and I, for one, believe him. My understanding is that two other cabinet ministers were responsible. The motive is unclear, but there are only two alternatives here: malevolence, directed at Turnbull in the context of the future leadership of the Liberal Party; or gross incompetence. The trouble is both suggest the Government at the most senior levels is unqualified to continue in office.

Let's assume it was malevolence, aimed at damaging Turnbull so as to neutralise him as a leadership threat to Peter Costello. Turnbull hasn't got a phone box worth of votes in the Liberal caucus and is therefore not even a remote danger to Costello. Besides, such a leak doesn't serve the Treasurer's interests because winning this election still represents his best shot of becoming prime minister.

SS Coalition is leaking like a sieve.

Milne uses his column in The Australian to stick the boot into Turnbull, doesn't he.

At first blush this might appear to favour Turnbull, allowing him to dissociate himself from Howard. But as Labor's smarter heads will confirm the net impact of this episode has been to reinforce Turnbull's impotence on climate change. The bottom line is he was unable to change his leader's mind. Where Turnbull is culpable is in his handling of the story after it broke. Confronted by the AFR with the submission, Turnbull would not confirm the cabinet discussion. But he added Kyoto would not harm Australia economically going as far as to say ratification would have "symbolic" value. Hint, hint. As if this wasn't bad enough he then went on Sky News - in an interview meant to stop the haemorrhaging - only to clearly signal he had a personal view that differed from the Government's. Cabinet solidarity dictates you have no personal views.

My my. That's really letting Garrett off the hook. Where are the ALP's emission targets for 2020?