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

Canberra gaze « Previous | |Next »
June 27, 2009

Well, there you have it. Whilst the Australian Senate evades the issue the US House of Representatives has passed historic legislation to limit pollution blamed for global warming by aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 (note the baseline is 2005, not 1990 levels) by 2020, and 83 per cent by 2050. 212 representatives voted no, with all but handful of these no votes rejecting the bill because they rejected the notion that America has to do something about greenhouse gases.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is a cap-and-trade system that sets a limit on overall emissions of heat-trapping gases while allowing utilities, manufacturers and other emitters to trade pollution permits, or allowances, among themselves. The cap would grow tighter over the years, pushing up the price of emissions and presumably driving industry to find cleaner ways of making energy.

It was hard work to pass the legislation it is riddled with many loopholes and concessions) and the bill must still clear the Senate (where it faces even more daunting odds) before it can be signed into law.

Meanwhile in Australia:

Liberalslost.jpg Moir

In Australia the political play is to have the legislation rejected by both the Liberals and the greens whilst the economic play is to protect the mining sectors and unions, which are part of the base of the present government.

What George Monibot has written about the US applies equally to Australia:

Thanks to the lobbying work of the coal and oil companies, and the vast army of thinktanks, PR consultants and astroturfers they have sponsored, thanks too to the domination of the airwaves by loony right shock jocks, the debate over issues like this has become so mad that any progress at all is little short of a miracle. .....A combination of corporate money and an unregulated corporate media keeps America in the dark ages. This bill is the best we're going to get for now because the corruption of public life in the United States has not been addressed.

Sad isn't it: --we have this form of corruption of liberal democracy under the guise of lobbying as the representation of interests and the free market think tanks go on about 'Leviathan is back', limited government and individual freedom.

For the Greenhouse mafia the effective operation of a democratic political system requires some measure of apathy and non-involvement on the part of some individuals and groups. For them a crisis of democracy can occur when the populace becomes too well-informed about the true goals and motivations of its politicians, government and corporations. Participatory democracy and active citizenship are to be resisted because limits need to be placed on popular sovereignty in order to remove people from decision-making.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:52 PM | | Comments (5)


The reason the Coalition go round in circles and lose any sense of direction is because they are deeply divided. Thus Turnbull has endorsed Labor's target to cut emissions by up to 25 per cent by 2020, depending on international agreements.But faced with disunity in his own ranks about threat levels from global warming, Turnbull has said his party will not clarify whether it will support Labor's legislation until after the US position is finalised and Copenhagen global climate talks are concluded in December.

Andrew Elder points out that renewables industries were hopeful and encouraged while Malcolm Turnbull was running the environment. He was also far more serious about water than Rudd has proven to be.

We were right there, on the verge of substantially changing the way we do things, and Rudd brought a halt to it all. Now we'll be going to Copenhagen with nothing, more Australian technological innovation will go overseas, we'll keep pumping crap into the air and our major water source will continue to turn to sludge.

It's politically unthinkable, but I'd love to see Turnbull stand apart from the wingnuts in his party and say what he really thinks about these things. He'll never be prime minister, but he could make a major contribution. Maybe even pick up some Greens preferences.

It may be one way for Turnbull to recover from the damage he has sustained re his leadership

Paul Krugman writing in The New York Times says that if you watched the debate in the House on Friday, then you'd see people who showed no sign of being interested in the truth about climate change.

They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.”

It's a contempt for natural science. Krugman adds that: addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

It's the same with the deniers in Australia--they too are full of contempt and misrepresentation. It's how they defend their political interest.

Josh Harkinson in The War Over Waxman-Markey at Mother Jones says that disillusionment with the bill is causing fierce recriminations within the environmental movement because of its flaws

the Sierra Club has withheld its endorsement in hopes of improving the bill before a final vote—it wants to prevent polluters from receiving tradable emissions permits for free, preserve the EPA’s authority to independently regulate carbon, and better fund energy efficiency and clean energy

Such a strengthening is not likely--a weakening is more likely since there is not have a critical mass in the US who are concerned about the urgency of climate change.

Though Obama spoke out in favor of auctioning off pollution permits during his campaign, it is now thought likely that he will sign whatever bill crosses his desk.