November 19, 2009
The conservative voice of extremity is exemplified in Miranda Devine's claims in response to Rudd's Lowy Institute speech that Rudd is attempting to fashion a one-party state whilst the dissent of the climate change denialists is being stifled. This taps into undercurrents of hysteria and paranoia in the Australian polity.
These conservative claims are on par with Senator Minchin's statement that global warming is a left-wing plot to de-industrialise the world, or The Australian's standard talking point that climate change is a conspiracy of myth, deception and exaggeration that is being perpetrated by some sort of global green movement of economy-wreckers whose utopia will take Australia back to the dark ages.
Sure, I appreciate that these kind of arrows are being fired at The Greens because this political party may well hold the balance of power in the Senate after the 2010 election. So they need to be treated as political pariahs by the conservatives, who are trying to shore up their base and reduce the electoral losses they fear. That means a reduced Coalition presence in The Senate and a Labor/Green alliance of sorts.
I appreciate that the latter possibility sends a big shudder up the spine of the Labor Right, who will be mugged by political and economic reality. No doubt these social conservatives will have to grit their teeth and bite their tongue.
A more rational liberal voice is that Arthur Sinodinos in The Australian, who uses Pascal's wager to justify using a market approach to global warming. He then says:
There is no incompatibility between private enterprise or capitalism and the environment. The success of capitalism in raising living standards has been used by some Greens to equate it with environmental degradation.The poor state of the environment in Eastern Europe when the Berlin Wall fell demonstrates that there is no corollary between social and economic systems and the condition of the environment.The Greens have often used environmental issues to peddle an anti-capitalist and populist agenda, focusing on renewable energy sources as good, soft power while rejecting nuclear energy as hard power that is the dirty product of multinational corporations.
There is no mention of global warming as a classic example of market failure there. Secondly, how can government support for fostering a renewable energy industry in Australia be seen as anti-capitalist?
As Geoffrey Baker points out there is little debate in the media on some key issues:
Assuming the reality of climate change, how consistent is government policy with the prime minister’s seemingly apocalyptic rhetoric about non-action on climate change? How significantly are industry and environmental pressure groups influencing climate change policy? What is the next step if, as now seems accepted, Copenhagen cannot finalise an agreement on financing the carbon reduction programs of developing countries? Can countries like Australia ethically outsource greenhouse gas reductions by purchasing carbon credits from developing countries?
Baker's explanation for the failure of the media to use the "implied freedom" of political communication in the constitution to debate these issues is the media gatekeepers are mostly concerned about the daily polemical attack and defence of politics in the 24 hour news cycle, and not policy issues.
True, but as Matthew da Silva points out in The National Times a lot of contemporary journalism in the corporate media is little more than a rebadging media releases from the publicity industry. So readers look elsewhere.
Sinclair Davidson, of the IPA, has made an attempt to take the debate further. He says that suppose we:
imagine we know with more than 90 percent confidence that anthropogenic global warming is occurring, what next? The questions, "Should we do anything?" "What should we do?", and "How should we do it?" remain unanswered. These are not scientific questions at all. In the first instance there are economic questions, "How much will doing ‘something' cost?" Perhaps it would be cheaper to do nothing and adapt. Perhaps not. We simply do not know. The Australian Treasury modelling does not answer that question; indeed it doesn't model the actual policy under consideration.
The 'should we do anything' question has been answered with an emissions trading scheme, which is currently being considered by the Australian Senate. The reason for this policy of using the market to drive change is that we do know from the Stern Review of the UK Treasury that it is cheaper to do something now rather than do nothing and adapt. It is misleading for Davidson to say that we simply do not know about the economic question of doing something rather than nothing.
As a Professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT Davidson would know this. So why the ignorance claim?