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

climate change politics + the media « Previous | |Next »
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?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:06 AM | | Comments (14)


Big corporate media claims that the problem lies with bloggers misappropriating online newspaper content not the low value of their product in relation to "freedom of communication between the voters and their representatives requiring a free and robust media that provides information for citizens in a liberal democracy.

Thus APN News & Media Ltd chief executive Brendan Hopkins says:

As an industry we must strive to protect our content from those who contribute nothing to its creation and are happy to run on its coat tails. Our value is diminished by other media companies, both online and in print, with limited resources, who feed off our newspapers, by those who take the ideas of the newspapers, rewrite our journalists' words to be miraculously their own words, and then put it on a blog or a broadcast piece and call that journalism.

He doesn't seem to realize that readers have gone elsewhere because they are looking for better quality/higher value commentary.

Hopkins, like Murdoch, does not accept that the development of blogging as an interactive medium facilitates the free exchange of ideas and opinions in a liberal democracy. The free exchange of ideas and opinions escaped their control and they don't like it. The more they retreat behind a pay wall the better, since they leaves a more open space for voices other than corporate media.

Nice post gary.
I would like to comment on one narrow aspect which is the belief, general in the blogosphere and elsewhere, that the next election will most likely see a balance of power being held by the Greens in the Senate.
That would be a positive in my opinion because I support the Greens currently simply because they have the best suite of policies of the 3 parties, mainly of course on matters environmental but also other issues.
However such a BOP obviously terrifies the usual suspects which, as you point out, includes the vociferous and factionally powerful right wing ALP.
As far as I know the probable [excluding DD] Greens primary vote is unlikely to give them Senate seats in their own right.

They will therefore need preferences from the ALP.

I am concerned that such may not be necessarily forthcoming.

It is not a done deal, and the experience of the Fielding deal, which despite its controversial outcome has not been repudiated by its authors, shows that the anti-Green forces in the ALP are unrepentant [just read a thread at poll Bludger to get a taste of the depth of anti-green feeling among some right ALP supporters].
At the last election there were rumours that elements within the ALP were actively considering NOT preferencing the Greens in the Senate.

In summary I think the likelihood of a Green BOP in the Senate is not as definite as many think.

Re Fred's comment on the Balance of Power in the Senate - Anthony Green has done a dispassionate analysis on this question his blog 8 July 2009 where he compares the likely outcomes for the ALP of a half Senate versus a double dissolution.

In Tasmania as it happens even on a half Senate election the Greens are likely to poll a quota in their own right.

I agree completely--its not cut and dried. I also agree that the anti-Green forces in the ALP are unrepentant and they will do their darndest to prevent The Greens increasing their members in the Senate, (or gaining 3 or so seats in the House of Representatives).

On the other hand, their Family First Fielding mate has consistently frustrated the ALP's reform agenda across a broad front of issues by siding with the Coalition. That has not gone down well. Maybe the ALP and Greens will swap preferences in order to prevent a repetition of the Fielding election in Victoria. I'd still expect the Labor Party to give him preferences ahead of the Liberal Party, but his base vote won't be enough.

The Senate is evenly split.It will change in the next election in late 2010 (no double dissolution) and in the direction analysed by Anthony Green in this post. Independents drop, Coalition drops, Labor increases but not enough to gain a majority and the Greens increase their seats by gaining representation in Victoria by taking a seat from the Right.

thanks for the link to Anthony Green's blog. It's good work there. I agree that its the Liberal/Nationals with more to lose at the late 2010 point.

Preference distributions between Labor and the Greens, and the Greens' final result, will probably be the most interesting thing about the next election. Followed by the result for the Nationals.

Not quite sure where you find the notion of Sinodinos 'misleading comments as "more liberal, more rational".
The east block west block thing is peripheral. The dominant economic mode remains capitalist. It is strong enough to repressively tolerate a few bastardised hybrid alternatives, that display their relative inadequcy, to reinforce the notion than only capitalism works.
I found Sinodinos' inversionary attack on the Grreens a real straw man argument and quite despicable.

As a Professor in the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT Davidson would know this. So why the ignorance claim?

what a stupid post. You say that Davidson is ignorant of the facts however he spells out the facts quite clearly in that adaptation hasn't even been looked at by Stern or the government.

Furthermore Stern used an extremely low time preference in his "analysis" which is a dishonest thing to do.

Read it again.

churn and burn
it's a stupid post---really? The argument of the post was that media commentary has not done very well on this issue, apart from its standard attack and defend politics, and that Davidson had taken a step beyond this. So why is that stupid? I couldn't see an argument. So your reading style is 'churn and burn'.

I never mentioned 'the facts' at all. I talked in terms of natural science and economics not the facts, as I am no positivist. So which economic "facts" are you alluding to--since the natural science is not an issue for Davidson in his article?

Secondly, as Davidson never mentions Stern, it is obvious that you have not read the article of his that I linked to. It is me that has introduced Stern. So the honesty/dishonesty issue of Stern using an extremely low time preference in his "analysis" (I note the scare quotes) is a red herring.

Thirdly, what Davidson says is this:

All we really know is that the Australian government and other world governments want some sort of cap and trade scheme, and this is because of the science. What is lacking is a discussion of the issues beyond the science. We know that cap and trade scheme has been introduced because of market failure re CO2 emissions that cause global warming.

Cap and trade is mitigation--to reduce CO2 emissions. Adaptation involves taking action to deal with the problems brought about by global warming and climate change.

An example of this is the Australian federal, state and local governments are in the process of building better flood defences, avoiding the building of residential areas near low-lying, flood-prone areas, and managed retreats from the coast. There have been lots of discussions about this in policy circles, even reports.

Since you do not know what is going on in the adaptation policy area I suggest you read this Wikipedia article. You might be able to do better than the churn and burn 'what a stupid post' next time.

Where do I say this?
"We know that cap and trade scheme has been introduced because of market failure re CO2 emissions that cause global warming."
I thought my next sentence was, "This important consideration has been lost in the name calling."

You are right. My apologies. I've gone back to the original article and you say the following:

There are heaps of unanswered questions and issues beyond the science that so excites the commentariat. All we really know is that the Australian government and other world governments want some sort of cap and trade scheme, and this is because of the science. What is lacking is a discussion of the issues beyond the science. This important consideration has been lost in the name calling.

You not say these words:
We know that cap and trade scheme has been introduced because of market failure re CO2 emissions that cause global warming.

These sound like my words as, in this context, they would be referring to Stern who argued that greenhouse gas emissions was an example of market failure.

I have no idea how they became incorporated into the quote ---cut and past not working properly? My apologies once again.

No worries - that's what I thought. Just didn't want a 'davidson advocates market failure' story doing the rounds.

nope I wouldn't do that to do you.I'm far more interested in taking things beyond what we read in the mainstream media and trying to sort things out.

What we do need is a debate about whether it is market failure or not; and if not, why not. Are you able to direct me to any online material that argues for the latter position?