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

a semblance of action « Previous | |Next »
May 24, 2011

Have you noticed how the opponents to climate change reform are now singing from the same hymn sheet in that their talking points are the same. They hide their climate change denialism, behind the public policy talking point that Australia must guard against moving too far ahead in carbon abatement and risking economic hardship for no environmental gain. So they appear to grant that the science has it right without explicitly saying so.


Behind these words is the position that doing nothing is best. Since China has no intention of reducing its greenhouse emissions it's madness to sacrifice ourselves for nothing.

What is most important is a prosperous economy and working to break up the Labor/Green alliance. The latter provides the opening for the culture war waged by the anti-science 'angries' in the denial-o-sphere.

The core argument is that any carbon policy has to maintain economic growth, international competitiveness and a viable electricity sector. It is then self-evident that Australia should act in tandem with international action, not ahead of it. Specifically and further, policy should ensure that the advantages arising from our relatively cost-competitive energy industry (ie., coal) are not diminished without commensurate environmental benefits. In this context, only significant and ongoing reductions by major emitting nations would over time materially reduce the risks of environmental damage to Australia.

The Business Council of Australia, for instance, has stated that it would support policies to reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions where the environmental benefit was clear; the competitiveness of Australia's exporters was not diminished; and the transition to less emissions-intensive electricity followed a planned approach that did not prematurely close plants without adequate compensation, and the risk of generators breaching their debt covenants was removed.

The bottom line is that Australia should act in tandem with international action, not ahead of it. The inference is that the proposed 5 per cent cut in emissions would be utterly pointless in "environmental terms" since it would reduce global emissions by a miniscule amount whilst China alone would increase global emissions by hundreds of times that if not thousands of times. Australia acting alone will shut down Australia as a modern industrialised economy say the trolls.

Behind the rhetoric of being in favour of addressing greenhouse emissions is resistance in the form of a fear campaign that ignores Europe’s six-year-old emissions trading scheme; China’s pledge to cut emissions; and the UK’s decision to cut emissions by 50 per cent by 2025 (which it is already half way towards). Australia is not acting alone. Other nations are leaving the dirty old economy behind and are starting to build a stable, sustainable green economy.

So what we have from those opposing reform is a claim that they believe in climate change and that doing little or nothing about it is a sufficient response. So the opponents do not really believe that continual greenhouse emission is a bad that harms the public good; nor that economic prosperity can come from green growth--ie., shifting to a low carbon economy. The opponents cannot even bring themselves to advocate for an investment bank that is able to use its power to create a clean, green economy; nor to reform our reforming our national energy market to properly reward future clean energy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:02 AM | | Comments (12)


The Victorian Government is a classic example of inaction.

In an inverted way those opposed to change to address climate change recognize the significance of the Asian industrialization for Asia. The Asian century is here. It's boom time for Australia. Australia's place is in Asia.

One aspect of this the expansion of Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine. How will BHP-Billton power this mine, which will eventually consume about 60 per cent of South Australia's entire electricity supply?

The mine, which will consume more electricity than the city of Adelaide, will use electricity generated from fossil fuel? Nuclear Power? Renewables? A geothermal plant was muted?

BHP-Billiton plans to power its Olympic Dam mine expansion with onnecting the mine to the coal-fired grid and gas supplies, and it s seeking approval for a gas-fired power plant of up to 650MW to power the project.

However, it is also canvassing the possibility of sourcing much of its power from geothermal and solar thermal energy sources. If the technology is available in the next decade then BHP-Billiton will make more money by replacing its gas and coal-fired energy sources with geothermal and solar.

I suspect at heart many people are completely opportunistic about climate change. They reason that Australia's contribution to global carbon emissions is very small, and therefore we should just wait and see what everyone else does. If the big boys act in time to save the planet great! ... and they might not even notice we are merrily carrying on as before. Once again we might be saved by our isolation, because we're the Lucky Country!

It's a pretty forlorn hope, and hopelessly amoral, but does make sense on its own terms.

The BCA crowd know that the pricing of carbon is coming; they know that there will be subsidies for business; and they know there is bi-partisan support for a 5% reduction of greenhouse emissions at 2000 levels.

Australia has a bright future with coal. Those who criticize coal seek to undermine and destroy jobs and export revenue. So says Resources Minister Martin Ferguson

Labour, it seems wants new coal mines and new coal fired power plants. Resources for them is black and brown coal, not sun or wind. Coal--including coal-seam methane--creates real jobs and real exports earnings.

In Australia, solar is still considered to be a novelty item, a middle class indulgence about as useful as an electric golf buggy.

Queensland isn't going to do much either in terms of shifting to a low carbon economy.

The Bligh Government attacks the Greens for their "radical and extreme politics" and defends the coal industry by saying that The Greens proposal to transition away from coal would cause "a social and economic catastrophe"

Bligh is defending the coal-seam gas industry and the polluting industries. It appears that the Bligh Government doesn't want a carbon tax on coalmining operations.

The Australian is pretty clear. The solar panel program must be rolled back. Its editorial says that research by the Productivity Commission, the Institute of Public Affairs and others has left no doubt that renewable energy programs are one of the main factors in soaring power bills, with the target of 20 per cent renewable energy set to push electricity generation costs up more than 30 per cent by 2020.

It adds:

Senator Brown's economic views are informed by his neo-Arcadian fantasy of phasing out fossil fuels as rapidly as possible in favour of renewable energy. The lesson from the solar panel scheme, however, is that while the wind and sun are free, turning them into electricity is not. The Greens' national feed-in tariffs scheme will mean that battlers across the country will be paying to satisfy the eco-vanity of Senator Brown's inner-city supporters. Nor does the Greens leader grasp the fact that it is kinder to the planet for China to burn high-quality Australian coal than dirty coal from elsewhere.

The attack on the solar industry is a means used to bash the Greens.

Mike Pope in Price carbon or face a bleak future at Online Opinion puts it well:

We hear strident and vociferous complaints about this from polluting electricity generators but nothing about their plans to invest in renewable energy generation, nothing about the interim measures they might adopt to reduce their emissions, nothing about their plans to reduce carbon emissions. Instead we see polluters trying to squeeze government for every ounce of compensation they can get – not for being made non-profitable but because their continued operation may be threatened by new competition.

Solar power increasingly represents competition to the quasi-monopoly of the fossil-fuelled generators.

"What is most important is a prosperous economy..."

It's hardly a shock to see this approach resonating so loudly amongst the voters. After all, it's been the prevailing attitude for decades. Government after government has made it clear the we MUST look after ourselves... because they will do bugger-all to help those down on their luck. We MUST take responsibility for our own futures. For over 20 years, our leaders have made it clear that the individual will be (more or less) left to their own fate. Like some sort of mutant economic Darwinism.

So why wouldn't our fellow citizens deny or ignore climate change... if they feared that the (dubious) remedy might rob them of their future prosperity?

Who remembers Thatcher's words... "...there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It's our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour..."

Look after yourself first... look after yourself today. Because nobody else will. And society be damned!

We need to remember that many people are not that bright and would not have the capacity to understand what or who is right or wrong when they hear 2 opposing arguements. These people are not denialists. All people who understand the issue but either are undecided or do not care to be interested are also not denialists. Many elderly could be excused from being denialists as would retarded people. Children who have not learned enough to be smart enough to understand the issue could be also excused. People who are religious and feel god works in all issues may be excused too.People with mental health issues could be excluded.
So the group of people that are genuine denialists is quite small.