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

It's not that hard to understand « Previous | |Next »
October 31, 2013

The politics of climate change continues its slow burn through the body politic in a multitude of ways.

Even though we know that there will be mounting costs as the temperature rise goes beyond 2°-----and a rise of at least that much seems, at this point, almost impossible to avoid-----the Abbott Government is moving to repeal laws requiring big business to pay for the right to release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,

The basic climate science isn't that hard to understand and its spelt out by Paul Krugman. By burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, we have greatly increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and will almost surely increase it much more in the next few decades. The problem is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (as are several other gases also released as a consequence of industrialization): it traps heat, raising the planet’s temperature.

Warming, in turn, has a number of consequences going beyond a simple rise in temperatures. Sea levels will rise, both from the expansion of the water itself and from melting ice. Hurricanes will become more intense, because they are fed by warm water. Local climates may shift drastically, e.g., with wet areas becoming even wetter or going dry. The oceans will become more acidic.

RoweDCarbonTax.jpg David Rowe

It's also not that hard to understand how to deal with--stop burning coal to generate electricity. Emissions of greenhouse gases are just a kind of pollution. We initially deal with this by putting a price on emissions and/or issuing a limited number of licenses to pollute, and let people buy and sell those pollution permits—a so-called cap-and-trade system. Carbon pricing is standard textbook economics to deal with negative externalities such as pollution as it provides individuals and firms have a financial incentive to cut back.

So why the slow burn and the angst? Well there's real corporate power behind the opposition to any kind of climate action; corporate power defending naked self-interest as it means severely limiting our use of coal to generate electricity. Then there's the strand of modern Australian conservatism that rejects not just climate science, but the scientific method in general. Even though an emissions trading scheme is a market based mechanism the ideology of the free market crowd, such as the IPA, rejects any government intervention into the free market by the environmental state.

Their strategy has been to block action by warping the political debate by both denying climate science and by exaggerating the costs of pollution abatement. They use their power and wealth to gain political power and to break the back of the ALP. They now govern the country in their own interests.

It's not that hard to understand.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:29 AM | | Comments (14)


One of the wealthiest nation on earth, with one of the highest per-capita carbon emissions, is doing the bare minimum to switch to cleaner power sources.

The policy to price pollution, so as to make polluters pay for social harm caused by their activities, is standard economics 101.

Tony Abbott did a spectacularly good job in branding what is really an emissions trading scheme as a carbon tax.Gillard imposed a new tax, and taxes are bad. QED

If a carbon tax is bad (Abbott) then a legal limit on carbon pollution by industry is a good thing because pollution is bad.


Excellent summary Gary.

Recommended book [on the off chance people here are not familiar with it]:

"Merchants of Doubt" Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway Pub. Bloomsbury press

Inference from a probabilistic statement is hard. It may be quite right that AGW is raising the probabilities of bushfires, for instance, but that doesn’t mean that you can point to AGW as the “cause” of any bushfires. That’s hard for most people who haven’t had any exposure to statistics to understand. I suppose that includes Adam Bandt, who bravely said (what was in the minds of many) that AGW caused the recent NSW fires. Then 4 Corners came along, and suggested power lines. We already knew about the Army going boom. So what caused the bushfires? Was it the power lines and the Army, or was it AGW?

The answer is, probably a bit of both. There was a situation of high fuel loads and dangerous weather early in the season, which perhaps meant power lines and explosions could actually function as firestarters. But which to blame? Should we concentrate on power line safety and ensuring Army explosives are managed by people of at least average intelligence, should we concentrate on more precautionary burning off in winter, or should we try to mitigate AGW so the weather is less bushfire-friendly and maybe not so dry? Again, the real answer is probably all of them. Unfortunately for Adam, AGW doesn’t actually cause bushfires. Not by itself.

Nice straw man there Gordon, AGW doesn't cause bushfires.

No one is saying that it does. It does however increase the likelyhood and extremity of bushfires.
Climate change is going to cause far more economic problems than the feeble price on carbon we have at the moment. Wait till QLD has another once in a 100 year flood again this summer to see some real denial.

Actually you are attacking a strawman there Gordon.

Adam Bandt did not claim that AGW caused [as you put it] the NSW bush fires but pointed to the very credible and valid link between the two as he elaborated here:
"Mr Bandt said the link between extreme weather events and global warming needs to be recognised".
As you point out "It may be quite right that AGW is raising the probabilities of bushfires" and that is what he did."

As is common, the words of Greens politicians have been misrepresented by a hostile media.
One must not point to the consequences of the very large angry elephant in the crowded room. Naughty!

I understood that Brandt said that the Coalition's Direct Action plan will lead to more bush fires like the recent NSW ones.

A core issue is land use planning because we now have more homes in harm’s way--ie., the increasing exposure of dwellings to fire-prone bushlands.

The link between AGW and bush fires that Fred refers to above is this: we can expect the risk of extreme events to increase thanks to shifting average conditions.

Why this shift in average conditions? It is partly a function of the increased frequency of extreme events.

There is no need to shrug our shoulders and accept extreme events as part of life in Australia--it is better so that we are better prepared for future events. Examples: better housing; "disaster proof" electricity infrastructure; better land use planning

The Australian government's own environment departmental website says that there's a "growing and robust body of evidence" showing the number of extreme weather events will likely increase under climate change, and that Australia is already experiencing a rise in the number of these events, including bushfires.

The main talking point of the climate change deniers is that the climate has always changed". So why should we think humans can cause the rapid changes being observed in recent decades.

Abbott continually runs a version of this. He says that because certain climatic events might have happened before the industrial revolution, we shouldn't think that burning fossil fuels could contribute to changes in the climate now.

You know who you are, O Men of Straw! You know who you are.