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Obama takes on the anti-scientific delayers, while Australia’s Rudd slams the “deniers” and the “gaggle” of “conspiracy theorists” opposing climate action

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"Obama takes on the anti-scientific delayers, while Australia’s Rudd slams the “deniers” and the “gaggle” of “conspiracy theorists” opposing climate action"

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What is the best way to talk about those who are devoting their efforts to spread disinformation on climate science and/or climate legislation?  Recent speeches by President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Rudd, who represent the two biggest industrialized countries that have so far refused to take action, offer some suggestions.

Certainly, if you want to hear the best progressive messaging on energy and climate “” if you want to know the best phrases and framing “” listen to the President.  In two recent speeches Obama has gone out of his way to criticize the disinformers and delayers.

In Florida late last month, Obama said “The closer we get to this new energy future, the harder the opposition is going to fight, the more we’re going to hear from special interests and lobbyists in Washington whose interests are contrary to the interests of the American people.  Now, there are those who are also going to suggest that moving towards a clean energy future is going to somehow harm the economy or lead to fewer jobs.  And they’re going to argue that we should do nothing, stand pat, do less, or delay action yet again.”

A few days earlier, at M.I.T. he said:

The naysayers, the folks who would pretend that this is not an issue, they are being marginalized. But I think it’s important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we’ll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much needed action that we’re engaged in. There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy “” when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those who cynically claim “” make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.

Obama understands that our current economic system is dangerously unsustainable, and that the opposition is driven to a large extent by those who act out of narrow self-interest or ideology.  He doesn’t use the term “denier,” instead accusing those who spread anti-scientific disinformation of cynicism.  He does use the word “delay” in both speeches, focusing on the primary goal of the opposition.

Of course, it doesn’t matter what words the President uses — those who oppose his policies will misquote and misrepresent them.  One of the leading disinformers, Pat Michaels, made this absurd assertion on National Review Online:

He stated that any scientific debate about the magnitude of global warming is unscrupulous, decrying “those who . . . make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.”

Then, the president talked tough, saying, “We’ll just have to deal with those people,” language familiar to anyone who knows the vagaries of Chicago politics.

This surely isn’t the first time in world history that some president, premier, or pope has attempted to define science and threaten those who disagree.

No, he didn’t say “any scientific debate” is unscrupulous.  He was just talking about those who “contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence.”  And no, he didn’t talk tough.  If you check the transcript as delivered (here), he said:

So we’re going to have to work on those folks.

Not really so threatening, even for a Chicagoan.  If anyone has a video of that segment of the speech, post a link in the comments.

The point is that it doesn’t matter what you say, the delayers (and deniers) will misrepresent you (and the science) and then attack the misrepresentation.  That’s what they do.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gave a much tougher speech on November 6, which I’m going to excerpt at length at the end because it is so astonishing.  Australia is the canary-in-the-coal-mine koala-in-the-bushfire for climate change, since it is the most arid habited continent (see “Australia today offers horrific glimpse of U.S. Southwest, much of planet, post-2040” and “Global Boiling: Australia’s hellish black Saturday of extreme fire” and “Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in”).  Rudd also faces a conservative opposition to climate action (see here) and an aggressive disinformation campaign, as he explained:

The opponents of action on climate change fall into one of three categories.

  • First, the climate science deniers.
  • Second, those that pay lip service to the science and the need to act on climate change but oppose every practicable mechanism being proposed to bring about that action.
  • Third, those in each country that believe their country should wait for others to act first.

Together, these groups, alive in every major country including Australia, constitute a powerful global force for inaction, and they are particularly entrenched in a range of conservative parties around the world.

I have never been a huge fan of the word “deniers,” as I explained in a March 2008 post:  Media enable denier spin 3: PLEASE stop calling them “skeptics.” But, as I wrote, I suspect future generations will call them “climate destroyers” or worse.  I noted that, “delayer” is a “far more accurate term,” since “They all want delay and delay is fatal.”  Delayers clearly encompasses all three of Rudd’s categories.  As the NYT‘s Revkin explained about a 2008  skeptic denier delayer conference in New York, “The one thing all the attendees seem to share is a deep dislike for mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gases.

But while I may be The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger,” I couldn’t get my preferred term — or its variants, like “delayer-1000,” widely accepted.  If you google, “Global warming delayer” [in quotes], you get some 2000 hits.  If you google, “Global warming denier” [in quotes], you get over 430,000.  Climate science denial has actually flourished even as the evidence refuting it grows, which may not surprise some, but I confess I didn’t think so many seemingly serious people would double down on disinformation.

You can’t fight Google — and you can’t miss the in-your-face anti-scientific nature of the disinformers — so I ultimately ended up going back to the occasional use of the word “deniers” as I explained in this June post, Anti-science conservatives are stuck in denial but for climate science activists, the reverse is true:

And so, for better or worse, the word “deniers” stays with us.  As I’ve said, I will try to reserve that term for the professional disinformers and their work.  And I’ll try to remember to use the term delayers for those who have been misled.

I will still use “delayers,” sometimes in combination with “deniers,” and link back to this post for explanation.  I will also keep using the term “anti-scientific” and “disinformers” since I think they are also accurate.

Prime Minister Rudd makes the strongest case to date for using the strongest possible language to describe those who knowingly spread disinformation.  You can read Get Energy Smart Now on his speech, and I’m going to excerpt it at length below:

When you strip away all the political rhetoric, all the political excuses, there are two stark choices – action or inaction. The resolve of the Australian Government is clear – we choose action, and we do so because Australia’s fundamental economic and environmental interests lie in action.

Action now. Not action delayed.

As one of the hottest and driest continents on earth, Australia’s environment and economy will be among the hardest and fastest hit by climate change if we do not act now. The scientific evidence from the CSIRO and other expert bodies have outlined the implications for Australia, in the absence of national and global action on climate change:

  • Temperatures in Australia rising by around five degrees by the end of the century.
  • By 2070, up to 40 per cent more drought months are projected in eastern Australia and up to 80 per cent more in south-western Australia.
  • A fall in irrigated agricultural production in the Murray Darling Basin of over 90 per cent by 2100.
  • Storm surges and rising sea levels – putting at risk over 700,000 homes and businesses around our coastlines, with insurance companies warning that preliminary estimates of the value of property in Australia exposed to the risk of land being inundated or eroded by rising sea levels range from $50 billion to $150 billion.
  • Our Gross National Product dropping by nearly two and a half per cent through the course of this century from the devastation climate change would wreak on our infrastructure alone.

The Government took a plan to tackle climate change to the last election, to tackle the risks climate change poses to our planet, and especially to the health, lifestyle and livelihoods of our children.

That plan included two fundamental parts:

  • First, a domestic plan of action to reduce Australia’s carbon pollution, including:
    • Expanding the Renewable Energy Target to 20 per cent by 2020 (and subsequently directly investing over $2 billion in renewable energy, including investment in large scale solar generating capacity that will be three times larger than the world’s current largest project).
    • A national energy efficiency strategy to reduce the energy that we can consume, and undertaking the largest investment in energy efficiency ever seen in this country.
    • A Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme that will increase the cost of carbon over time and facilitate a transition to a low carbon pollution economy.
  • The second part of our strategy is participation in global action to tackle climate change, including:
    • ratifying the Kyoto Protocol;
    • participating in global technology transfers – including Australian leadership in a global coalition to develop carbon capture and storage through the Australia-initiated Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute; and
    • strong engagement towards a new post-Kyoto global agreement .

This was the platform we took to the Australian people at the election. This is the program of action we have been prosecuting over the past two years. Yet the cornerstone of this program of action, the CPRS, still lies stymied in the Senate.

Australia has certainly not been alone in our endeavours to tackle global climate change. At the same time, around the world we have seen nations of every political stripe take concrete action to work towards legislation in this critical area – actions which have been slowly building towards coordinated international action to tackle climate change. And most nations have been engaged in the multilateral process – through the Bali Roadmap two years ago, through the 14th Conference of the Parties in Poznan, Poland last year, and the intensifying global negotiations leading up to the 15th Conference of Parties in Copenhagen this year.

Today, the culmination of this domestic and global action is in sight. Much progress has been made, but, the truth is that there is still a long way to go. In fact, the hardest part of our journey is ahead of us over the next 31 days.

This is a profoundly important time for our nation, for our world and for our planet.

In Australia, we must pass our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme – to deliver certainty for business at home and to play our part abroad in any global agreement to bring greenhouse gases down.

President Obama in the United States is also working hard so that he can take strong commitments to Copenhagen. And let us never forget that in the US, as in Australia, under both our respective previous governments, zero action was taken on bringing in cap and trade schemes meaning that the governments that replaced them began with a zero start.

Other countries are striving to build domestic political momentum in their own countries to take strong commitments into the global deal.

The challenge we face, and others around the world face, is to build momentum and overcome domestic political constraints.

The truth is this is hard, because the climate change skeptics, the climate change deniers, the opponents of climate change action are active in every country.

They are a minority. They are powerful. And invariably they are driven by vested interests.

Powerful enough to so far block domestic legislation in Australia, powerful enough to so far slow down the passage of legislation through the US Congress. And ultimately – by limiting the ambition of national climate change commitments – they are powerful enough to threaten a deal on global climate change both in Copenhagen and beyond.

The opponents of action on climate change fall into one of three categories.

  • First, the climate science deniers.
  • Second, those that pay lip service to the science and the need to act on climate change but oppose every practicable mechanism being proposed to bring about that action.
  • Third, those in each country that believe their country should wait for others to act first.

Together, these groups, alive in every major country including Australia, constitute a powerful global force for inaction, and they are particularly entrenched in a range of conservative parties around the world.

As we approach Copenhagen, these three groups of climate skeptics are quite literally holding the world to ransom, provoking fear campaigns in every country they can, blocking or delaying domestic legislation in every country they can, with the objective of slowing and if possible destroying the momentum towards a global deal on climate change.

As we approach the Copenhagen conference these groups of climate change deniers face a moment of truth, and the truth is this: we will need to work much harder to reach an agreement in Copenhagen because these advocates of inaction are holding back domestic commitments, and are in turn holding back global commitments on climate change.

It is time to be totally blunt about the agenda of the climate change skeptics in all their colours – some more sophisticated than others.

It is to destroy the CPRS at home, and it is to destroy agreed global action on climate change abroad, and our children’s fate – and our grandchildren’s fate – will lie entirely with them.

It’s time to remove any polite veneer from this debate. The stakes are that high.

The first category of those opposed to action is the vocal group of conservatives who do not accept the scientific consensus. This group believes the science is inconclusive and does not provide an evidentiary basis for anthropogenic climate change.

In Australia, before the 2007 election, this group was thought to be relatively small. There appeared – for a time – to be bipartisan consensus on the need for action on climate change. In recent times, this bipartisan support has frayed.

As one Liberal Member of Parliament said to Phil Coorey of the Sydney Morning Herald last year:
“[at the last election we supported an ETS because] we were staring at an electoral abyss. We had to pretend we cared.”
(SMH, 28 JULY 2008)

More recently that pretence has been increasingly cast aside. Would-be Liberal leader Tony Abbott said in July this year that “the science … is contentious to say the least”. (27 July 2009)

Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi said:
“I remain unconvinced about the need for an ETS given that carbon dioxide is vital for life on earth”.

Liberal Senator Alan Eggleston said:
“Levels of carbon dioxide have risen in the world, but whether or not this is the sole cause or just a contributor to climate change is, I think, unanswered.”
(11 AUGUST 2009)

Liberal Senate leader Nick Minchin said this year:
“CO2 is not by any stretch of the imagination a pollutant… This whole extraordinary scheme is based on the as yet unproven assertion that anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are the main driver of global warming.”
(11 AUGUST 2009)

Alternative Liberal leader Joe Hockey – who knows better – has been drawn into the same sort of doublespeak, remarking on the Today Show in August:
“Look, climate change is real Karl, you know whether it is made by human beings or not that is open to dispute.”
(12 AUGUST 2009)

Even the leader of the Opposition, once Minister for the Environment, Malcolm Turnbull, has flirted with this doublespeak, telling Alan Jones on 2GB:
“I think most people have at least some doubts about the science.”
(19 JUNE 2009)

The tentacles of the climate change skeptics reach deep into the ranks of the Liberal Party, and once you add the National Party it’s plan the skeptics and the deniers are a major force.

Climate sceptics are also a powerful political lobby in the United States.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steel said on 6 March 2009:
“We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner said on April 19 2009:
“The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide.”

Republican Congressman John Shimkus said on 25 March 2009:
“If we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?”

The legion of climate change skeptics are active across the world, and they happily play with our children’s future.

The clock is ticking for the planet, but the climate change skeptics simply do not care. The vested interests at work are simply too great.

It’s been more than 30 years since the first World Climate Conference called on governments to guard against potential climate hazards.

It’s been 20 years since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was formed and produced its first report.

17 years ago, in 1992, the international community acknowledged the importance of tackling climate change at the Rio Earth Summit and created the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

And the most recent IPCC scientific conclusion in 2007 was that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and the “increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

This is the conclusion of 4,000 scientists appointed by governments from virtually every country in the world, and the term “very likely” is defined in the scientific conclusion of this report as being 90 per cent probable.

Attempts by politicians in this country and others to present what is an overwhelming global scientific consensus as little more than an unfolding debate, with two sides evenly represented in a legitimate scientific argument, are nothing short of intellectually dishonest. They are a political attempt to subvert what is now a longstanding scientific consensus, an attempt to twist the agreed science in the direction of a predetermined political agenda to kill climate change action.

It reminds me of the efforts of the smoking lobby decades ago as they tried for years to politically subvert by so-called scientific means that there was any link between smoking and lung cancer.

Put more simply: these climate change sceptics around the world would be laughable if they were not so politically powerful – particularly in the ranks of conservative parties.

The second group of do-nothing climate change skeptics are those who purport to accept the scientific consensus, but in the next breath are unwilling to support any of the practicable plans of action that would actually do something about climate change. This group plays lip service to the climate change science but when push comes to shove refuse to support climate change action. In Australia, these naysayers have successfully blocked the development of an emissions trading scheme for more than a decade.

After 12 years of inaction under the previous government, this government has worked to build a national consensus around our Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. We took the concept to the people at the 2007 election, and since then we have methodically, clearly and comprehensively worked towards passage of our scheme.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper was released on 16 June 2008.

The Garnaut Climate Change Review was released on 30 September 2008.

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme White Paper was released on 15 December 2008.

The Draft Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation was released in March.

There have been numerous Senate Inquiries.

There have also been numerous industry consultations.

As of May 2009, the Government had built wide support for action on climate through a carbon pollution reduction scheme.

There was broad business, environmental and community support from:

  • The Business Council of Australia
  • The Australian Industry group
  • The Climate Institute
  • The Australian Conservation Foundation
  • The World Wildlife Fund
  • The Australian Council of Social Services representing lower income Australians.

Today, after so many reports, reviews, consultations, not to mention the small matter of an election – the overwhelming need for Australia to tackle the great challenge of our generation is being frustrated by the do-nothing climate change skeptics.

As recently as last year, the Leader of the Opposition was emphatic in his support for an emissions trading scheme. He said it was the “central mechanism” in the fight against climate change.

Speaking at the National Press Club in May last year, he stated:
“The Emissions Trading Scheme is the central mechanism to decarbonise our economy.”
(21 May 2008)

A few days later, he said:
“The biggest element in the fight against climate change has to be the emissions-trading scheme.”
(HANSARD – 26 MAY 2008)

But still today, after so many reports and consultations, the Liberal Party, the National Party and other opponents of action raise objections to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Their objections fall into three categories:

  • Some argue that the cost is too high in terms of its impact on our economy.
  • Others argue that the cost is too high in terms of its impact on households.
  • And others object to the system of global emissions trading because they believe it will unjustifiably transfer money and power from rich countries to poor countries.

Let us take each of these in turn.

First is the cost to our economy and jobs.

This has been a constant theme of the Liberal and National Parties’ attacks on the CPRS. Mr Turnbull said the CPRS “is guaranteed to slow our economic recovery, cost us jobs.”

And the de facto leader of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce, refers to the emissions trading scheme as the “employment termination scheme” – whereas I thought any self-respecting National Party leader would be out there standing up for farmers facing 40 to 80 per cent more drought in the future, rather than betraying them.

The facts about the impact of unmitigated climate change on the one hand and the CPRS on the other tell a very different story, but that eternal motto of the Liberal and National Parties is never let the facts stand in the road of a good fear campaign – whether it’s debt, border security or climate change.

Here are the facts.

Treasury modelling done in 2008 demonstrates Australia can continue to achieve strong trend economic growth while making significant cuts in emissions through the CPRS. Treasury modelling also demonstrates that all major employment sectors grow over the years to 2020 – substantially increasing employment from today’s levels. Treasury modelling also projects that clean industries will create sustainable jobs of the future – in fact by 2050 the renewable electricity sector will be 30 times larger than it is today.

Another element of the Liberal and National fear campaign about the design of the CPRS is that it will impose unmanageable cost on households.

Again, Senator Joyce – fearmonger in chief on climate change, he who therefore betrays the real interests of Australian farmers – puts the position of the Liberal and National parties as follows:
“If you live in a cave with a candle you would probably be OK, but if your house is wired up for power then every electrical appliance will be attached to a power generator which in all likelihood will pay a tax and that tax will be passed on to you, the consumer.”
(Joyce – 27 JULY 2009)

Again, the facts on the true household costs and impacts of the CPRS tell a different story. Treasury modelling again demonstrates that the price impact of the CPRS is modest. The CPRS is expected to raise household prices by 0.4 per cent in 2011-12 and 0.8 per cent in 2012-13, and the government has provided household compensation to help assist with these modest cost rises.

Pensioners, seniors, carers and people with disability and low-income households will receive additional support to fully meet the expected overall increase in the cost of living flowing from the scheme. Middle-income households will also receive additional support to help meet the expected overall increase in the cost of living flowing from the scheme.

A third argument from those who quibble with the design of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is that the international design aspects of the scheme are flawed.

Lord Christopher Monckton – a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher – was quoted this week in the Australian press by Janet Albrechtsen. Lord Monckton describes the potential Copenhagen agreement as a plan to set up a transnational “government” on a scale the world has never before seen. Enter the “world government” conspiracy theorists.

Lord Monckton also publicly warned Americans that “in the next few weeks, unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy and your prosperity away forever.”

Janet Albrechtsen, in her understated neo-conservative way, refers to the potential Copenhagen agreement as a UN “power grab”. This gaggle of world government conspiracy theorists are so far out there on the far right, that they rub up next to the global anarchists of the far left.

Those who argue that any multilateral action is by definition evil.

Those who argue that climate change does not represent a global market failure.

Those who argue that somehow the market will magically solve the problem.

And that uncoordinated national actions will fix the problem.

Without answering the basic logical question of how can we deal with an existential challenge for the whole planet which lies beyond the capacity of any individual national action to address.

The climate change deniers now form the comfortable bedfellows of the global conspiracy theorists – in total bald-faced denial of global scientific, economic and environmental reality. These arguments – thinly veiled attempts to create a new climate change global conspiracy theory – are now being used in Australia.

Like the arguments from climate change deniers, these arguments have zero basis in evidence.

Where is their equivalent evidence basis to Treasury modelling published by the Government of the industry and employment impacts of climate change?

Where is their equivalent evidence basis to Treasury modelling published by the Government on the cost impacts for households from the CPRS – and on the adequacy of the compensation arrangements put in place by the Government in our White Paper?

The answer once again is there is none.

Where is the evidence basis offered by the new league of world government conspiracy theorists that climate change can be effectively dealt with by market means or by uncoordinated national means?

Answer – there is none.

The truth is that the do-nothing climate change skeptics offer no alternative official body of evidence from any credible government in the world.

Absolutely none. The truth is they offer zero evidence.

Instead they offer maximum fear, the universal conservative stock in trade.

And by doing so, these do-nothing climate change skeptics are prepared to destroy our children’s future.

The third group of climate deniers are those who pretend to accept the science but then urge delay because they don’t want their country to be the first to act.

In Australia there was once a political consensus resisting this parochial view.

The Shergold Report commissioned by John Howard and written by the head of the Prime Minister’s department recommended that Australia should not wait for the rest of the world to act:

“… waiting until a truly global response emerges before imposing an emissions cap will place costs on Australia by increasing business uncertainty and delaying or losing investment.”
(Report of the Prime Ministerial Task Group on Emissions Trading, June 2007, p.6)

The current Leader of the Opposition also stated that a domestic ETS would help in international negotiations too:
“… our first hand experience in implementing … an emissions trading system would be of considerable assistance in our international discussions and negotiation aimed at achieving an effective global agreement.”
(Turnbull – SMH Opinion Piece – 9 July 2008)

Then the Leader of the Opposition stated he no longer supported domestic action before Copenhagen:
“I would not find, I would not support finalising the design this year. Even the best designed scheme in theory needs to have the input of the knowledge of what happens at Copenhagen and what the Americans will do.”
(AM – 16 MARCH 2009)

Seven times the Liberals and Nationals have promised to make a decision on their policy on climate change – and seven times they have delayed.

  1. In December 2007 they said wait for Garnaut.
  2. In September 2008 they said wait for Treasury modelling.
  3. In September 2008 they said wait for the White Paper.
  4. In December 2008 they said wait until the Pearce Report.
  5. In April 2009 they said wait for the Senate Inquiry.
  6. In May 2009 they said wait for the Productivity Commission – forgetting that the Productivity Commission already made a submission on emissions trading to the Howard Government’s Shergold Report.
  7. Now the Liberals and National have said wait for Copenhagen and for President Obama’s scheme.

It is an endless cycle of delay – and I am sure that with December almost upon us, the eighth excuse cannot be far away – which will be to wait until the next year or the year after until all the rest of the world has acted at which time Australia will act.

What absolute political cowardice.

What an absolute failure of leadership.

What an absolute failure of logic.

The inescapable logic of this approach is that if every nation makes the decision not to act until others have done so, then no nation will ever act.

The immediate and inevitable consequence of this logic – if echoed in other countries – is that there will be no global deal as each nation says to its domestic constituencies that they cannot act because others have not acted.

The result is a negotiating stalemate. A permanent standoff.

And this of course is the consistent ambition of all three groups of do-nothing climate change deniers.

As we approach Copenhagen, it becomes clearer that the domestic political pressure produced by the climate change skeptics now has profound global consequences by reducing the momentum towards an ambitious global deal. The argument that we must not act until others do is an argument that has been used by political cowards since time immemorial – both of the left and the right.

To take just one example, it has been used as an argument to retain protectionism, stifling economic growth and global competition, and preventing the spread of global prosperity.

As many have noted, it is the international political version of the prisoner’s dilemma. If we allow our actions to be dictated by what we falsely conclude to be in our narrow self-interest, then we harm not just others but ourselves as well because climate change inaction harms us as well.

Climate change deniers are small in number, but they are too dangerous to be ignored. They are well resourced and well represented by political conservatives in many, many countries.

And the danger they pose is this – by collapsing political momentum towards national and global action on climate change, they collapse global political will to act at all. They are the stick that gets stuck in the wheel, that despite its size may yet bring the train to a complete stop.

And that is what they want, because they are driven by a narrowly defined self interest of the present and are utterly contemptuous towards our children’s interest in the future.

This brigade of do-nothing climate change skeptics are dangerous because if they succeed, then it is all of us who will suffer.

Our children.

And our grandchildren.

If we fail, then it will be a failure that will echo through future generations.

The consequences for Australia of failing to act domestically and internationally on climate change are severe. We know from formal global and national economic modelling that the costs of inaction are greater than the costs of acting. Treasury modelling from October 2008 shows that economies that defer action on climate change face long-term costs around 15 per cent higher than those that take action now.

The sooner we act, the better placed our companies will be to benefit from new emerging global markets, and to benefit from the economic gains from improved efficiency. Moving to a low pollution economy will require significant investment in renewable energy, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency and other low emissions technologies.

We need to start giving the signal to investors that they need to factor the price of carbon into their decisions to make the investments we need. Importantly, business needs certainty to make these investments.

As Greig Gailey, former President of the Business Council of Australia said:
“Only business can make the many investments needed to transition Australia to a low carbon economy. To do this business needs certainty.”

Without passage of the CPRS there will be no certainty for business. That is why business groups like the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group want to see the major parties come together and vote on the CPRS this year.

Heather Ridout, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group said:
“… many of our members are telling us that they are holding off making investments until there is a greater degree of clarity around domestic climate change legislation.”
(ADECCO Group Australia Breakfast – 15 October 2009)

Russell Caplan, Chairman of Shell Australia, said:
“… we believe a far greater risk is that Australia misses the opportunity to put a policy framework in place to deal with this issue. This would create a climate of continuing uncertainty for industry and potentially delay the massive investments required.”
(BRW – 6 August 2009)

These are the implications for Australia. These are the political challenges we now face both at home and abroad.

But my unequivocal message to the nation today is that this nation Australia will not be deterred.

Our course is clear.

That is why this government will press forward with our plan to tackle climate change domestically and globally.

Domestically we will press forward with the passage of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

It will be voted on in the House in the week beginning Monday November 16.

It will be introduced into the Senate immediately after the vote in the House.

It will then be voted on in the Senate in the week beginning 23 November.

We welcome the Opposition’s recent cooperation and I’m pleased to hear from Minister Wong that negotiations are proceeding in good faith. I’d like to personally commend the Member for Groome for his genuine efforts to engage with the Government in good faith to reach a reasonable outcome with the Government that will finally deliver action on Climate Change.

We are of course concerned by the comments of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate that “even if the government accepts all our amendments, we may well still vote against the bill.”
(NICK MINCHIN- 2UE- 30 OCTOBER 2009)

The do-nothing climate change skeptics are still alive and well in the Coalition. After 12 years of inaction, and after two years of preparation, the nation demands a genuine timetable and good faith negotiations to give business the certainty they need with climate change.

The Australian Government is also committed to intensively engaging to support an ambitious agreement in Copenhagen.

At Copenhagen we need an ambitious agreement on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday, the formal UN negotiations are moving slowly.

The UN Secretary-General has said we must maximise the agreement we can reach in Copenhagen. They can resolve some issues, but not others.

Now is time for strenuous efforts by all leaders and ministers.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Rasmussen is engaging a growing number of leaders – in the Copenhagen Commitment Circle – to accelerate engagement by leaders.

Australia is committed to playing a leadership role and has joined Mexico and the UN Secretary-General in the initial group of ‘friends of the Chair’ to help build consensus and draw out concrete commitments from across the world.

In July this year at the G8 meetings in L’Aquila, Australia helped form a 2 degree Celsius 450 ppm ambition for global action on climate change, and it was at this meeting that Australia launched the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, a concrete initiative to make CCS technology a reality.

Australia is currently chair of the Pacific Island Forum which this year delivered the Pacific Leaders’ Climate Change Call to Action demanding urgent action on a real threat to the viability of some Pacific communities.

In September, Australia at the request of the UN Secretary-General co-chaired a roundtable at the UN Special Session on Climate Change – with a view to driving a sense of political urgency with other leaders, and representing the views of the Pacific.

Australia has launched the Forest Carbon Partnerships with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea – an initiative providing policy and technical support to protect the great forests in our neighbourhood.

And Australia has established a $150 million Climate Change Adaptation Fund – supporting vulnerable nations dealing with the real impact of climate change, with a strong focus on the Pacific.

For years – and then, with increasing intensity, in recent months – do-nothing climate change skeptics have been mounting a systematic campaign against action on climate change.

Their aim is not to convince every person on earth of the follies of acting on climate change. Their aim is to erode just enough of the political will that action becomes impossible.

By slowing the actions of each individual country, they aim to slowly drag global negotiations on climate change to a standstill. By hampering decisive action at a national level, they aim to make it impossible at an international level.

If Copenhagen does not deliver the outcome we so urgently need, no individual climate change skeptic will be responsible, but each of them will have played their part.

The corrosive effect of climate skeptics eroding the political will to act may be the disintegration of any possibility of meaningful action on climate change.

In this debate the climate change skeptics have erected an intellectual house of cards based on one simple premise: that the cost of not acting is nothing.

When you boil down their arguments, their world government conspiracy theories and their back of the envelope calculations – that in its starkest simplicity and entirety is what is left: that the cost of not acting is nothing.

That is the simplest premise upon which the scepticism of Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew, Alan, Janet and even Lord Monckton is based. They cling to that single premise like a polar bear clings to a melting iceberg.

Without that premise, their scepticism is sunk. Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew, Janet and the Thatcherite Lord Monckton are betting the house on that simple premise that the cost of not acting is nothing.

For people who claim to hold the conservative torch, their scepticism is in fact radical in its riskiness and recklessness. By deliberately undermining and eroding the capacity to achieve both domestic and international action on climate change the skeptics are attempting to force the world to take the single most reckless bet in our long history.

They are betting our future, the future of our children and our grandchildren, and they are doing so based on their own personal intuitions, their personal prejudices and their deeply ingrained political prejudices.

And they are doing so in the total absence of any genuine body of evidence.

Climate change skeptics in all their guises and disguises are not conservatives. They are radicals.

They are reckless gamblers who are betting all our futures on their arrogant assumption that their intuitions should triumph over the evidence.

The logic of these skeptics belongs in a casino, not a science lab, and not in the ranks of any responsible government.

Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew, Janet, even Lord Monckton shouldn’t even bother with the pretence of science and just admit the currency of their prescription for inaction has all the legitimacy of a roulette wheel.

Basically, let’s just sit back, do nothing and see what happens.

The alternative – our alternative – is to base policy on the evidence.

No responsible government confronted with the evidence delivered by the 4,000 scientists associated with the international panel could then in conscience choose not to act. In any public company, it would represent a gross contempt of the most basic fiduciary duty.

Malcolm and Barnaby might like to bet the future of Australia on the off chance of winning an election, but this Government will not.

A fairly well-known bloke once said that when gambling:

You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.
Know when to walk away, know when to run.

My message to the climate change skeptics, to the big betters and the big risk takers is this:

You are betting our children’s future and the future of our grandchildren.

You are betting our jobs, our houses, our farms, our reefs, our economy and our future on an intuition – on a gut feeling; on a political prejudice you have about science.

That is too big a risk, too radical a departure from the basic conservative principles of public policy.

Malcolm, Barnaby, Andrew, Janet – stop gambling with our future.

You’ve got to know when to fold ‘em – and for the skeptics, that time has come.

The Government I lead will act.

As always, comments welcome.

http://climateprogress.org/2009/10/27/obama-3-4-billion-in-clean-energy-smart-grid-investments-stimulus/

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23 Responses to Obama takes on the anti-scientific delayers, while Australia’s Rudd slams the “deniers” and the “gaggle” of “conspiracy theorists” opposing climate action

  1. Jim Prall says:

    What a fantastic, rousing speech. If I weren’t comfortably settled in Canada, I’d want to move to Australia just so I could support this visionary statesman.
    We’re in *exactly* the same boat; our minority Conservative government just announced that we can’t meet our own weak, much-delayed timetable in even starting to act on carbon emissions, because we have to … wait to see what the Americans will do.
    * * SIGH * *

  2. Wow. thanks for reprinting that big section of the speech–i’d just seen a couple of lines quoted. They were strong–but the context is overwhelming. This is a truly powerful rhetorical exercise–he takes no prisoners, he engages in very specific naming-and-shaming, he even quotes Kenny Rogers. And he says the one truth that needs saying: climate change skeptics are radicals, not conservatives. Let’s hope the Obama speechwriting team has a copy on hand to study, because this is very powerful; along with Mohammed Nasheed’s speech (http://www.350.org/about/blogs/president-maldives-speech-and-global-survival-pact) at last week’s Survival Summit, it sets the bar for how heads of state should talk about this.

  3. Gail says:

    It’s a terrific speech. I almost felt cause for optimism until I got to a goal of…450 ppm…

  4. Cynthia says:

    When the Copenhagen deal takes place, it still won’t go into force until the Kyoto Agreement has ended, in 2012. (I think Joe said that). Penchuri (?), head of the IPCC said that we need to take drastic action before 2012 or it’s over. So we can’t just wait until Copenhagen.

    In several websites and various papers, scientists have repeatedly said that the people have to become involved, that the necessary changes won’t take place until citizens demand change. Therefore, it seems to
    me that it’s up to us, the people. We need massive protests calling for zero emissions now. We have to save the arctic. Politicians, though better than before, are still too slow! We need to let them know that we have a planetary emergency and demand they act accordingly! Even if people came together now and formed million man marches, we still have only a small opening– only about 2 years to make drastic changes. Forget Copenhagen! We have to act now!

  5. David says:

    If Rudd is so concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, why does he keep letting Australia export millions of tons of coal to China every year? Is he under the impression that they’re burying all that coal, because I’m pretty sure they’re burning it.

    http://en.in-en.com/article/News/Coal/html/2009092414546.html

  6. Fd says:

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree. Mr Rudd (as Mr Obama) are really good with speeches, but very weak when it comes to action. In Australia’s case, Mr Rudd’s party, the Australian Labor Party, has majority in the parliament and is in a position to call early senate elections, for which pools show the Liberal Party (our conservatives, which are in complete disarray) would be wiped out. As in the recent case of the oceanic viking, Mr. Rudd is afraid of taking action that might damage his huge popularity. Instead of trying to make a deal with all parts, as real leaders would (even our Greens are dropping out), he does nothing but nice speeches for his own political profit. Fair enough to blame the conservatives when they were in power, but they are not, and are still being blamed….

  7. WAG says:

    Instead of “deniers” or “delayers,” what about “betrayers”?

  8. Dan R says:

    Rudd’s word’s mean nothing unless he backs it up with the required action. And his government is a long, long way from that. Embarrassing to watch actually.

    The Andrew he refers to is this one.
    http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/deceived_again_how_wong_whipped_up_those_11_metre_seas/
    His current claim is that global warming stopped in 2001. No, I don’t understand either.

    The Janet is this one. http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/janetalbrechtsen/index.php/theaustralian/comments/seeing_through_hoax_of_the_century/

    Not surprisingly, both write for Murdoch publications.

  9. Connor says:

    And while the delayers and deniers are fiddling, Adelaide (home of Ian Plimer) just sweltered through it’s first ever November heatwave, the eight days of consecutive heat above 35 degree’s C. and I’m hot, sticky and annoyed after trying to sleep through the hottest November night in Melbourne’s history. Hopefully this will be the impetus to shut Australian deniers up once and for all (ha! not likely, it’s just ‘weather’ they say). Prof. Barry Brooks from Adelaide Uni had a very good piece on his Brave New Climate blog where he points out just how high the odds of having three record smashing heatwaves in two years, but even a 1 in 3000 year event (!) can’t convince the delayers that maybe this is out of the ordinary.

    From Prf. Brooks:

    “Time for some context. The closest Adelaide has ever come to a spring heat wave was 4 days in a row 1894. This month’s event will double that — a doubling like this is not twice as unlikely, it’s orders of magnitude more unlikely. Consider that in prior to 2008, the record length for an Adelaide heat wave in any month was 8 days (all occurring in summer). Now, in the space of less than 2 years, we’ve had a 15 day event in Mar 2008 (a 1 in 3000 year event), a 9 day sequence in Jan/Feb 2009 (which included 8 days above 40°C and 13 consecutive days above 33°C), and now, another 8 day event in Nov 2009. How unusual is this? There have been 6 previous heat waves that lasted 8 days, many more of 7 days, more still of 6, and so on — the return time is logarithmically related to it’s length. Given these data, and the fact that the latest spring event has equaled previous all-time summer records (!), and the alarm bells should rightly be ringing. Statistically speaking, it’s astronomically unlikely that such a sequence of rare heat waves would occur by chance, if the climate wasn’t warming. But of course, it is.”

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/14/three-record-heatwaves-seaust/

  10. Peter Wood says:

    David makes an important point, but makes a mistake. Australia exports about 250 million tonnes of coal each year, but hardly any of that goes to China. A bit less than half of it goes to Japan. Other significant export destinations are Korea, India, and Taiwan.

    Very good speech though – and I like the Kenny Rogers quote. But because Australia’s per-capita emissions are the highest among all Annex I countries (except Luxembourg), stronger targets would be desirable.

  11. Dave E says:

    A video of Obama’s entire speech at MIT on Oct. 23 is available at http://capitalclimate.blogspot.com/2009/10/president-obamas-mit-energy-speech.html from that site click on “webcast live” to get to the actual video (I thought I originally found the link on your blog but wasn’t able to locate it just now).
    Dave E.

  12. Jack J says:

    Unfortunately Rudd, while giving a rousing speech agreed, is an extremely clever politician. He has largely wasted his enormous mandate to tackle climate change by creating an emissions trading scheme almost guaranteed not to work. His primary climate economic adviser labelled it one of the greatest failed policy exercises in Australia’s history and one of the most enormous redistributions of wealth (via free emissions permits to large polluters) with no conceivable justification from the many to the few in Australia’s history. The negotiation of the scheme is now almost complete to the point where the delayers and deniers (including many of those in his own party) have had almost total victory. We will get an emissions trading scheme which has been specifically designed not to reduce emissions in any meaningful timeframe but at the same time to spectacularly reward polluters financially. Hopefully it can be fixed, its main function for Rudd has been to position himself as on the side of action against climate change while maintaining key industry and union support politically. Politically a very successful tactic, in terms of tackling climate change very possibly has set us back 3 or 4 years or whatever time it takes to fix it up. Rhetoric is important and useful, its good to call the deniers for what they are, but in the end the politically difficult path is to take effective action. Outside some of the energy efficiency measures and renewable energy measures we have yet to see it here in Australia and can only hope that the next electoral cycle changes the parameters.

  13. paulm says:

    Outstanding speach.
    So very Austrialian – direct and hard hitting. Desperatly need now.
    To think that he could have written and recited that in Chinese as well!

    Why? The question is why do we have so many high level deniers and delayers?

    These Climate Action Naysayers who are flat earthing to maintain the status quo because it affects their bottom line and comfortable way of life.

    They are afraid of the necessary action which will result in a more equatable future because of the nature of the problem.

    To truly overcome or mitigate against climate change and peak oil means moving to a more sustainable society. One in which the power balance and traditional material comforts are not the measure they are now.

    But really their ignorance must stem from disbelief…surely if they suspect that global warming will destroy us and yet block action on fighting it then they are crazy.

    This reticence must be a human condition which tends affects those with the most to lose in terms of power, influence and wealth.

    BTW There is also the ‘frozen in the headlights’ category of climate change disbelivers. These are everyday people who just can’t grasp or believe whats instore within the century (threating us & our kids) and possibly think that there will be solutions round the corner in any case that will save us:
    – a 5ft sea level rise by 2100! (really?)
    – socital breakdown because food shortages due to droughts and reduced water supplies by 2020! (really?)
    – cities abandond and small nations brought to their knees by intense, reoccuring storms & rain fall. (well may be…)
    – heatwaves year in year out which will make city dwellings unlivable and inflict untold misery and death by 2025. (A 1° rise in global tempreture surely does not mean this!)

    They all have to get on board. The new Grenpeace leader states ….
    “Today I think history teaches us that if we look at some of the major struggles we have won — whether it’s the civil rights movement in the United States, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, even if you go further back and think about the anti-slavery movement – it is when decent men and women have been willing to bear witness, step forward and in a sense put their lives on the line, if not literally then figuratively.”

    PS Prime Minister Rudd, its worse than you think. We need to get to 350ppm.
    Why dont you nationalize the Austrailan coal and power industry and implement the necessary action?

  14. Roger says:

    Rudd’s speech is FANTASTIC! Straight talk such as this is l-o-n-g overdue. It’s amazing that so few have managed to impede the progress of (or should we just say “screw the future of”) so many for so long!!

    Yes, Obama needs to make many of the same points, plus speak of the huge opportunities that Americans will be missing if we aren’t one of the leaders of the global energy revolution. He needs to make these points on prime-time, national television, for every educated person to hear. Then, he needs to find funding for several hundred million dollars worth of radio and TV ads to make the same points to others.

    Here’s a little story. I’m constantly talking to folks about climate change, what it’s all about, why we need to act, what we need to do, why it’s a huge opportunity, etc., etc. There are numerous reactions, ranging from “But it’s such a huge problem; what can I do?” or “Roger, if this is such a huge problem or opportunity, why are YOU the only one I know that’s talking about it?” to my FAVORITE reaction: “It seems like the government would be doing something about it if it were that important!” So, President Obama, when are you going to step it up?

    Finally, in response to those above who complain that strong words from a national leader are not enough, I agree to a degree. But let’s not forget, in honor of all of those brave men and women who have fought to make us free, that in a democracy we can’t expect our leader to do it ALL for us. We NEED TO EXERCISE OUR RIGHTS! Our right to speak out, to let our elected leaders know what we think, to vote, to call, to write, to go see them, to march in the streets, to camp out in front of their offices, and more.

    Many have died over the past 235 years to enable, and to preserve, our American way of life. Many more have died prematurely because of the pollution of our atmosphere that has been increasing during these same 235 years. Now, with the future of untold generations at risk, is it asking too much of us all-too-comfortable living Americans to give up a few minutes of our time to express our concern for the future? I think not!

    Next week is IMPACT week: International Motivate the President to ACT Week. You owe it to those who have gone before, and to those who hope to follow, to pick up the phone (9-5 EST, M-F) and call 202-456-1111. You will get a volunteer operator at the White House who will take note of your concern and pass it in to be included in the daily tally of calls. Should it be more convenient, you can visit http://www.whitehouse.gov and look for the comment area in the upper right corner of the page. Failing that, you can write to President Obama at the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500. Please make yourself heard.

    If any readers of Joe’s blog live in a state that mines or uses a lot of coal, your role is especially important. Explain to your friends, family, and neighbors that your state may be OK now, but it will most certainly “wither on the vine” in the carbon-restricted economy of the future. You folks, more than any others, need to call your senators to tell them of the need for us all to support the clean, new job-creating energy bills now being hammered out in the Senate. Your future prosperity, and that of your children and grandchildren depends on it.

  15. Duncan says:

    Stick to the word “delayers”. While people may happily confess to being deniers and think there is some respectability in that, it is harder to see how the same would apply to someone going around admitting to being a delayer.

  16. mike roddy says:

    Maybe we need a new word. The deniers insist on being called skeptics, but I think that we should do the opposite of whatever they request. Dedummy is the word that comes to mind for me. How else do you describe someone who has his own theories about physical reality?

    I battled them on Dot Earth off and on for two years. After a while you go a little nuts, as their responses to facts get even higher up in the ozone. It’s like trying to reason with someone in a lunatic asylum. Eventually you feel like saying, “There, there, relax and enjoy this piece of candy.”

  17. Leif says:

    Roger, # 14: Good to see that you are still on the case for IMPACT WEEK. My normal email is infected and I have been out of the loop but still working. Attempting to get the ear of ‘Creation Care” folks.
    IMPACT WEEK here we come…

  18. Jem Cooper says:

    Stopping global warming is much simpler and less painful than people imagine.

    Energy saving, nuclear, renewables, electric cars etc. are merely ways of filling the energy gap that cutting carbon dioxide emissions will create and mankind has been very effectively filling energy gaps for centuries without the aid of agreed national or global strategies, taxes or caps. Carbon capture is different. It is a way of stopping pollution. You can legislate to stop pollution (which is economically inefficient) or you can use market forces by giving credits in a cap and trade system, credits against a carbon tax or by paying directly as in my proposal.

    We should oblige fossil fuel producers and importers to contract for the capture and sequestration of a quantity of carbon dioxide equal to a proportion of that produced from the fuel they supply. The proportion could start at a few percent and gradually build up. This would increase fuel price encouraging energy saving, nuclear, renewables, electric cars etc. and provide immediate funding for carbon capture and storage.

    The contract might permit capture to be delayed for a year if the quantity captured were increased by 10%, and for another year for another 10% etc. This would not only help with plant problems, but would also allow contracts to be placed today, providing a huge incentive to get plants up and running as soon as possible.

    We must soon stop carbon emissions from power generation, cement manufacture etc. and substitute electricity for fuel use in many domestic, industrial and transport applications. Taxing carbon, capping emissions or contracting for carbon capture when fuel is produced could all provide the economic incentive but unless applied globally will not be sufficient.

    Carbon capture contracting is guaranteed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to whatever annual target is set and is easy to apply globally because:

     It will appeal to rapidly growing and mature countries alike. There are no national caps to restrict relative growth.
     It will allow all industries in all countries to compete on a level playing field. There are no tax or carbon credit differentials and no allowances for governments to give out or auction.
     Because there is only one number to agree, the global annual target, extensive international negotiations will be unnecessary. There will be no national targets to haggle over and perhaps never meet and no issue about who gets the revenue from a carbon tax, consumer or producer nation, or what the tax rate should be.
     Enforcement is straightforward and does not rely on the co-operation of every country. The contracts would be traded and recorded centrally, mostly placed and paid for by the international energy companies. If countries were uncooperative and used their own fuel internally without contracting for carbon capture, a central monitoring organisation could impose an increased capture proportion on imports or exports of fuel for that country to compensate.

    So what will it cost? The simple answer is that carbon capture and storage could cost up to 50 euros per tonne of carbon dioxide emission avoided. This translates to $32/barrel of oil.

    The complicated answer is that it is only practical to capture carbon dioxide from large point sources like power stations. Forcing 75% capture on the global market through my proposal would drive fuel price up and electricity price down until we switched from fuel to electricity for sufficient industrial, domestic and transport applications.

    The simple cost is modest compared to recent price changes so why are we waiting? Perhaps within as little as twenty years we could be defining the proportion of carbon to be captured, based on fossil fuel production at the time, such that global emissions were contained at the level that the oceans absorb annually, i.e. about 2.2 billion tonnes of carbon per year (25% of current emissions). Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration would then stop rising.

  19. Ric Merritt says:

    Gail #3, please don’t give undue weight to arguing about 350 versus 450 or whatever at this stage. Yes, take note, but you said it killed your optimism, and we can’t afford to lose that asset.

    Gavin Schmidt has made this point very well and forcefully at RealClimate. The actions to take in the next few years to get to, say, 350, are indistinguishable from the actions to take in the next few years to get to 450. Any differences fall well within the scientific margin of error in forecasting or setting a timetable. Please, please, I am NOT NOT NOT saying that there is no difference between 350 and 450. A lot of people seem to have trouble with this sort of logic. If that’s what you thought I said, please reread what I wrote.

    The differences in the paths to 350 or 450 can be handled down the road. The only thing that might prevent that would be not starting on the road, and that is what is needed now. So put on a smile and get that optimism back.

  20. James says:

    It’s 9am, and it’s 30 deg C outside in Bathurst NSW – a smallish place about 3 hours in a car west of Sydney. There’ll be hotter places today, and have been over the last two weeks, 47 further west yesterday staying as high as 33 over night. If this is a sign of the times then we no longer have four seasons we just flip summer – winter. Apparently it’s spring now! The usual historical records have burnt up across southern Australia and the new ‘Catastrophic’ fire warning has been used across huge swathes of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

    I regret to say that the domestic politics in Australia is as intractable as the US. Smoke and well, smoke – mirrors aren’t needed to make it look worse. Kevin did give a good speech; he can talk for hours on most things… The problem here is that all the fuss and bluster is about a target which is so miniscule that it makes a mockery of the entire climate change issue. We are a nation of farmers and diggers, since the drought not so many farmers. But the diggers have been buoyed again by demand from China and India, exports in coal and ore increasing again allowing Australia to weather the GFC. We are spending billions of dollars to increase capacity at our coal terminals and associated rail infrastructure.

    Government politics is difficult, there are no doubt a large range of issues which need to be balanced, juggled, at once. Australia is not doing this. Our Treasurer was recently attempting to scuttle discussions trying to figure out how to compensate developing states in a carbon constrained world. Most of our senior ministers have very tight links to the coal industry, showing no signs of making any brave decisions on climate any time soon. We don’t need to get onto the opposition, last night they were in disarray suggesting that the planet was cooling and even twisting Hadley Centre data to attempt to show the point.

    It would be best to go on without us on this one, or at least until we actually put some skin in the game.

    On the flip side, we will always be open for a BBQ, but the reef will be closed.

  21. Cynthia says:

    James, as frustrating as it is, I wouldn’t count on any change until it’s too late. When scientists warned about CFC’s, the big corporations fussed and fumed for years, until finally a hole appeared in the ozone layer. Things will only change when it smacks people in the face and then it will be too late. The only way it will change is if we demand change– significant change. And so far, the people have not done so. We complain about the government and the deniers, but it really comes down to us. WE have to demand change and then change will occur. WHEN WILL WE, THE PEOPLE TAKE TO THE STREETS IN MASS DEMONSTRATIONS AND DEMAND CHANGE, AS JIM HANSEN SUGGESTED? That is the question!

  22. James says:

    What is not understood in the popular discourse is the way that science works through peer review and ‘probable cause or outcome’. Far smarter people than myself have written here about this I’m sure. I think people like Obama get what is required but they are just moving against present social and institutional gravity.

    We’ve had 50 years of political guarantees all based around an ‘all you can eat mentality’ and now we are being told that the offer, so to speak is over. The reaction from the public is typical – disbelief, not wanting to shift habits. This is the end of the post war consensus. Institutions and social and economical mind sets have to change, but how? This is what you never know – how.

    Revolutions are notoriously difficult to steer and have often led to authoritarianism of one sort or another. Maybe the impetus for change is unlikely to come from the west, we the comfortable economies. Especially if we’re to busy buying recycled paper and prius’s and expecting some sort of market solution!

    There are a series of enormously difficult challenges to surmount over the next 50 years, most intertwined with system limitations. At the end of the day we have to break with an extremely successful evolutionary habit ending tribalism and becoming truly cosmopolitan. We are only now beginning to develop a global perspective that respects the limits of our planet. I agree that crises are an opportunity to implement change, however sometimes you don’t get to pick the course it takes.

    Or as I like to dream sometimes we rescued from oblivion by an alien wearing a tattered banana suit! Unlikely eh?

  23. You know.. I have given this some thought. IF they where serous about this, instead of CAP and TRADE, it would JUST BE CAP!!! sorry about the caps… Anyways, Merry Christmas!