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Is climate change a socialist plot?

AAP/Matthew Newton

In the past year, we have heard from several right-of-centre members of the media-political elite in Australia - some of whom dined together at Kirribilli House on the weekend - that climate change is exaggerated for the purposes of introducing a “socialist” carbon tax.

One of the Kirribilli guests, News Corp columnist Miranda Devine, wrote a eulogy for the late Margaret Thatcher earlier this year, enthusiastically quoting the former British prime minister’s now dated critique of the Left.

Nowadays, socialism is more often dressed up as environmentalism, feminism or international concern for human rights.

The most recent expression of such harking back to Thatcherism could be found at the Tasmanian Liberal Party conference last week, where Tony Abbott declared:

Let’s be under no illusions: the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism.

In doing so, Abbott has tapped into a conspiracy meme that far-Right political voices have been pushing for over a decade. It is a theory that draws on a New World Order fear of a one world government that threatens national sovereignty by inventing a global crisis to which all nations have to respond. Overseas, such a theory has been espoused by the likes of Christopher Monckton and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

In Australia, Abbott has linked this meme to the carbon tax, and with the help of the denialist press, he has been able to politicise the need to reduce carbon as a “great big tax” - one that even “Electricity Bill” Shorten should be afraid of.

The grand irony-in-the-making here is that the so-called carbon “tax” has always been an emissions trading scheme, based on free market principles of pricing carbon. There is simply not much socialism to be found in such schemes.

A second layer of irony can be introduced here also. Any scheme aimed at reducing carbon emissions is actually deeply conservative, in a way that makes use-it-or-lose-it drives to burn every last tankerload of fossil fuel look radically extreme.

But nevertheless, because of the difficulty in communicating the complexity of emissions trading schemes, even Labor politicians succumbed to referencing the ETS as a tax, which made it an easy target for memory-burn PR in Abbott’s successful election campaign.

But now the contra-climate change conservatives are wanting to go further in tapping into value-added memes of socialist sabotage that hark back to the anti-communism of the Cold War.

But, in so doing, the Abbott government is appealing to a very small audience who are either living in a Cold War time-warp or are lapsed students of B. A. Santamaria.

The broader electorate is not really going to be persuaded by such a reference, unless Abbott was to pitch it another way.

There is no doubt that much of the committed warming we are living with today, created by the concentrations of carbon emissions depicted in the representative concentration pathways of the IPCC, have been emitted by socialist states.

Such single-party states, based on command economies that actually had more of a chance to control emissions than free-market states, have failed to do so. Of course, one reason for this is that the science had not become established in any policy-relevant sense until the end of the Cold War.

If anything, socialist states had inherited a productivist ethos that was at the heart of the socialist program. The largest of these states, China and the former Soviet Union, were set the task of transforming agrarian nations into industrial socialism. What made this task almost impossible was the idea that they needed to compete with the recklessness and efficiency of capitalism.

Today, of course, China has surpassed the United States in its volume of current emissions and will soon catch up in the historical contribution of emission concentrations. But this is understandable, given that China is the new workshop of the world. Consumers in capitalist societies contribute to these carbon emissions every time we purchase a consumer item made in China, and with every tonne of coal that is exported there.

Industrialised states that self-identify as socialist or communist are not going to give up their expansion of industrial production, out of which they produce wealth. So, in a sense, the reality of climate change is a legacy of industrial socialism as much as capitalism.

But carbon reduction schemes are being deployed in China as much as Europe has moved to renewable energy. In China, reducing emissions has been made so much more urgent by the fact that the single-party state has conspired to raise productive capacity to a level that could rival global capitalism. A socialist plot indeed.

The final irony here is being able to conclude that the only thing deniers may be right about is that climate change is, at least in part, a socialist plot.

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32 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Comment removed by moderator.

  2. Michael Courts

    Editor at The Conversation

    Just a note, personal attacks on the author will be immediately removed, as will any comments that stray wildly off topic. Let's try and create a conversation, as it were.

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  3. Robert McDougall

    Small Business Owner

    maybe the meeting is to discuss how to "sell" the next illusion to the electorate?

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  4. Paul Felix

    Builder

    The other day, in a shop, I was informed, by the owner (not a corner shop by any means) that Australia had become a communist state because
    We allow immigrants (not just refugees)
    We allow conservationists to discuss issues
    We allow foreign investment.
    So to argue the pricing carbon in any way (tax or ets) is a socialist plot is going get a good reaction from many people.
    It is true that progressive taxation or taxing things like carbon or tobacco or petrol is more a socialist model than a free market model.
    So I agree with the author, with the proviso - when ignorance rules anything is possible.

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  5. Mike Hansen

    Mr.

    With both "climate change" and "socialist" in the title, I suspect David is trying to corner the market at TC on climate science denier trolls.

    Apparently a carbon tax, designed to stop the atmosphere being used as a waste dump for CO2 is "socialism masquerading as environmentalism". But a levy on companies to pay for a generous paid parental leave scheme is not. Don't get me wrong. Nothing wrong with paid parental leave.

    But obviously us mere mortals do not have that finely tuned sense of logic that members of the LNP have that allows them to distinguish between socialism and non-socialism.

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  6. Neville Mattick

    Grazier: ALP Member at A 4th Generation Grazing Station

    I can say it is as "hot as Hades" here in November and the COALition 'idea' (like so many others it has) of Direct Action is only a pointless slogan.

    Planting trees, paying for Soil Carbon and sponsoring polluters has to be taken for what it is - a joke! The future is going to become rapidly more difficult methinks.

    A lot of the profligate denial is supported by the excess use of Air Conditioning today, promoting more consumption, Climate scepticism and of course is very good for power companies.

    There aren't any air conditioners in my work place, only Sheep, Cattle and a few Wild Dogs.

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  7. Sean Arundell

    Uncommon Common Sense

    Related video Ref: Noam Chomsky: How Climate Change Became a 'Liberal Hoax' http://youtu.be/FJUA4cm0Rck 21 mins - Jan 2011
    This is Not Cool: Murderers, Tyrants, and Madmen (includes good Thatcher speech) May 17, 2012 http://youtu.be/77VejUbuFsk 11mins by Yale Uni http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/yale-climate-media-forum-on-youtube/
    Michael Mann: The Hockey Stick and Climate Wars http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUFGh89bvp0 Mar 7, 2012
    Medieval Warm Period -- fact vs. fiction Jul 28, 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CY4Yecsx_-s

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  8. Chris O'Neill

    Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

    "There is no doubt that much of the committed warming we are living with today, created by the concentrations of carbon emissions depicted in the representative concentration pathways of the IPCC, have been emitted by socialist states."

    The irony here is that environmentalism is a left-wing issue in only right-wing states.

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    1. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      re "The irony here is that environmentalism is a left-wing issue in only right-wing states." I don't know if that's true or not. In the recent past it sure wasn't, as this (and thatcher speech in video above) should show clearly: George Bush The President's News Conference in Rio de Janeiro June 13, 1992 "The United States fully intends to be the world's preeminent leader in protecting the global environment. We have been that for many years. We will remain so. We believe that environment and development, the two subjects of this Conference, can and should go hand in hand. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=21079#axzz2jQhSJ1zp If it wasn't for Reagan/Thatcher US/UK initially supporting the Rio planning and the creation of the IPCC, followed by Major/Bush after them when it happened Climate Science wouldn't be at the level it is now in expertise and hard facts. Much changed since 1992 of course, that's a given.

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    2. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "The irony here is that environmentalism is a left-wing issue in only right-wing states."

      That doesn't mean it is always demonized as a left-wing issue in right wing states. Just that such demonization (as a left-wing issue) only happens in right-wing states. By definition, left-wing states don't demonize something by calling it a left-wing issue.

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    3. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      aha thanks Chris, now I get it. Too true! I agree. :)
      it's all about "framing" and who wins that argument. In Ecuador the majority values of the populace are very different to the USA and here. No bullying occurs from the majority when one speaks up about their genuine concerns about climate change being real and pressing as a global issue. Currently the right in Oz has won the framing argument with a majority siding that way. Doesn't mean they have 'won' forever. Public opinion is always shifting. Majority opinion however does not by default make any single opinion or judgement right, true or correct. cheers

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  9. Chris O'Neill

    Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

    "because of the difficulty in communicating the complexity of emissions trading schemes, even Labor politicians succumbed to referencing the ETS as a tax"

    I have no idea why anyone HAS to call an ETS a tax. I would have thought the obvious thing to do when you start being accused of introducing a tax that you promised not to introduce would be to say that you did not introduce that tax.

    Nevertheless, if a former Prime Minister SAYS she introduced a tax that she promised she would not introduce then there is very little that anyone could do to save her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgAB9aVSLnI

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  10. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter

    "Consumers in capitalist societies contribute to these carbon emissions every time we purchase a consumer item made in China, and with every tonne of coal that is exported there."

    Great. We cop the blame for importing their cheap manufactured junk AND for exporting coal there. That's a hell of a raw deal. Seems like the Chinese could do pretty well anything between getting our coal and sending us their junk and it would all be our fault,

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  11. helen stream

    teacher

    I think, David Holmes, you're using the fact that Socialist countries have been worse environmental vandals in every way than capitalist countries , to try to divert attention from the fact that Socialists within the capitalist countries are running the show as far as the climate change hysteria is concerned.

    As the Left always does, you are attempting to exonerate the socialist countries and the full-on Communist dictatorships like China, on the grounds that they are just trying earnestly to…

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    1. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      Hi Helen, that was an excellently written response there. Good job, you're clearly not only passionate about the issues but personally activated and somewhat informed too. If there's one thing I can totally agree with you on it is that almost everything related to 'CAGW' is predicated on people's Core Values. You make a fairly good case for you personal Values here, and articulate them well. Many will agree with you, and say what you write is 100% true. But is it really? Is there no doubt in your…

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    2. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to helen stream

      Sean Arundel...

      Of course you can always try to discredit alternative science and opinion, and divert attention of the population away from holes in the warmist hysteria case, citing cases in the past when some scientist or sceptic has rejected the scientific research on smoking etc, or has a creationist view or whatever.

      That's nothing but a red herring designed to convey the message that anyone who is sceptical of the 'consensus' on CAGW by definition falls within those categories.

      It's…

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    3. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      Thanks for that Helen. Very enlightening and entertaining too. I really loved this line: "It failed to say how many of those Californians---and especially their respondents---- were on marijuana or other drugs" That's a classic, a keeper. What can I say? Not much obviously.
      For any subsequent readers who notice the repeated references to the Hockey Stick issue raised by Helen, may I direct you here (and do cross check the references historically should you have the time to do so, as I have done…

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    4. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      typo: Michael Mann (the evil mastermind of the entire climate change PLOT) ...

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    5. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      @Helen Stream (sounds like a pseudo JamesW?) I need to note a serious misrepresentation (defamation?) made about me by Helen: She falsely stated that "The 'flakes' you list includes Professor Judith Curry, ". That is totally false. What I actually said was this:
      "Fact is that some 'scientists' have been bounced out of the IPCC process because they are flakes, AND their science is bad science AND woolly thinking. Not because of any global conspiracy by leftist guerrillas. <smile>"
      Then I gave a list of known (quote) *Anti-science activists*. That list included Judith Curry. I never made a list of 'flakes' as wrongly claimed by Helen. Thanks. Details matter. Not just in Science either. :)

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    6. helen stream

      teacher

      In reply to helen stream

      Sean Arundell...

      Thank you for your response---glad you were entertained.

      Your response like all from the followers of the CAGW fad, focuses in forensically on minutiae that are irrelevant in the exercise aimed at finding the truth on this issue around which the Left hopes to rejig the world to build its own global power base.

      So you're very 'amused' or perhaps incredulous that California could be full of potheads ---but you dodge and weave to avoid discussing how irrational and anti-science…

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    7. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      ROTFLMAO " focuses in forensically on minutiae that are irrelevant in the exercise aimed at finding the truth on this issue" Not irrelevant, *minutiae* is exactly what good Science, the Police, ICAC, investigative journalists, and even Sherlock Holmes do.
      "how irrational and anti-science it is [...] ---dissident scientists already being sacked and others threatened and ostracised---" well where's your evidence for this claim? If it is so widespread there must be a mountain of it. Present it…

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    8. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      PS re TC Standards state: "Contributors who want to comment must use their real names when signing up for an account on The Conversation." My research indicates at this time no such living person as "helen stream" exists in Australia. I could be wrong of course, as an absence of evidence doesn't amount to evidence. But it does possibly raise some questions that I believe warrant further investigation and confirmation of some kind by TC. People morphing from one pseudo to another on boards like this has been going on since 1996. Nothing new under the sun, as they say. The patterns of Human nature are persistent across time space and cultures. :)

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    9. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to helen stream

      Sean,

      Seriously?

      It was one of the boasts of the IPCC that all the documents and reports they use were peer reviewed. However, Helen is quite right, when examined 30% of those cited were found to be grey literature. Newspaper reports, press releases, propaganda documents prepared by activist organisations.

      In other words, 30% of (claimed) peer reviewed documents cited in IPCC AR4 were worthless pieces of junk which no body committed to science would even have looked at. Since then, responding…

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    10. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      Hi Chris, my response is the same: Well where's your evidence for these claims? If it is so widespread there must be a mountain of it. Present it. I will read it and seriously consider what you provide.

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    11. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to helen stream

      Quoting Cliamte Sceintists verbatim: IPCC errors: facts and spin - 14 February 2010
      Currently, a few errors –and supposed errors– in the last IPCC report (“AR4″) are making the media rounds – together with a lot of distortion and professional spin by parties interested in discrediting climate science. Time for us to sort the wheat from the chaff: which of these putative errors are real, and which not? And what does it all mean, for the IPCC in particular, and for climate science more broadly…

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    12. Chris O'Neill

      Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

      In reply to helen stream

      "where's your evidence for these claims?"

      Chris Harper has a penchant for making claims without evidence. He has claimed that there was a statistically significant slowdown in global warming over 15 years yet he fails to:

      1. state the null hypothesis that is the basis of the statistical significance claim, or

      2. state the test that shows the above null hypothesis is unlikely to be true over a 15 year period,

      both of which are necessary to be able to claim there was a statistically significant slowdown in global warming.

      Claims without evidence; that's a standard denialist technique by the likes of Chris Harper.

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  12. John Pollard

    Casual Observer

    It is probable that well-intentioned environmental activists have been over-hyping the anthropogenic angle for obvious reasons. This is understandable and, to my mind, forgivable. After all, it was a perfect opportunity to curb rampant industrial pollution. Socialism? So what? The question remains, can we continue on the rampant growth path, or is it time to put the brakes on in the interest of future generations? The politics is obscuring the reality.

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  13. Pat Moore

    gardener

    The Murdoch media elected prime minister hosting a taxpayer-funded celebratory dinner with these prominent and professional denialists...now that's a capitalist plot. The election war footing assault back down to peace time propaganda and perhaps a little insiders IPA/LNP strategy information for the loyal troops.

    The promotion of the awareness of global warming is a social service especially in a diverted and distracted populace who are entertained like children by popular media and culture so that destructive business as usual can continue on its merry way unchallenged.

    Wondered today at the mentality of thousands playing dress ups to watch some poor horses being raced around a track where apparently one of their names was Complacency. That's fitting because it is widespread complacency and ignorance that has delivered this corrupted government that sponsors major climate disruption in the name of profit.

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    1. Sean Arundell

      Uncommon Common Sense

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Climate Chaos in Four Minutes: a Video Oct 7, 2013 Presented without further comment is a short video that reviews contemporary knowledge of climate change. http://guymcpherson.com/2013/10/climate-chaos-in-four-minutes-a-video-update/ quoting: "Action is the antidote to despair. So let's act."
      The oft-updated print version of relevant information remains here. http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/

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