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The power of the fragment: why politicians have turned their backs on climate

A recent Vote Compass poll shows 61% of Australian adults want the federal government to do more to tackle climate change; 18% want it to do less. This figure, consistent with many polls over the years…

Strong action on climate change has been undermined by the fragmentation of politics. kukkurovaca/Flickr

A recent Vote Compass poll shows 61% of Australian adults want the federal government to do more to tackle climate change; 18% want it to do less. This figure, consistent with many polls over the years, squares with various developments in Australian politics but contradicts others.

The Howard Government lost the 2007 election in part because it was not seen to be doing enough to tackle climate change. When he was prime minister the first time, Kevin Rudd’s popularity fell sharply when he appeared to abandon plans to reduce Australia’s emissions. And Malcolm Turnbull is the preferred Liberal leader in substantial measure because he is more hawkish on the issue.

Against these examples, the Gillard government’s support fell after it introduced the carbon price. And now both major parties are watering down their commitments to reduce emissions.

The truth is the Australian public does not know what it wants its government to do on climate change. A large majority wants it to do something, but the government seems to lose support whenever it does anything. The only notable exception (and perhaps because many people don’t know it exists) is the Renewable Energy Target, first introduced by the Howard Government as a sop to public anxiety.

For any political leader unwilling to exercise leadership on the issue, trying to respond to climate change leaves them uncertain which way to turn.

The confusion and fretfulness over how to respond to global warming is an expression of the uniqueness of climate change among environmental issues. It ought to be simple: the science tells us that to have a reasonable chance of limiting warming to the widely accepted target of 2C, rich countries such as Australia (and especially Australia) must reduce their emissions by 25-40% by 2020. They must continue to reduce them until they are at least 90% lower by the middle of the century.

All of the economic modelling shows the required transition in the energy economy would come at modest, even trivial, overall cost. Yes, there would be substantial adjustment, including job losses in old energy industries as they are replaced by new ones. But dealing with structural change has not prevented governments in the past from undertaking major reforms, such as tariff cuts, competition policy and forest protection. By any measure, these have been much less important to the nation’s future.

Part of the difficulty lies in the way politics has transformed over the last 30 years. The 1980s’ convergence on neo-liberalism, accelerated by the collapse of communism, has not seen the populace coalesce around a common conception of the national interest. Instead, it has fragmented.

In place of a grand ideological contest over who should rule, the centre has relinquished its authority. Politics today is increasingly dominated by rancorous and self-righteous groups that constellate around specific issues.

The fragmentation of politics, which goes beyond traditional pressure group activities, is in part due to a better educated population more willing to challenge traditional forms of authority. In itself this is a good thing. The exception is when the authority being challenged really does know best, as is true of immunology and atmospheric physics. In this case a little knowledge can indeed be a dangerous thing. The internet gives as much access to disinformation as it does to information, and some are not educated in how to judge the difference.

Climate politics has been caught in this new dispensation. There is an irony to this because it is one of the few cases where the objective case for a strong action is overwhelming. Yet we have seen politicians anxiously trying to catch the public mood, seemingly unaware that the mood is determined by a raucous and angry minority of so-called sceptics.

Tony Abbott beat Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal Party leadership by one vote after backbenchers were spooked by an organised torrent of emails, phone calls, faxes and letters flooded into their offices. Julia Gillard’s support never recovered from the “JuLiar” campaign promulgated by a small but determined and well-organised campaign that echoed not only in the blogosphere but in the mainstream media too.

The new kind of interest group politics can be highly effective when the majority is willing to tolerate it. In what might be called “the equation of influence”, if we take a small number of activists and multiply it by their level of passion the product will be bigger than the one we obtain by taking a very large number and multiplying it by a care factor that ranges from periodic hand-wringing to “couldn’t be arsed”.

While most Australians are concerned about climate change they are not concerned enough to take on strident deniers in everyday situations. Al Gore recently put it this way

The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned. It’s like a family with an alcoholic father who flies into a rage every time a subject is mentioned and so everybody avoids the elephant in the room to keep the peace.

We see most starkly the power a rampant faction can wield in the Republican Party in the United States, where those who led it a decade ago are saying: “What happened? How did we allow the Tea Party to capture our party?” They were not willing to resist those fired-up people and now they have to figure out how to take their party back. Because the Tea Party is like a poison that, until it is sucked out, will prevent the Republicans ever regaining their former influence.

Though not as decisive, the Coalition parties in Australia have experienced a similar invasion. We’ve seen, for example, party conferences pass resolutions against the teaching of climate science in schools.

The question arises of whether an Abbott government, by pacifying the anti-science activists, will provoke the broad and diverse body of the “climate concerned” into a phase of much more intense activism?

The reasons for exasperation will come thick and fast from the new government: the appointment of charlatans to senior advisory positions, evisceration of the federal climate change department, winding back legislation, including the Renewable Energy Target, rising emissions as the Direct Action Plan fails, and Australia taking a spoiling role at international meetings, especially the crucial Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015.

Taking the long view, perhaps a reactionary government is what climate activism needs to reverse the equation of influence, to force the polity to leapfrog the half-measures we have seen so far. After all, it is what the science demands.

Join the conversation

92 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. John Newlands

    tree changer

    The penultimate paragraph may give a clue to the likely problems. Many people will be angered at a government that does nothing, particularly in a country that is massive coal user and exporter. It could prove as politically fatal to the LNP as it has been to the ALP. The gift that keeps on giving.

    However I disagree with article's suggestion that emissions cuts can be done with relatively little pain under either an EU style ETS or 'direct action'. I suggest a complete rethink that puts new methods on the table, including carbon tariffs and nuclear power. Read beyond the headline in this article
    http://theenergycollective.com/stephenlacey/267066/germany-sets-another-record-51-terawatt-hours-solar-july
    The Germans are also having a federal election this month. In both countries it may be more of what doesn't work at an affordable price.

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  2. Blair Donaldson
    Blair Donaldson is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Researcher & Skeptic

    As much as the LNP like to present themselves as financial wizards and the bees knees when it comes to economic management, Abbott and company will eventually cost the Australian taxpayer far more in future years. Their failure to take meaningful and effective action on climate change, creating a truly functional Internet, their low regard for education, science in particular and their apparent lack of concern about the loss of manufacturing in this country will cost us dearly.

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  3. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    The article has some merit, however there is no contradiction in the public's stance. They may want the government to do something about climate change, for whatever reason, but they are vaguely aware that the efforts to other countries are well short of concerted international action. Hence, they are wary of any strenuous efforts by Australia. there is simply no point in getting out ahead of the international pack..

    As for the writers statement that switching to a low carbon economy would involve trivial costs, this should be treated as the absurd nonsense that it is. Just look at the amounts already spent on wind farms and PVs and remember that those installations have very low capacity factors, so they replace very little of the fossil fuel network.

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, you dispute the author's argument that switching to a low carbon economy would involve modest or even trivial costs.

      I would you like to present a reasoned analysis which critiques that view. After all you are a senior journalist at the AFR.

      How about contributing an article to The Conversation?

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    2. Mark McGuire

      climate consensus rebel

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,
      You might be interested in this new video from an Aussie called Topher: "What if I could show you it is 50 times more expensive to STOP climate change that it is to ADAPT to climate change? Well I can, in less than 10 minutes."

      http://topher.com.au/50-to-1-video-project/

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    3. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      I was wondering when someone would link to this piece of garbage.

      Thanks Mark. Now could you tell us all whether you stand by the claims in the video?

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    4. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,still finding reasons for Australia to NOT do it's share? You are consistent I suppose. But you are really just voicing what Australian commerce and industry want - which is the option of not having to deal with the problem. That they will choose doing nothing at least cost over doing what's needed at some cost makes commercial interests incapable of developing or even agreeing to sound policy to do the minimum needed. Easiest of all to convince people to NOT deal with it when they disbelieve…

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    5. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry - regretably any articles would have to be for my employer but its all been done on the conversation. .. search on AEMO and renewables. The AEMO produced a report recently which estimated that an all-renewables network would result in double present wholesale costs (so 50 per cent extra retail) and they pointed out its probably an underestimate because they didn't include land pourchase costs on some facilities. Its probably on the web site as well.. some academic was citing it as proof that his own work but the AEMO is the only report with any show of independence.

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    6. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      Mark - interesting stuff will look.. tnks..

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    7. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Ken - the problem remains, as it always has, that unilateral action by Australia costs but has no effect. Australia's one and only option, if we wish to take action on climate change, is to set up our systems and wait for the rest of the world to catch up. Without effective international action, there is no point in doing anything else. It is you who is denying this basic reality.

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    8. Craig Somerton

      IT Professional

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Typical reply of the denier Mark.

      "...there is simply no point in getting out ahead of the international pack.".

      So, nobody should take a leadership role and show the way?

      Instead we should all be bleating sheep on the path to our own demise and only follow the path forged by others.

      Kinda like saying "Why should I stop dumping my sewerage in the street because my neighbour also does it?".

      With a mindset like that humanity would have achieved nothing.

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    9. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Craig Somerton

      "So, nobody should take a leadership role and show the way?"
      'Nobody' is very close to identifying that part of humanity, which even CAN take a leadership role and show the way; let alone SHOULD. That part of humanity comprises a few dozen people in Washington, and Beijing. Nobody in Canberra even rates as a nobody.

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    10. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      I'll believe that the world is taking action on climate change the day that they stop buying and importing our coal....

      Until then there is no reason to take costly action. Not unless we use alternatives to coal for baseline power (the nuclear option).

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    11. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark is wrong, we are behind many countries. This graph may be a little out of date, however many many countries have started to cut their emissions in a meaningful way. Not Australia, and definitely not at 5%. There is no way the coalition can meet even this target. We need to start paying rent, and stop lying about our culpability.
      http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/31/world-carbon-dioxide-emissions-country-data-co2
      Or this graph
      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2012/jun/21/world-carbon-emissions-league-table-country

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    12. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      It's true we have covered that AEMO report in a few articles. One of them says:

      The operator’s modelling shows that a 100% renewable power system could be installed for around a 20‑30% increase from present retail electricity prices. In the context of rising fuel prices and mounting pressure to reduce greenhouse emissions, the cost of a 100% renewable power system could be similar to what we would be paying for electricity anyway by around the year 2030.

      More here: https://theconversation.com/carbon-tax-dumped-how-do-we-get-to-100-renewable-energy-16227

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    13. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Globally CO2 doesn’t appear to be declining (excluding India);

      Country CO2 emissions (In thousands of Tonnes) Year
      China 9,700,000 2011
      United States 5,420,000 2011
      India 1,970,000 2011
      Russia 1,830,000 2011
      Japan 1,240,000 2011

      China 8,240,958…

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    14. In reply to Alice Kelly

      Comment removed by moderator.

    15. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      "But you are really just voicing what Australian commerce and industry want - which is the option of not having to deal with the problem. That they will choose doing nothing at least cost over doing what's needed at some cost makes commercial interests incapable of developing or even agreeing to sound policy to do the minimum needed."
      This "corporate conspiracy" circle-jerk seems to be confined to a few online communities of persons of a certain age, gender, class, and whose ideological comrades…

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    16. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to David Thompson

      It is just a different way of looking at the problem.
      Instead of spending money on trying to moderate the atmosphere,
      why not start with the soil and the sea which naturally moderate the atmosphere?
      Chemicals are never discussed as modifiers of soil and sea. Why?
      They play an enormous part.
      If we stopped using agricultural chemicals, or sought to phase them out over say ten years, the benefits to us and our environment would be enormous.
      Much cheaper than any other method of combatting deteriorating climate.

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    17. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to David Elson

      http://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2012/jun/21/world-carbon-emissions-league-table-country
      Carbon Dioxide emissions from the consumption of energy, for countries who cut their emissions by %, 1992-2010,
      Saint Pierre and Miquelon 34%, Cayman Islands 10%, Netherlands Antilles 8%, Bulgaria 27%, Denmark 25%, Germany 11%, Hungary 20%, Luxembourg 4%, Macedonia, FYR 12%, Poland 7%, Romania 40%, Switzerland 1%, United Kingdom 8%, Eurasia 24%, Azerbaijan 42%, Belarus 25%, Estonia 20%, Georgia…

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    18. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "there is simply no point in getting out ahead of the international pack.."

      Strawman of course. Australia is at the back of the pack. And the pack is stretched out a long way.

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    19. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      "and wait for the rest of the world to catch up"

      The problem is, the rest of the world is waiting for Australia to catch up.

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    20. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to David Elson

      "You'll note that Australia does not appear as one of the top 5 (or even top 10 )"

      I wonder what the top 5 or 10 will think of all the backsliding small countries.

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    21. Mike Jubow

      forestry nurseryman

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      And, Rotha, it becoming all too frequent that more and more people are releasing the suffocating chemical, dihydrogen oxide into the environment. We all need to pull together on this one.

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    22. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      I am sure they don't give us a second thought.

      Unless of course they are considering starting a business in Australia or investing in an existing business in Australia in which case overheads such as an ETS or carbon tax/price will provide a signification incentive to invest elsewhere.

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    23. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      So looking at your statistics and comparing to my table of the top emitters you can see that not only did the world's top emitters (and most of the world's largest economies) remain as the world's top emitters they are actually increasing their emissions not decreasing.

      Leaving Australia not falling behind the pack but maintaining the pace and keeping up with the other growing developed nations.

      It's only really feasible to decrease your emissions if your industrial output or if your economic growth rate declines.

      I mean just look at the quality of life in many of the nations you've listed as decreasing their emissions versus the quality of life in the top emitting nations (USA, China, Japan vs North Korea, Congo, Zimbabwe).

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    24. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Sorry but the link between CO2 and global climate can be correctly described as 'reality'; the reasons you present for avoiding and delaying policy to address Australia's share are entirely artificial constructs.

      The 'reality' is that Australian business will buy the climate denial and obstruction line in support of delay as long as any mainstream political party is devoid enough of comprehension of the problem - or of responsible ethics - as to use it to mobilise politically against having to…

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    25. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Attempting to force a national economy to a low/no carbon model is not so much a blip as a complete train wreck.

      Today's politicians (both the ALP and LNP are prepared to dump the carbon tax) are merely moving with the times and with the voters needs and wants. Which at this time no longer appears to include action on Climate Change.

      The fact that with the GFC and the lack of recovery in the US and much of Europe has shifted the world's attention away from Climate Change as well merely adds to the perception that this issue is of a lessor importance now than it once was.

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    26. In reply to David Elson

      Comment removed by moderator.

    27. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to David Elson

      "I am sure they don't give us a second thought."

      So what was the point of saying Australia is not in the top 5 or 10? If they want to reduce their GHG emissions, then you can be damn sure they will give plenty of thought to what smaller countries do.

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    28. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Why? As they are not reducing theirs why would they concern themselves with ours?

      Besides; historically there is a rather poor track record for countries seeking to reduce the emissions of other unwilling nations.

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/emissions-scheme-dispute-china-bans-airlines-from-paying-eu-carbon-tax-a-813544.html

      http://phys.org/news/2012-01-chinese-airlines-wont-eu-carbon.html#nRlv

      http://phys.org/news/2012-02-china-airlines-eu-carbon.html#nRlv

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  4. Trevor Kerr

    ISTP

    I guess Clive reads the Bureau reports. There hasn't been a Special Climate Statement for six months, but the charts & graphs at http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/ suggest the next SCS will raise a few (more) concerns. If it's true that ocean temperatures around the west & south have been rising, what does that mean for expectations of extreme rainfall events over the next 6 months?
    Maybe the better strategy for the "concerned" is to sit out the next few months, and watch. If there are extreme weather events, maybe it would be better *not* to get all accusatory, and try to moderate discussions with factual observations. There's too much risk of an outbreak of finger-pointing (at reluctant, or conflicted, politicians) back-firing, especially in this era of well-funded Tea-Party-like groups. Sure, the science matters, and the data will keep coming. But, maybe it's cooler to refrain from reflex "activities". Smarter thinking from sober heads is required to produce good propaganda.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Trevor Kerr

      Thanks Mr Kerr, perhaps you could set the condition under which the better strategy would no longer be to sit and wait?

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    2. Trevor Kerr

      ISTP

      In reply to David Arthur

      OK, David, that may arise when the composition of the Senate is finalised - probably in first week of October. Then try to figure out a strategy for needling the majors in the House for the next three years. If you can get hold of Jacques Ellul's 'Propaganda, The formation of men's attitudes', the section 'Objective conditions of propaganda' (pp105-117) is especially pertinent in the Broadband Age.

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  5. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    What do we make of Vote Compass surveys?

    They're not random samples. Respondents are users of ABC online (of any age incidentally) volunteering their opinion.

    They are weighted however.

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  6. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    So, "61% of Australian adults want the federal government to do more to tackle climate change;"

    Are these same 61% doing more to tackle climate change by choosing not to burn JetA1 fossil fuel for their next pleasurable, and entirely discretionary, holiday to Peru or Europe or Phuket?

    I am still awaiting an ethical justification for this hypocritical behaviour.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      When you say 'hypocritical' did you mean to type 'hypothetical'?

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  7. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Say what!!!!!!

    'All of the economic modelling shows the required transition in the energy economy would come at modest, even trivial, overall cost."

    Replacing the billions of litres of JetA1 fossil fuel burnt every year on academic and holiday flights with an alternative is not 'trivial', it is impossible.

    There is no replacement liquid fuel on the horizon to replace JetA1 - nothing - no peanut oil or vegetable oil or hydrogen based fuel or coal based fuel - nothing, zip, none, zero.

    No doubt the author is a highly qualified philosopher but I am afraid he is way out of his depth when it comes to reality.

    The reality is that moving from fossil based fuels to renewables for the 7 billion people on the planet would not come at a 'modest, trivial overall cost' but rather a huge dislocation of humankind with lots of blood and guts and misery.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      That coal based fuel for jets has been produced in QLD for Thirty cents per litre. (LINC ENERGY)
      Jet fuel synthesised from coal has been tested on Six engined B52 in The States.
      UGC and GTL are tested, fall back technologies for the US military.
      Sure the holiday makers are not using it but these conspicuous consumers of overseas holidays are despicable people who couldn't care less about anyone but themselves, so calling them out as hypocrites is practically a waste of time, Gerard.
      A new tack may be needed.

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    2. Eric Ireland

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to James Hill

      Coal to liquids is not a solution to climate change. The greenhouse gas emissions produced are even worse than the status quo.

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    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Eric Ireland

      With UGC?
      Things may have progressed since 1923.
      The greenhouse gas problems obviously remain but the world's military machines are already beyond peal oil.
      The Military-industrial complex will get its jet fuel from somewhere, UGC and GTL.
      So, the typical single-issue focus of myopic conservationism misses the point altogether.
      Dis-armament and non-violence the principle of the Society of Friends adopted by the International Greens Political parties.
      Might be worth taking this into account, Eric, along with Mao's observation that political power comes down the barrel of a gun.
      So getting rid of fossil fuels are we?

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  8. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    Perhaps the author can answer the ethical question nobody else can on The Conversation.

    That question is:

    How do people who believe in the danger of climate change and that it should be stopped by reducing fossil fuel usage, ethically justify their CHOICE, I stress the word CHOICE, to burn JetA1 fossil fuel for their own pleasure in taking a holiday or attending an overseas academic conference.

    This is a serious public ethics question based on the issues raised in the article above. I look forward to the answer.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      You know Gerard Dean, the ONLY point you make about your JetA1 argument is that maybe some of those who accept the science of climate change could be hypocritical. Well if the science is correct, and I think it is, the planet cares not one iota. It will still continue to warm and burning jet fuel is but one reason it will warm.

      Currently there is little choice but committed individuals can and do offset much if not more than their emissions from flying by other and substantial life style energy saving measures. I know because I am one of them!

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard. I haven't flown anywhere on holiday for some years now - I'm waiting for airlines to source their fuel from algae-based biofuels, which is on the cards within the decade.

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  9. Geoffrey Henley

    Research Associate

    Ironic that Clive Hamilton once wrote a book entitled: Silencing Dissent: How the Australian Government Is Controlling Public Opinion and Stifling Debate.

    However, I think a more appropriate title would be: Silencing Dissent: How Clive Hamilton and others are Controlling Public Opinion and Stifling Debate.

    Hamilton's demonisation of those who legitimately question the theory of CAGW is driven by his extreme left-wing ideology. He falsely accuses sceptics of being shrills for the fossil fuel industry, a claim which is completely without substance.

    Then he quotes Al Gore, a man who makes millions by exploiting the CAGW scare campaign and whose documentary, AIT, has been completely discredited.

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    1. Clive Hamilton

      Professor of Public Ethics, Centre For Applied Philosophy & Public Ethics (CAPPE) at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      Well, if you bothered to read what I have written you would know that I was in fact the first to argue that from around the mid-2000s climate denial had shifted decisively away from being a political movement sponsored and funded by the fossil fuel lobby and right-wing think tanks, and had become a wider cultural movement. If you believe that before then, and to a degree still, claims that climate denial is funded by fossil fuel interests are 'completely without substance' then you ought to at least have a nodding acquaintance with the vast amount of evidence collected and documented in, for example, Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway's book Merchants of Doubt. It's all there in black and white, using documents from the likes of Exxon.

      As we would expect from someone who chooses for political-cultural reasons to reject a vast accumulation of scientific evidence, you have an extraordinarily cavalier approach to facts.

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    2. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      Hey Clive, I'm a big time denier. Can you let me know how I get my hands on some of these fossil fuel funds? I've got some carbon tax to pay and I'm a bit shorts this month.

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    3. Geoffrey Henley

      Research Associate

      In reply to Clive Hamilton

      So just because I have a different opinion than you on this topic, you make totally unsubstantiated allegations regarding my motivation. You really are just guessing here.

      What you ignore is the fact that the much vaunted models you and others use to spout your doomsday predictions all significantly overestimate the observed amount of warming.

      The emotive statements made by numerous warmist zealots suggests that it is they who sare driven by ideology than science, not the sceptics.

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    4. Geoffrey Henley

      Research Associate

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      So what about the millions of dollars in subsidies required to make wind farms even remotely viable?

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    5. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      No way. I want some of those petrodollars the prof is going on about.

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    6. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Account Deleted

      Nah, they only pay peanuts. I want some of the big money that the prof assures us is out there.

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    7. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      Geoffrey, the ethics prof might like to stifle debate and control dissent, and suspend democracy and instal reactionary governments to implement his programme de jour. He hasn't done it yet and the more he talks the more people recognise the cool-aid he's selling.

      Sorry to be a pedant but I think big Al has made billions, not millions, from telling people to live more frugal lives. Come to think of it, the prof does pretty well from this lurk too.

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      "He falsely accuses sceptics of being shrills for the fossil fuel industry"

      The spelling is shills.

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    9. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Geoffrey Henley

      "all significantly overestimate the observed amount of warming."

      Shameless lie.

      There is no statistically significant difference between model predictions and observations.

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to David Elson

      "real world observations are not matching the model's predictions"

      Where, pray tell, does it say that models give a statistically significant difference from real world observations?

      By the way, wuwt, very funny.

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  10. fred strachan

    ex duckier

    to gerald dean, why not ADD rather than die any small step forward would help, if we are the biggest per person abuserrs shouldnt we make more of an effort rather than carp, fred

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  11. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    Quite right Clive. We need a very reactionary government to make the plebs do what we know they should do. Maybe we even need to suspend the democratic process so the great and the good, all suitably remunerated, can can get on with the job of telling the great unwashed howntomlive their lives.

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  12. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    "Part of the difficulty lies in the way politics has transformed over the last 30 years. The 1980s’ convergence on neo-liberalism, accelerated by the collapse of communism, has not seen the populace coalesce around a common conception of the national interest. Instead, it has fragmented."
    Shorter Clive: His side lost. They still haven't to terms with that, even THIRTY years later. Their latest symptom of pathological denial is to dismiss the winner as "fragmented". Know we're not. The majority of the Australian populace has never been more harmonious, with a stronger agreement on a wider range of issues than at any time in our history. But then again, Communists never were that socially perceptive or perspicuous political thinkers or analysts. Tragically, they take that same skill/less set with them into every new fad they glob onto.

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  13. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    "Al Gore recently put it this way The conversation on global warming has been stalled because a shrinking group of denialists fly into a rage when it’s mentioned"
    Meanwhile Al Gore and continues to fly lear jets..

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to David Thompson

      So what, he probably has to, because there are many armed millitant and or unstable anti AGW people in the USA. Also, when biofuel for jets becomes available, I'm sure he will use it. His family is very wealthy, and it is a bit silly to focus on his travel mode. This is what very wealthy americans do.
      More relevant, is that he studied under Roger Revelle when he was a student.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Revelle

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    2. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Al Gore was a student?

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  14. David Maddern

    logged in via Facebook

    Why o why did Climate Ghange taken into the Political treadmill. With Ozone Depletion world wide effort dealt with.
    The model of working out the veracity of a thing has not worked in the in an adversarial way.

    Meanwhile we have about 560gigatons of CO2 to be released to reach 2 degrees rise in mean global basal temperature. We know what 1 degree does ( huge fires (the Yosemity fire they expect to stabilise by the end of September ! ) record storms, extensive floods, water at the North Pole, rising and ocidified ocean etc, all huge things in themselves)
    What we need to do is divest superannuation and banking that is invested in coal, fracking or CSG operations.

    Clearly the political process has failed on this matter.
    There is one glimmer of hope. The Greens are grounded. Dont let your idea of what other people do in their own beds divert you.

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  15. Alice Kelly
    Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

    sole parent

    Clive, thanks for your article and responses to the usual.. I really appreciate reading both. Having once been a South Australian, a long time ago, I wonder why change can be achieved with some ease there historically, and not the rest of the country. I believe we should hear more about these achievements in the eastern states, so that we can "follow their lead", however inadequate that may be.

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    1. Martin Wesley-Smith

      snark-hunter

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice: I lived in South Australia when Don Dunstan came to power and can remember the fresh breeze of ideas and creativity that blew across the state. Despite subsequent efforts to erase his legacy, it seems that enough of it remains for South Australia to lead the country, still, in areas such as innovative thinking. I'm sure there are other reasons too, but Dunstan was a major catalyst.

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  16. David Elson

    logged in via Facebook

    Advocating a reduction in the voting constituents quality of life.... increasing the cost of living.

    None of these things are politically palatable.

    When people say they are willing to pay higher prices to save the climate.. what they mean is they are happy for others to pay higher prices to save the climate, not themselves or their family.

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    1. Rotha Jago

      concerned citizen

      In reply to David Elson

      Clive, the Elephant in the room is not "Climate" it is "Chemicals".
      Tony Abbot is right when he says that we don't need to spend a lot of money to accomplish our goals where atmospheric CO2 reduction is concerned.
      All we need do is to change our attitude to agricultural chemicals, particularly herbicides. Herbicides are considered useful even essential.
      Governments give tax credits for herbicide purchases to farmers, horticulturists and landscape gardeners. Governments also purchase enormous…

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    2. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rotha Jago

      We can only wait and see if the next elected government is superior to the current pitifully under performing one.

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  17. Philip Dowling

    IT teacher

    The role of polling by the Liberal Party in the Bradfield by-election after Dr Nelson's resignation has not been mentioned. The seat was at risk because of Malcolm Turnbull's support for a carbon tax.
    It was the issue that upset many of the well-educated professionals in the area, especially engineers.
    Malcolm Turnbull was regarded as a Labor party person masquaerading as a Liberal. The people who support Malcolm Turnbull most as leader of the Liberal party are Labor and Greens voters. To maintain his seat, he is forced to espouse ideas that would not be supported by most Liberal voters.

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    1. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      "The seat was at risk because of Malcolm Turnbull's support for a carbon tax."

      As if Bradfield had any chance of being won by the Labor Party. Where, pray tell, does it say that Malcolm Turnbull supported a carbon tax rather than an ETS.

      "Malcolm Turnbull. To maintain his seat, he is forced to espouse ideas that would not be supported by most Liberal voters."

      Sure. If you say so. More likely you're just deranged.

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    2. Philip Dowling

      IT teacher

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The Labor Party did not have a candidate in the Bradfield by-election.

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    3. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Philip Dowling

      "The Labor Party did not have a candidate in the Bradfield by-election."

      Then who was it at risk of being lost to?

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  18. David Collett

    Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

    "The truth is the Australian public does not know what it wants its government to do on climate change. A large majority wants it to do something, but the government seems to lose support whenever it does anything. "

    I would tend to disagree with this. While I am not going to push the line about Prime Minister Gillard lying about the carbon tax, there is a point that because it has been introduced in a way where the public did not get to vote for or against it, the public doesn't own the decision…

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to David Collett

      David, the comparison between Gillard and Obama doesn't really work because the Carbon Tax IS 'owned by the people'. Remember, Gillard does not have any special powers like the US president. The carbon tax only became a reality because our elected representatives in both the House and the Senate voted for The Clean Energy Act. And the two houses of parliament ARE the people.

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    2. David Collett

      Sales at https://aussiebuilder.com

      In reply to David Thompson

      I am not sure whether I am supposed to take your comment seriously.

      Parliament makes decisions on behalf of people and we have elections so we can decide which group has a set of plans that we most agree with. They have freedom to move on small things but not the freedom to decide on a whim after an election to completely reorientate whole industries.

      That both the House of Reps and the Senate put the carbon tax through is not evidence that the public agreed to it.

      If we have a coalition…

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