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Is Rudd the worst kind of climate sceptic?

Kevin Rudd’s speech to the Lowy Institute last Friday was one of the most extraordinary pieces of rhetorical hypocrisy this country has seen in recent years.

Coming only days after he had been singled out by African negotiators at the Barcelona pre-Copenhagen talks as one of the leaders whose action does not match his political manifesto, you have to admire our PM’s gall for blaming the lack of global and domestic action on sceptics who, frankly, are not in a position of real power. Sure, the sceptics make a lot of noise. Sure, they make life annoying and difficult. But a real leader would stand up, sweep them aside, and do what it takes.

Unless, of course, that leader is also a sceptic – of a sort.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the different kinds of climate change sceptics in our debate. The PM joined the fray in his Lowy Institute speech, defining three kinds of sceptics as follows:

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.”

As far as it goes, that is quite a useful analysis. But it leaves out the fourth, and, in my opinion, by far the most dangerous category of sceptic: those who profess to take the science seriously, seek to hold the moral and scientific high ground, and then utterly fail to take the kind of action the science requires.

Those who claim to care but do too little are far more worthy of scorn and derision than those who profess not to care at all.

Let me put forward a scenario to help us decide who is most culpable.

A child swimming at a surf beach starts waving frantically from out in the waves. Corey Bernardi says “he’s not drowning, he’s just waving.” Nikki Williams says “oh, the poor dear, but I really couldn’t do anything to help, it’s just beyond my stength.” Mitch Hooke says “he might be drowning, I’m not 100% sure, but we’d be far better placed to wait for the lifesavers to get here and deal with it.” That’s Kevin’s three categories. But what does Kevin himself say?

Kevin says “this is a crisis on a grand scale. Look at all these people milling around on the beach and cravenly refusing to do anything. We have a moral obligation to act.” He starts wading in. Everyone else breathes a sigh of relief because they think Kevin’s got it under control. But Kevin never gets anywhere near the child, as he only wades in 5% of the way. The child drowns.

The fourth group of sceptics are by far the most dangerous because, through their protestations, by continually talking about how serious the issue is, they convince a great many people that the issue is under control. I believe, for example, that recent polling results by Lowy and others, which show an apparent reduction in levels of popular concern about climate change, are due in large part to the Rudd approach. Certainly, the growing chorus of scepticism helps, but far more insidious is the feeling that it is under control, that it is being taken care of. That is the power of  greenwash, which corporations (“Beyond Petroleum”, anyone?) have long understood.

The core of this problem is that Rudd presents “two stark choices – action or inaction”. That is the point he made in his speech on Friday, and it’s his main rallying cry for the CPRS.

But “action or inaction” is the kind of false dichotomy that can only be supported by the shallow, spin-over-substance brigade that is so powerful in this highly political, incredibly policy-cautious government. For those of us who are actually concerned about outcomes, about delivering something meaningful – in this case a safe climate for us and for all those who come after us – the choice is very different.

The truly stark choice is “do we do what needs to be done, or do we fail?” Will we pull out all stops and do everything we can to protect the climate, or will we deny, faff around, equivocate or, worst of all, dissemble until it’s too late?

Mr Rudd attacks sceptics as gambling with our future.

Do you feel lucky?

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  • 1
    Mark Duffett
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the basic point that there’s an enormous gulf between the Rudd Government’s rhetoric and its actions. But this would be a truer analogy if the child had been caught in a rip and is now a kilometre offshore, getting still further away every second. Rudd is a poor swimmer who can only get out a few metres beyond his depth. If he tries to get out all the way to the child, he himself will drown, well before even reaching the child.

    The fact remains that the most effective thing he can do is exhort other people on the beach to help – like Kieren ‘USA’ Perkins, Grant ‘EU’ Hackett and Stephanie ‘China’ Rice. Personally, he can’t do much more than be a link in a human chain.

  • 2
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Good point about the riptide, Mark. But while I agree that Rudd is a poor swimmer, I would make the distinction that it is not necessarily the case that any Australian leader will be a poor swimmer. In fact, Australia could make a very considerable impact, both directly and indirectly, by acting swiftly on both the domestic and international fronts.

    I don’t for one second believe that simply ‘exhorting’ other stronger swimmers to swim is the best he can do. That’s kind of what he’s doing, frankly, and it doesn’t work. Nobody listens to people who ask them to do something while not doing it themselves. My children rightly ask why they should keep their fingers out of the nutella jar when they saw mine come out of it a few seconds earlier ;-)

    No, if Kevin is to help the drowning child, he must leap in head first and swim like hell, while calling loudly for others to join him.

  • 3
    zoomster
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Tim

    please explain how Rudd can get the CPRS through the Senate without getting the Liberals on board.

    The political reality is, that if you want any kind of action on climate change, it must go through the Senate.

    It can only do so with either the support of the Greens, Xenophon and Fielding or the Libs.

    Rudd clearly pumped for getting the Libs on board – remember this all started in 2007/8, when noone realised what silly games they would play.

    Given the political climate at the time this legislation was first put forward, this should have led to swift action, with legislation well and truly in place by now.

    By the time it was realised that the Libs were going to be silly, it was too late for other options to be put forward.

    There does have to be some political realities faced, you know.

  • 4
    Mark Duffett
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, @2 Tim, but I disagree with your distinction. As intimated in my second para, by ‘Kevin Rudd’ I do mean Australia the nation, and more to the point the Australian economy.

    Stretching the analogy it may be, but one of the basic principles I remember from my Bronze Medallion lifesaving is that if it’s beyond your capabilities, ‘leap in head first and swim like hell’ is the worst thing you can do. The only thing likely to happen is that you end up (with your economy) underwater, and all you’ve done is make things worse (with all your polluting industries relocated to browner pastures elsewhere).

    This may make me appear perilously close to the third category of sceptic. But I’m not saying we should ‘wait for others to act first’. What I am saying is that all Australia’s actions should be viewed through the prism of ‘is this the most effective means of getting international action’, without getting too far in front of the pack.

    Or, if you like, we should be helping drag the boat down the beach, and grabbing an oar.

  • 5
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi again zoomster.

    Re passage through the Senate, indeed it’ll be tricky. I’ve suggested in the past that the assumption that it has to be Greens + X + Fielding is actually erroneous. A much more likely scenario, if the Government were to come to the Greens (a very big if), is that a Liberal or two would cross the floor to support it. Of course, that’s not a likely scenario, it’s only a possible, but frankly the prospect of the Government opening negotiations with the Greens is about as likely. They never wanted to.

    Which, in my opinion, shows you how much they really care about the climate.

    By the way, it should be noted that the Government started their focus on the Libs and complete dismissal of working with the Greens long long before Fielding’s conversion to climate scepticism. He was still suggesting he was interested until about July this year.

    On the question of facing political realities, I say fine, face the political realities, but make sure that you keep a close eye on the real world consequences. The laws of chemistry and physics aren’t going to change because we’re in a politically tricky spot.

  • 6
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Mark @4, yup, I’d class that as sceptic no.3.

    We’re never going to get anywhere until someone somewhere breaks the deadlock, and the only way to do that is for someone somewhere (someone of some size and importance, like the world’s 16th largest emitter – or 6th largest if you count our export coal) to actually start doing what needs to be done.

    It doesn’t need to be Australia, and I don’t expect it will be. But it will need to be someone.

  • 7
    zoomster
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Tim

    still haven’t explained how you’d get it through the Senate, regardless of the target, given the present realities.

    “Not negotiating with the Greens’ does not equal “not caring about the climate”. It equals “who we think can get the votes for us to get it through the Senate”.

    Just for interest’s sake, WHO do you think would cross the floor from the Libs or Nats to make your pleasant fantasy a reality?

    Look, I would adore a higher target. But I also want to see things start happening. Rudd’s original strategy, of trying to get the Libs support, was sound at the time, and if it had succeeded, we’d have a CPRS by now.

    It’s not his fault the Libs went totally loopy. If he’d had the benefit of prevision, he could have seen how it was all going to work out and gone for a higher target and a DD. Strangely, like the rest of us mere mortals, he doesn’t have second sight and can thus only go with what seems reasonable at the time.

  • 8
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Names that have been raised for crossing the floor include Judith Troeth (she’s done it before, she’s a progressive wet Lib, and she’s retiring), Russell Trood (wet Lib who is almost certain to be in an unwinnable spot on the QLD Senate ticket next time, so has little to lose) or even a Simon Birmingham, if he were to throw his lot in with the veiw that, over time, the Libs will move towards the centre and the greener end of the spectrum.

    No, it’s not likely, but it’s at least as likely as Fielding.

    Totally agree, not negotiating with the Greens does not equal not caring about the climate. However, developing an emissions trading scheme which will give $16 billion to polluters over its first 5 years of operation, sets a target range that cannot do anything but hold back global action through its shortsighted miserliness, hands out so many free permits as property rights that it will be economically and politically impossible to buy them back, is designed based on economic modelling that shows Australia’s emissions not falling before 2033, and altogether effectively locks Australia in to a high polluting trajectory for at least 5 years?

    That equals not caring about the climate.

    This is not about getting started, zoomster. We can get started with a whole pile of other actions like feed-in tariffs (rejected), government purchasing policies (not being done), energy efficiency roll-outs (half-baked), etc. Or with an emissions trading scheme that follows solid economic principals even if its targets aren’t good enough.

    This isn’t about getting started. It’s about locking it in.

  • 9
    zoomster
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    No government is going to be able to lock in something as big as a CPRS in one go. Just as agriculture is left out for the present because it isn’t measurable, any decent legislation on climate change needs to be a work in progress.
    There is absolutely no point in going the whole hog, losing the next election (or even the one after that) and having it wound back again.
    Incremental gains will get us there just as effectively as one big bang will, with less political skin lost and more acceptance by the community.
    Personally speaking, I think the debate is focussed on the wrong end: any action we take now only softens the impact of cc, doesn’t slow it or reverse it for at least twenty years. Nice if we could have some discussion/focus of how we adjust to life in the next twenty years, but apparently we’re just going to skip over that.

  • 10
    vickoz
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Watch out. There’s a new political party in town… started by climate sceptics… for climate sceptics…

    http://www.climatesceptics.com.au/

    including Cardinal George Pell…

  • 11
    Mark Duffett
    Posted November 9, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    @6 Tim, so now some sort of carbon domino theory is our only hope for a significant international agreement? Looks like we’re back to ‘oh sh!t’ again.

    Such is my pessimism that a sufficient global CO2-e reduction protocol will be arrived at, the harsh pragmatist in me is beginning to wonder if Australia wouldn’t be better off banking as much wealth as we can now, and using it to ward off the slings and arrows of adaptation as best we can.

  • 12
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Mark and zoomster, the problem with both of your conclusions is that we don’t have that luxury. We can’t wait ten or twenty years and we can’t bank on being able to adapt. If we don’t make very significant cuts in the next handful of years, we are very likely to pass tipping points that will make it a serious question how many human beings will survive the next 100 years, let alone all the species we take with us as we go down.

    Riches ain’t going to save us, since, as we know, you can’t eat money…

  • 13
    zoomster
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Tim
    I’m very much one of the ‘we’re all doomed’ camp.

    I disagree with you about adaption, however, as would most of the climate scientists. The aim of any emissions reduction scheme is not to stop or reverse climate change but to get it to plateau – we’ve brought into twenty years, regardless, but after that we may be able to keep things as they are.

    CC is happening now, it’s not something which might happen if we don’t act, and it’s only common sense that we recognise this and alter some aspects of our work and lives accordingly. To pretend that we don’t need to adapt – can go on with business as usual as we wait for the effect of emissions cuts to kick in – is ignorant in the extreme.

    Moreover, the early stages of any crisis is the best time to prepare for its effects. If, for example, the irrigation areas of the MD system are no longer viable, then it makes sense to move their operations elsewhere over the next decade, rather than waiting for the farmers to exhaust their resources and simply walk off the land.

    No scientist I know of any repute is arguing that big cuts in the next few years will achieve anything more than the holding pattern I’m referring to. Yes, as much as we can do as soon as we can do it, but having no framework to do it in because we don’t work with the political realities we have is counterproductive.

    So: get a CPRS in place, any at all, it doesn’t matter. It gives us something to work with, a chance to show that it isn’t the end of civilisation as we know it. Then we can build on what we have – hopefully the next election will see a more climate friendly Senate, unless we’ve scared the horses in the meantime.

  • 14
    zoomster
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    clarification, on re reading, to end of first paragraph: ‘as they are THEN’ – we can’t get back to where we were a few yearsa go, it’s already too late for that.

  • 15
    EnergyPedant
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    I’m personally very disappointed in Kevin Rudd. The reason you have political capital is to spend it doing something worthwhile.

    Both parties went to the election promising an ETS. He could have sat down with Downer and/or Turnbull and said “lets get this done”.

    Instead it’s 2 years later and nothing has happened (other than Labor polling close to 60% 2PP). They had a scheme designed by Ross Garnaut, but they choose to ignore it.

    Politically Rudd has played it very well. But what do you do once you win?

    Go to the Senate and call individuals to account. Call it a conscience vote.

    Pay compensation to coal power-stations, but insist on a 25% target. Do something.

  • 16
    Mr Anderson
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I can’t really understand the opposition to what Tim is stating here. It’s a wonderful fairy tail that in 20 years we’ll plateau out CO2e emmissions but is it going to be enough? No.

    If Mr Rudd was taking climate change even half as seriously as his PR shenanigans suggest he would already be half way out to the drowning child, dragging the rest of the developed world along by playing off their moral conscience.

    Australia is in a unique position to stand forward amongst the ignorance and bickering that is the developed world’s political circle and lead the way. Instead we’re cowering behind America saying we’re powerless to do anything unless they put a foot in the water first.

    Since when did Australia become such a pathetic, souless country that we have to wait for others to ‘go first’? Let’s lead the way into a better future not pay polluters for ruining our planet in the first place through greed.

    R.I.P The Aussie Spirit.

  • 17
    zoomster
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t how much political capital you have, if you don’t have the numbers in the Senate you don’t have the numbers in the Senate. You can be on an 80% approval rating and it wouldn’t make any difference.

    Rudd did try to deliver what he thought the Liberals would support. The Liberals made all the right noises up until the legislation was actually produced. No reasonable person could have predicted the stance they have taken on this issue, given their commitments in 2007.

    Best bet (alas, because either way it means further delays) is either a DD or waiting for a new Senate.

  • 18
    naught101
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Tim, I think you missed a fairly salient point: Of Rudd’s three categories, he fits fairly snugly into both of the last two:

    He definitely pays lip service to the science, and given the current state of the CPRS, it definitely falls outside the category of a “practicable mechanism .. to bring about that action”

    And the entire usefulness of any ETS relies on strong targets. Rudd isn’t even considering weak targets (25%) unless everyone else in the international community steps up to the plate first.

    It’s all incredibly Orwellian. I think Rudd’s total lack of charm and mastery of the art of boredom has made us all forget that you don’t have to be an expert orator to make a lie seem like the truth.

  • 19
    Liz45
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    IF the Coalition won’t vote for a CPRS that is say, wishy washy, what would be the point of a policy that was ‘suitable’? It wouldn’t happen. Perhaps an inadequate one will at least start the process, and once it’s a going concern, some of the big polluters(who’ve been successful in their lobbying, much to my disgust) would be forced to adopt better practices? Or am I being gullible, unrealistic or ???Any decrease must be an improvement? I’d like to see more policies re conservation – buildings with solar panels, switching off lights and computers etc after last person leaves the building. There’s a couple of these in Sydney I believe; and some great innovations in some housing projects up north, but not much else is happening. For example, why are some electrical appliances built in so well, that you can’t switch them off at night, or when property is vacant – holidays etc? Why aren’t these ‘power boards’ that will turn off domestic appliances after say 30 mins inactivity, not being promoted by govts. There should be more emphasis on conservation, apart from changeing light bulbs and removing plastic bags for example. There must be much we can all do. I try on a personal level, but I’m willing to accept, that there’s more I can do – if encouraged by govt smart spending and education. Water conservation is also vital to energy alternatives. For instance, those who promote nuclear power aren’t queried as to the amount of water required, in all stages of the cycle. These are just a few of the relevant issues that are not included in discussions or any education about alternate energy sources and the need to cut dangerous emissions. The right and the left hand are not acting as one. Most frustrating I find!

    In this area, Rudd and Garrett etc have been negligent. In NSW, how can building dams or power stations on agricultural land be even considered? Doesn’t make any sense? In the driest inhabited continent on the planet, we should be tackling problems from a broader perspective. No wonder we just ‘shut down’ and/or get weary or bored! I just throw my hands up in despair and frustration!
    I want a better world for my grandkids, that covers all environmental issues, otherwise, we’re all just offering lip service, not just Rudd. He needs to be pulled back ‘on track’?

  • 20
    EnergyPedant
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    A DD is a way to spend political capital. Alternatively it is possible to use his personal credibility (e.g. 70% approval rating) and publicly target individual senators.

    Senators can’t hide behind party policy positions for ever. Particularly from a party that trumpets individualism over collectivism.

  • 21
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    zoomster, I didn’t mean to say we should do nothing about adaptation. Absolutely, we must work to adapt to the changes that are already locked in. I meant that we can’t adapt to runaway climate change if we are foolish enough to let that happen.

  • 22
    zoomster
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    EP
    obviously, I have far greater faith in the ability of Liberal Senators to continue to delude themselves then you have!
    And the point is, that would just deliver what’s on the table at the moment – do you seriously believe that if Labor adopted the Greens’ higher targets, it would be EASIER to get individual Libs on board?

  • 23
    ltep
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    A much more likely scenario, if the Government were to come to the Greens (a very big if), is that a Liberal or two would cross the floor to support it. Of course, that’s not a likely scenario, it’s only a possible, but frankly the prospect of the Government opening negotiations with the Greens is about as likely. They never wanted to.

    I’m sorry but this really is so unlikely as to be considered impossible. No Liberal senator will be crossing the floor to support a ‘strengthened’ ETS.

  • 24
    zoomster
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    So it looks like we’re back to: Rudd is hypocritical on climate change because he can’t do the impossible.

    Everyone agrees it’s impossible and can’t put up a plausible alternative scenario, but Rudd should have found a way regardless, even though no one else can.

    Can I ask you all to get over your Superman complex and accept that Rudd, like most of us, can only play with the cards he’s been dealt?

    He might wish he had three aces and a king, but if all he’s got is a couple of clubs, he has to accept that and do the best he can with that.

  • 25
    jack jones
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    What about this scenario that Rudd could have followed. He could have gone in with a much more Garnaut like ETS that was aimed at real reductions. He could have also gone in with a raft of stronger non-ETS complimentary measures-massive Keynesian renewables and efficiency push, jobs everywhere… He could have used the authourity he gained at his Kyoto signing and the mandate from the election to paint himself as a man of real action (he’d have to dust up a few union leaders to do it but I think most of the rank and file would go with him). Then he could have presented something real to the Senate. Turnbull and the nutcases would then have either torn themselves apart as they are now doing-only over something actually worthwhile instead of the rubbish now in front of them, or simply voted en-bloc against it. Then you’d have your double dissolution trigger and your moral authourity. Industry would shit itself at the prospect of a greens balanced senate at the following election (double dissolution or nay) and labor could have added to that with a comprehensive preference swap. Then either industry would panic so much that they’d force the coalition to get some concessions that were less extreme than their current ones or the election would be won by a greens labor combo and you’d actually be able to get stuff through. He could have wedged the opposition and still come out with a real ETS instead of a bollocks waste of time. Admittedly he’d probably need to go through another election to get it but who cares? Better to wait for something a bit later than get nothing now and lock an ETS that’s going to be more of a barrier than an aid to reform. The main problem is that to Rudd Climate Change is just a clever-clever issue to throw to inner city luvvies and hoist Malcolms y fronts from the back. He actually either doesn’t get it in a real leadership sense or is so shallow he just doesn’t care if he does anything of substance.

  • 26
    zoomster
    Posted November 10, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, jj. I’m sure if Rudd had had the benefit of knowing that the Libs were going to turn into the raving loonies they have, he would have acted differently.
    Given the scenario at the time the journey commenced, putting up an ETS which was similar to the ones the Libs themselves had put up was a totally reasonable move.
    The scenario Rudd started with – get the Libs onside and get an ETS up and running within his first term – assumed that something would be in place by NOW.
    Your scenario is still delaying action until after the next election.
    Which is how it will probably turn out, but as I said, we’re arguing now with the benefit of hindsight.

  • 27
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Jack, I couldn’t have put it better myself. You hit the nail on the head.

    Zoomster apparently takes the view taken for so long by the ACFs and Climate Institutes of this world, that we have to do a pre-emptive buckle in order to get anything done. I have always rejected that view. Just as I also reject the view that you have to make an ambit claim in order to get what you actually want. I believe that we should call for what we know needs to be done. That is the only credible position to take.

    There are plenty of problems with the pre-emptive buckle, not least of which is that it is taken as a sign of weakness and exploited for all it’s worth. But the critical problem, for me, is that you guarantee that you won’t get what’s necessary. If you ask for less than you know you need, you can never possibly get what you need. It is a strategy that locks in failure.

    Zoomster, the Libs chaos is no surprise to Rudd, and would have made no difference to him. From the very beginning this has been a government which did not want to do what needed to be done on the climate crisis. They have never given any indication publicly that they would do what it takes, and privately they have been quite open about their complete lack of interest in taking bold steps.

  • 28
    zoomster
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    And there’s plenty of problems with the ‘go for broke now’ approach, namely that it isn’t achieving anything either.

    If Rudd had come out with a bold target – and I wished at the time he had, and in retrospect it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference, but he didn’t know that then, and so I can understand where he came from – we’d still be in exactly the same spot we are now. The only difference is that there would be even less pressure on the Libs, because Rudd’s approach has got a lot of their traditional consituency on board.

    It’s always easy to come up with the dream for a perfect world and then insist that it’s that or nothing. It gives you a nice warm inner glow, even if you don’t achieve anything. You sit there in the twilight of your life, having changed nothing, being able to blame it all on others for not having the same breadth of vision you had.

    Both strategies have locked in failure, alas. One strategy – Rudd’s – had a chance of getting something in place now. The other relied on a new Senate, one way or another, and thus had delays built in. As it is, that’s where we’re back to, but Rudd couldn’t foresee this.

    I would argue by analogy – the all or nothing brigade took exactly the same argument to the Republic referendum, assuring all and sundry that if the proferred model didn’t get up, they would ensure there was another referendum within a couple of years. It didn’t and there wasn’t. So, instead of having a republic in place which could be tweaked here and there (as almost everything is) we have no republic and won’t have one for probably a decade.

    I don’t object to criticisms of the targets, although I understand why they were set. I do object to those who can’t offer realistic proposals on how to get the thing through Parliament quickly (and simultaneously push the need for urgent action) putting up nonsense proposals, with the benefit of hindsight, and using these to argue that Rudd was being hypocritical.

    He got the politics wrong, that’s all; but in the light of the situation at the time, it was a reasonable course of action if you wanted something in place quickly.

  • 29
    Mark Duffett
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    @12 Tim, no, you can’t eat money, but you can use it to build desalination plants and the electricity generation capacity to drive them, transcontinental water pipelines, coastal engineering works…

  • 30
    ltep
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    zoomster, you don’t seem to acknowledge that even if Rudd succeeds in getting his CPRS through it will most likely be substantially weakened by Liberal amendments and will not meet the requirements that science tells us need to be met to combat climate change.

    You don’t address the disparity between accepting climate change science but rejecting the need to take the steps science requires.

    You criticise people for putting up ‘nonsense proposals’ but don’t seem to understand these proposals are what the science tells us is required. Is there really method in passing a scheme which will result in failure in any case? Wouldn’t it be the case that all this would do would be to give the ALP “a nice warm inner glow, even if [they] don’t achieve anything”

  • 31
    zoomster
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Itep

    one of my main points is that we need to look at where the process started when judging Rudd’s intentions, not where it finished (not that it has, of course).

    I don’t know how much clearer I can be than I have been above that I’ve never been happy with Rudd’s targets. There’s a difference between approval and understanding. If the argument is about whether Rudd is a hypocrite and whether he is committed to doing something on climate change, then understanding of motives is surely important.

    Rudd (originally) came up with a package he thought the Libs would accept. When he found they wouldn’t accept it – by which time we were well down the path – he modified it again, hoping that they would accept it. When they didn’t accept this, he opened up negotiations again.

    When Turnbull was elected leader, I’m sure everybody thought that would make the whole process easier, not harder.

    And I don’t think that starting with a small target and building it is rejecting the science, necessarily.

    And the ALP will achieve something…and far more (in reality) than any other party in Australia.

    It’s just that it will be less than they wanted and have taken longer than planned.

    Taking the steps science requires is absolutely jolly but it doesn’t solve the political problem.

  • 32
    Tim Hollo
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Zoomster, what on earth makes you say that it will be less than they wanted? It will be exactly what they wanted. The target isn’t moving in any of the negotiations – the Opposition’s amendments don’t even ask for the target to move.

    There is absolutely not one scrap of evidence for your assertion that Rudd watered down what he wanted to do for the Opposition. None at all.

  • 33
    stevieholden
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Instead of the Churchill like effort required all we have gotten is a Neville Chamberlain waving a bit of paper around.

    Here’s what you do Kev: put coal power in Australia on notice by progressively operating throughout the nation a series of small uranium power plants similar to those that run a nuclear submarine. Comparatively quick & easy to assemble and maintain with a warlike preparation to the task at hand: the defense of our world. Such low key yet effective energy production together with use of the full gamut of renewable energy along with power consumption frugality will, thus, allow toxic coal power stations to be closed down.

    This should have been done years ago: limitless low cost power with coal being left safely in the ground.

    The same plan should be rolled out across the globe.

  • 34
    zoomster
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, Tim – he beefed it up the second time around, committing to a minimum target of 5% and raising the upper level to 25%. My bad.

    You can no more claim that the ALP will achieve just what they wanted than I can that it’s less. It get backs to personal opinion. You have no more proof than I have.

    My personal opinion, however, has some basis in my knowledge of the players involved. You don’t have that advantage.

    My opinion may be blinded by a belief that the government is trying to act in the best interests of Australia in the long term. Yours appears to be blinded by a belief that this is not possible, any government that is not green in persuasion is ipso facto necessarily corrupt or stupid or both.

    I may be overly naive about the ALP and the political process; you may be overly cynical.

    So:

    I base my belief/opinion that negotiations with the Libs (if successful) may deliver less than the ALP wants on the basis that the Libs are going to want to water the legislation down, not beef it up.

    I would argue that, if this conclusion was seen as the ALP was inevitable, and was what the ALP wanted all along, we would have got there a lot suitable.

    Based on these two premises, then I believe any negotiations with the Libs will deliver less than the government wanted to begin with.

  • 35
    zoomster
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    ‘sooner’ not ‘suitable’.

  • 36
    kdkd
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s a shame that the last 30 years were captured by the do nothing fossil dinosaur delusional brigade. If there’d been any decent political leadership outside of Europe at all, then the putative “ALP strategy” would have been a goer.

    Then we would have had time for protracted but substantive negotiation and progression towards a low carbon economy. We’ve delayed it enough that it looks like we’ve got to transition to an effectively carbon free economy quick smart.

    I’m not fully convinced we can collectively (as a planet) act fast enough without demographic disaster at this stage, but being a disturbing conclusion, I haven’t looked at it too closely.

  • 37
    zoomster
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    kdkd
    It’s the kind of problem that democracies aren’t really geared up for – most decisions you can dick around with for ages, do lots of community consultation and education, maybe some people get hurt in the process but nothing lasting…
    However, to be grimmer, we may have reached a stage in our civilisation where it’s become simply impossible to make deep structural changes. Rome’s problems, for example, were obvious, its ultimate fate predicted for decades, yet it couldn’t really solve them, despite having absolute dictators with absolute control.
    If it’s any comfort to anyone, when civilisations die, others take their place.
    Meanwhile, let’s do what we can and hope.

  • 38
    kdkd
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    zoomster

    One would hope with man having an intellect that can grasp these kinds of things, that a deterministic decay wouldn’t be a completely foregone conclusion. The experience of the norse greenlanders suggests it is, while the icelanders experience suggests it isn’t. Which way are we going to go?

  • 39
    zoomster
    Posted November 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Well, I think our civilisation is more comparable with the norse greenlanders. We’ll eat our embryonic cattle and thus inevitably doom ourselves rather than accept that we have to lower our standards.

    I did a rather gloomy but heartfelt exercise over on the pollbludger blog a while ago. I pointed out that the West needs to do more than return to, say, seventies standards of living; it needs to pull back further. This is because we have to settle for a standard of living which is sustainable and yet allows other nations to aspire to it; it’s not (to my mind) morally acceptable to say ‘well, we can have it but you can’t, because that would endanger the world’ – the moral attitude is ‘we used to have, we can’t afford to any longer, so you can’t aspire to it either.”

    They’re a well educated and thoughtful bunch over there, but none of them brought this. The majority opinion seemed to be that we can live as we do at present and just do a bit of offsetting here and there.

    So if it’s not possible to convince well educated and informed people to accept a slightly lower standard of living (and one we all thought was pretty good at the time) then I don’t see how you can convince the rest.

    Anyhoo, perhaps the answer is that the meek will inherit the earth, and those primitive tribal aborigines, Inuit and Kalahari bushmen we’ve all scorned as backward (well, most of us!) will be the ones who win out in the end.

  • 40
    klnine
    Posted November 13, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I guess im one of Rudd’s climate change skeptics, and proud of it. Of course my skepticism is based on degrees in Physics and chemistry and 25 yrs studying the earths geology. Sadly I should have rounded it all off with Asian studies , but had to work for a living!

    Tragically Rudd does have a science resource at his beck and call…CSIRO ! Where is there independant study on anthropological climate change ? Having seen the pollies deny them teh use of the “N”word for the past 25 years , then it’s hardly surprising that they havnt been permitted to investigate the climate change scam.

    Oh yes as, I am aided by a group with a vested interest in seeing through the climate change rhetoric ( my wife and kids) ..so i should keep quiet ?

    We have decided unilaterally to follow the pathetically weak science of the UN’s IPCC and once again our buddies the USA ?

    Lets think for a minute about where this strategy of following the USA’s lead has taken us recently ..

    1. Afghanistan
    2. Iraq
    3. The global war on terror
    ..and yes almost forgot
    4. the global financial crisis.

    Isnt it time that we decided major issues for ourselves ? A few nutters in the IPCC, uniformed politicians, journalists and the guy that came second to George Bush , emminent scientist, Al ( my graph shows Co2 levels lagging temperature !) Gore , is hardly a team to save us from oblivion is it.

    And fore all of you people living on the coast terrified of drowning…I have lived all of my life (55 yrs) near the sea. You know what ? …shhhhh…..I havnt notice any change in sea level !
    Weird eh ?

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