14 votes

Krugman: "Australia Shows Us the Road to Hell"

15 comments

  1. [14]
    Algernon_Asimov
    (edited )
    Link
    It's important to note that climate change denial is a minority opinion in Australia. A majority of Australians agree that: climate change is happening (77%); humans are causing climate change...

    But if a nation in flames isn’t enough to produce a consensus for action — if it isn’t even enough to produce some moderation in the anti-environmentalist position — what will? The Australia experience suggests that climate denial will persist come hell or high water — that is, through devastating heat waves and catastrophic storm surges alike.

    It's important to note that climate change denial is a minority opinion in Australia. A majority of Australians agree that:

    • climate change is happening (77%);

    • humans are causing climate change (61%);

    • Australia should act on climate change without waiting for larger countries (54%).

    The source is a recent survey taken in July/August 2019, before the latest bushfire crisis started. (Here's an article about it, and the PDF report itself.) I can only imagine that these numbers have increased in recent times.

    There is already a majority acceptance (admittedly not a consensus) among the Australia populace that we need to act on climate change.

    The problem isn't the people. It's the Members of Parliament - specifically a small group of MPs within our conservative political parties (Liberals and Nationals) who adamantly deny that climate change is happening or that it's being caused by humans. There is only a small number of these MPs: probably less than 10 in total. But they are vehement in their denial of any action of climate change. And, due to the way our political system works (long story!) this tiny rump of denialist MPs has basically been able to dictate Australia's policy on climate change for the past decade or so.

    You've all probably heard about our "rotating door" policy for Prime Ministers: since our second-longest serving PM lost an election in 2007, we've had 5 different Prime Ministers in 12 years. Most of those changes of leader have been driven at least partly (and sometimes primarily) by the issue of climate change. The Liberal Party has changed its leader 4 times in the past decade, almost solely due to the conservative rump's antipathy toward any action on climate change.

    If Prime Minister Scott Morrison stood up tomorrow and announced a raft of policies to act on climate change, he would be kicked out of his job by his own party - led by this rump of conservatives - on the following day.

    It's not the Australian populace who don't agree with taking action on climate change. It's a small rump of less than 10 Members of Parliament who wield power beyond their numbers (due to our political system) who are holding our government back.

    That's why we can't have nice things.

    EDIT: Typo.

    14 votes
    1. [12]
      cfabbro
      Link Parent
      How do 10 MPs go about dictating the country's environmental policy for so long, seemingly directly against the will of the people? I don't know a lot about the Australian Parliament, but I assume...

      How do 10 MPs go about dictating the country's environmental policy for so long, seemingly directly against the will of the people? I don't know a lot about the Australian Parliament, but I assume it's comparable to the Canadian one. And while it's certainly possible a small cabal like that could force our government to act against the will of the people for a short period of time, IMO it's not likely to last long before they get put on blast for it by the media here, which would either force them to compromise or have their careers ended as a result. Then again, we don't have the Murdoch propa... er... "news" empire to really worry about here, so is that the primary difference (i.e. a lack of the fourth estate in AUS holding politicians accountable)?

      4 votes
      1. [6]
        Algernon_Asimov
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        So you want the long explanation about Australia's political system? Luckily, you're Canadian, so you already know how parliaments work! Our conservative parties work in coalition: the Liberal...

        So you want the long explanation about Australia's political system? Luckily, you're Canadian, so you already know how parliaments work!

        Our conservative parties work in coalition: the Liberal Party and the National Party (and their mongrel offspring the Liberal National Party in Queensland) have held government through a collective majority for the past 6 years. However, that majority has not been large since the 2016 election: after the 2016 election, the Coalition had a majority of 1 seat; after the 2019 election, the Coalition has a majority of 2 seats.

        In that environment, some of these denialist MPs have threatened either to cross the floor and vote against the Coalition government on climate change policy, or even to defect from the party. The former would be horribly embarrassing for the Coalition, while the latter would see the Coalition lose government. So the Prime Minister of the day has to shut up and put up.

        In parallel, the Liberal Party (the senior partner in the Coalition) has actually dumped a leader twice when he showed signs of announcing policies to fight climate change. If these denialists decide to swing their party vote to a different leader, that's enough for the current leader to lose his position as party leader - which means we get a new Prime Minister. This happened once while the Coalition held a large enough majority that a few rebels crossing the floor wouldn't matter. But, even if they couldn't make a difference by crossing the floor, they could still oust the party leader, and thereby change the party's policy on climate change.

        These denialists aren't being held accountable by anyone except their own electorates - who keep voting them in. There's enough climate change denialists in some parts of Australia to support a few denialist MPs.

        Of course, the whole situation is supported by News Corp and other right-wing media outlets. These outlets keep printing and broadcasting their climate change denialist agenda, and the right-wing MPs read and watch it, and they therefore believe that the majority of Australians agree with them. We don't agree with them, but they don't see that. And, of course, News Corp's newspapers have a wide reach in Australia. In some areas, there's only one newspaper available, and it's printed by News Corp. So they're misinforming some of the Australian population.

        However, News Corp isn't the only news organisation here. There are other news outlets here, most notably the former Fairfax (now "Nine Entertainment") newspapers, which offer a different point of view. And the ABC (public broadcaster) is available everywhere, and provides a neutral news service.

        So it's not wholly News Corp's fault. These few conservative MPs are quite passionate about their beliefs, and are willing to hold the whole government to ransom.

        8 votes
        1. [2]
          cfabbro
          Link Parent
          Interesting and mildly depressing. Thanks for the insight.

          Interesting and mildly depressing. Thanks for the insight.

          1 vote
          1. Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            Tell me about it! When the rest of the world calls Australia a climate change denier, it's these <10 MPs who are to blame.

            and mildly depressing.

            Tell me about it! When the rest of the world calls Australia a climate change denier, it's these <10 MPs who are to blame.

            3 votes
        2. [3]
          thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          If Turnbull is one of the instances (and that was much more involved than just being about Climate Change), which is the 2nd?

          In parallel, the Liberal Party (the senior partner in the Coalition) has actually dumped a leader twice when he showed signs of announcing policies to fight climate change

          If Turnbull is one of the instances (and that was much more involved than just being about Climate Change), which is the 2nd?

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            Turnbull got dumped twice. First in 2009, when he told his Liberal colleagues he was inclined to support Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. That was it. Tony Abbott...

            Turnbull got dumped twice.

            First in 2009, when he told his Liberal colleagues he was inclined to support Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. That was it. Tony Abbott challenged for the leadership, and Turnbull was out.

            Then again in 2018, when he was trying to push through the National Energy Guarantee.

            Admittedly, the second time was about more than just the NEG, but it was still a key issue in the leadership spill. The conservative arm of the Liberal Party had forced Turnbull to water down the NEG until was almost meaningless, but it still wasn't good enough for them. They didn't even like the idea that Turnbull and other moderates were trying to include emissions in the NEG. And Peter Dutton was one of the conservatives who disapproved of that aspect of the NEG.

            I was careful to say the Liberal Party has dumped "a leader twice", rather than a Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull was Liberal leader twice, and was dumped twice.

            2 votes
            1. thundergolfer
              Link Parent
              Ahh yep you're right. Forgetting the 2009 instance I defaulted to thinking it was 2 different people.

              Ahh yep you're right. Forgetting the 2009 instance I defaulted to thinking it was 2 different people.

              2 votes
      2. [5]
        Algernon_Asimov
        Link Parent
        P.S. After watching a 30-minute interview with PM Scott Morrison on TV this morning, I realise my previous explanation gave only part of the picture. Our conservative Coalition government is also...

        P.S. After watching a 30-minute interview with PM Scott Morrison on TV this morning, I realise my previous explanation gave only part of the picture.

        Our conservative Coalition government is also ideologically in favour of a free market and a small government. Most policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions would require government intervention that they wouldn't be comfortable with - most notably, any form of price on carbon pollution. Even if they embraced the problem of anthropocentric climate change, and agreed that action was required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, there would be arguments about how to do this.

        4 votes
        1. [4]
          cfabbro
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          Our Progressive Conservative party in Canada is effectively paralyzed by the same ideology when it comes to dealing with climate change. They don't deny that climate change is happening, or that...

          Our Progressive Conservative party in Canada is effectively paralyzed by the same ideology when it comes to dealing with climate change. They don't deny that climate change is happening, or that it's anthropogenic, they just basically refuse to do anything that might hamper corporations in any way, especially the oil companies. Their environmental policy slogan last election was "Green Technology, Not Taxes" and their official plan was basically filled with empty platitudes and hollow ideas like "reducing emissions at home" with "green technology" tax credits, which won't be nearly enough to make a difference.

          5 votes
          1. [3]
            Algernon_Asimov
            Link Parent
            Yep. That sounds very familiar. We had a carbon price here in Australia. We are the only country in the world to ever impose a price on carbon pollution and then repeal it. We're special! The...

            Yep. That sounds very familiar.

            We had a carbon price here in Australia. We are the only country in the world to ever impose a price on carbon pollution and then repeal it. We're special!

            The trading emissions scheme was introduced by the Labor Party (our nominally centre-left party). It was repealed a few years later by a subsequent Coalition government under the leadership of a Prime Minister who vocally denied any connection between human activity and a changing climate (he still denies this connection, over 5 years later). The 3-year period that the trading scheme was in place is the only period in recent history when Australia's emissions decreased. As soon as the scheme was repealed, emissions started rising again.

            To this day, any idea of imposing a price on carbon is anathema to the Coalition. They have some sort of "Action Scheme" which seems to amount to nothing more than asking people really nicely if they wouldn't mind using renewable energy if it's not too inconvenient, but that's it.

            Meanwhile, various state governments are enforcing, subsiding, and building all sorts of renewable energy schemes. Some governments are subsiding solar panels on people's home. One government even contracted Tesla to build the world's biggest lithium-ion battery in the world! (The federal government actively ridiculed that scheme when it was proposed. Now they're paying to expand it.) I've seen lots of commentary that says Australia is converting to renewable energy despite the federal government, rather than with it. It's frustrating, to say the least.

            2 votes
            1. [2]
              cfabbro
              (edited )
              Link Parent
              Heh... we almost have the reverse of your situation, it seems. The Trudeau Federal government here is actually trying to enact meaningful climate change addressing legislation, but a few of the...

              Heh... we almost have the reverse of your situation, it seems. The Trudeau Federal government here is actually trying to enact meaningful climate change addressing legislation, but a few of the Provinces are fighting it tooth and nail. E.g. My idiot Premier, Doug Ford, and his Ontario Progressive Conservative party recently sued the Federal Government over their Carbon Tax plan to try to stop it from being enacted. Thankfully they were shot down by our courts, and then backed off on their initial plan to appeal the decision when their poll numbers started plummeting as a result. :/

              Edit: Nevermind... apparently Ford has decided to continue with his efforts at suing the Federal gov. and wants to take the case to our Supreme Court. sigh...

              3 votes
              1. Algernon_Asimov
                Link Parent
                I just wish these people would stop being so stupid and stubborn. Not only are they not part of the solution, but they're actively making themselves part of the problem by stopping other people...

                I just wish these people would stop being so stupid and stubborn. Not only are they not part of the solution, but they're actively making themselves part of the problem by stopping other people from solving it. It's frustrating.

                2 votes
    2. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      I've just read this article which points out a fudge that the current government is using to claim credit for reducing emissions. The graph in that article does show a reduction in Australia's...

      I've just read this article which points out a fudge that the current government is using to claim credit for reducing emissions.

      The graph in that article does show a reduction in Australia's carbon emissions over the past decade, from a peak of 622 million tonnes in 2007 to 530 million tonnes in 2019. However, most of that fall occurred between 2007 and 2013 - when Labor was in government, and implemented an emissions trading scheme in 2011. The current Coalition government took power in 2013, and repealed the emissions trading scheme in 2014. Since then, Australia's carbon emissions haven't really changed much.

      And our beloved ScoMo is quoting the line that average emissions under this government are lower than average emissions under the previous government. Of course they are! It was the previous government that brought the amount of emissions down, so their time in power includes the initial high emissions, which pushes their average up. The current government is the beneficiary of the previous government's work. And, importantly, there has been no significant fall in emissions under the current government.

  2. ibis
    Link
    I think there is more or less a consensus for action among the public. Morrison only got voted in to government because during the election campaign he promised to take climate change seriously....

    But if a nation in flames isn’t enough to produce a consensus for action — if it isn’t even enough to produce some moderation in the anti-environmentalist position — what will?

    I think there is more or less a consensus for action among the public. Morrison only got voted in to government because during the election campaign he promised to take climate change seriously. His government repeatedly tell the public that they are taking action against climate change. The problem is that he and his government are lying to the public and repeatedly saying that they are reducing emissions when they aren't.
    They aren't interested in actually reducing emissions, but they are interested in giving the public the false impression that they are meeting targets.

    7 votes