Monday 1st of September 2014

science versus religion, business, politics and the media...


titanic job

The urgent issue of global warming has gone cold and needs to put back on the political agenda, propelled into the headlines and made to be the hot topic people are talking about, writes James Wight.

WE’VE ALL HEARD THE LAMENTS: the public has gone cold on climate action because the issue has become so “politicised”.

Someone has to say it: we need to politicise climate change.

What does it mean to “politicise” something? It means to put it on the political agenda, propel it into the headlines, make it a hot topic that people are talking about.

In one sense, global warming is already political regardless of whether or not we talk about it, because its causes are political: the power of the fossil fuel industry driving the warming; the neoliberal ideology that justifies corporate power; the avoidance of responsibility for emissions; the focus on national interests over real people’s lives; the prioritization of economic growth over protecting our future.

The Abbott government wants us to ignore these political causes and not talk about climate, lulling the public into ignorant apathy, while it dismantles Australia’s ‒ already weak ‒ climate and environmental policies.

In recent years, a deafening silence on climate change has spread across Australia. But (as Don McLean might say) that’s not how it used to be. In late 2006, climate suddenly became the major political issue due to a “perfect storm” of events including drought, bushfires, the Stern report, and An Inconvenient Truth.

This was when global warming was politicised in Australia and it led to the demise of the Howard Government. It proved that to make climate a vote-changing issue, we need to show people why they should care.

Climate subsequently fell off the agenda not because it was politicised — it was already a political issue in 2006-2007. The real problem was that, from late 2009, the Liberals under Tony Abbott’s leadership reframed it as an economic issue — in other words, they politicised the supposed economic impacts of climate policies.

This shifted the terms of the debate from

How can we avert global environmental catastrophe?


What are the short-term economic costs and benefits of this new tax?

The Liberals shifted the debate by communicating their own values through a handful of core slogans, which I don’t even need to repeat here because we all remember them.

They painted a fantasy narrative pitting themselves against tree-hugging extremists whose irrational obsessions are costing ordinary Australians. Abbott never hesitated to draw a connection, however tenuous, between the carbon price and economic events such as job losses or price rises, despite the fact that no single economic event can be definitively attributed to the carbon price.

Julia Gillard (and by association, the Greens and climate activists supporting her government) bought into the Liberals’ frame by diluting Labor’s message from 2007’s message:

Our policy will reduce carbon pollution, the greatest moral challenge of our time.

This changed, in 2012, to:

We’ll compensate you for our new tax, so it won’t raise the cost of living.

Labor was fighting on enemy turf and doomed to fail.

Climate activist David Spratt has shown how the ‘middle’ of the Australian public, who tend to vote conservative, is currently stuck in a form of climate denial:

In the middle (centre of chart within red dashed box) are 40% who believe climate change is real (but have mixed views about human causation), and view extreme events as becoming more frequent (with mixed views about causation). They believe climate change will become a serious threat to their way of life (more in the distant future than soon), want some action on climate change but don't want it to cost them, so oppose carbon pricing.

Looking in more detail at this middle group, the fact that they are unwilling to countenance climate policies they perceive as costing them even a small amount — hence Abbott's largely fallacious but effective appeal to "cost of living pressures" and electricity prices — will only change when the visceral impacts of climate change — on health, home, livelihoods, children — are well understood as personally affecting their lives in a significant way, and sooner rather than later.

Abbott is playing to this middle 40 per cent — but his position contains a weakness. His credibility will plummet if Australians realize, as they did in 2006, that global warming is an immediate threat to our way of life and our Government is failing to protect us from it.

If Australians realize this, they’ll want action, even if it involves some short-term economic costs. No wonder the Liberals try to smack down anybody who dares link extreme weather with climate change.

Don’t be intimidated: Abbott’s bluster betrays his fear voters will realise he is acting against the national interest.

All the extreme weather we experience today is occurring in the context of a climate system containing much more heat than it did 50 years ago. It’s true we can’t say whether global warming caused a single hot day, just as we can’t say tobacco smoking caused a single case of lung cancer, but in both cases we know it dramatically worsens the odds.

More frequent heatwaves, floods, droughts, and bushfires are already costing Australian lives.

Abbott’s voluntary ‘Direct action’ scheme is a non-policy designed to appeal to those who want action at no cost. Instead of addressing the human cause of increasingly extreme weather patterns, Abbott intends to sit back and wait for disasters to strike — then pontificate that it’s just something that happens, it has no political implications and all that can be done is to fight the symptoms.

His policy on fires is “We didn’t start the fire”. His policy on droughts is “I wish it would rain”. And his policy on floods is “Don’t go out in the pouring rain”.

To rebuild support for climate action, we need to break the silence and get climate back in the headlines.

We need to create another “perfect storm”. With every heatwave, every bushfire, every coal mine approval, every coal seam gas battle, every climate policy repeal, climate activists, scientists, environmentalists and progressives must chime in loud and clear — this is caused by or causing global warming.

The Climate Council (formerly the Climate Commission) has played an irreplaceable role in getting climate into the headlines, through frequent reports highlighting scientific developments and extreme weather events — most recently a report on heatwaves.

We need more people to do this — both relatively apolitical voices like the Climate Council, and overtly political voices like the Greens.

Adam Bandt’s comment on the October bushfires was the most effective thing the Greens have said for some time. Unfortunately, they missed subsequent opportunities to draw attention to extreme weather during the heat of the summer holidays.

The Greens should organize a rapid response to these events as they occur, so that such opportunities are not missed in future. Abbott would say I’m insensitive to describe tragedies as “opportunities”, but I think the truly insensitive position is to pretend our actions are not contributing to those tragedies and do nothing to stop the situation getting worse.

The Greens can learn from Abbott’s successful campaign tactic of daily visits to businesses supposedly at risk from the carbon price.

Perhaps the Greens could organize similar photo opportunities at the sites of extreme weather events (such as hospitals overflowing with heat stress patients, assuming a visiting politician wouldn’t get in the way), local environmental battles (like the Maules Creek coal mine), or anything else that ties in with the overall campaign purpose.

When climate isn’t in the news, we should all point out a climate angle to whatever the Government is talking about — as I did in my recent article on entitlement hypocrisy, for instance. And we can point out that, by failing to act, Abbott is helping to create a hotter world for his daughters.

[added by Gus — please visit:]

With all that said, we must avoid the trap into which climate activists fell during the Howard Government — assuming a Liberal Prime Minister is the main villain. It’s not enough to campaign only against the Liberals, because it creates the impression that electing a Labor Government will result in action on climate change.

In 2007, the climate movement defeated Howard but failed to get meaningful action. Rudd and Gillard did little more than shift Australia to a second phase of greenwash. Though the Greens managed to extract slight improvements in 2011, unfortunately you can’t compromise with the laws of physics.

Under current law, the carbon price will soon become an emissions trading scheme (ETS), which could do more to prevent than drive decarbonisation in Australia. The ETS would set a meaninglessly weak target to be met by international offsets, allowing Australia’s domestic emissions to rise. The effectiveness of any ETS is doubtful because the mechanism is explicitly intended to minimise costs for polluters.

Bill Shorten will not be our saviour. His absence from the extreme weather conversation is telling. Abbott and Shorten are mere figureheads for the real villain, the fossil fuel lobby who have long controlled both major parties. This time around, we should criticise greenwash from both of the establishment parties.

The Greens desperately need to distinguish themselves from Labor in any case, having been tainted by their association with the former Government. Recent polls suggest the Abbott Government is already unpopular, but Labor is failing to channel the discontent. The Greens could step in the breach,  but they won’t achieve that by defending the flawed policies they agreed with Labor, whose main intention was merely to neutralise concerns about the environment rather than making any significant progress.

Science tells us that to have any hope of preserving a safe and stable climate, we must leave most fossil fuels in the ground. This identifies both what would qualify as success and who is our enemy — the fossil fuel industry and its allies. Thus our central demand should not be merely ‘keep the carbon price’, it should be ‘leave fossil fuels in the ground’; in other words, real direct action.

These arguments will be more credible if delivered on an interpersonal level rather than by politicians — whose messages are distorted by media bias anyway.

So tell all your friends: fossil fuel emissions are warming the climate, it’s already costing lives, and the major parties are doing nothing meaningful to protect us from it.

Read more by James Wight at or follow James on Twitter @350ppmJames.,6224


more storms...

Tomorrow, local time, on the 28th February around 9 AM, there could be a strong little storm hitting the Channel, southern UK and Brittany in France... This is in line with a swift succession of storms to pass through the northerly part of the mid-Atlantic, one of them roaring at the moment.


more storms

abbott has never understood global warming...

The Abbott government must treble Australia’s minimum 2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions from 5% below 2000 levels to 15% to have a “credible” role in international efforts to slow global warming, according to the independent Climate Change Authority.

The authority, which the government is seeking to abolish, says the costs of such an increase would be “manageable”, involving a reduction of only 0.02% in annual average income growth per person compared with meeting the 5% target, under “effective” domestic policies, especially if Australia bought some carbon abatement internationally.

But the government’s immediate priority is to abolish the former Labor government’s carbon pricing scheme and implement its own grants-based policy designed to meet only a 5% target.

Despite the Coalition’s pre-election bipartisan commitment to increase Australia’s 2020 emissions reduction target to up to 25% under a specific set of conditions for global action set down in 2009, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has claimed since the election the government had made no commitments to go further than 5%.

“We have made one commitment and one commitment only, which is to reduce our emissions by 5% … we have never made any commitments, any commitments to any binding targets over and above that, in the absence of absolutely clear evidence that other countries are going to take a very serious like approach … and there is no evidence of that,” Abbott said last year.

But the authority says Australia’s 5% target is much weaker than targets set by countries including the US, Britain and Norway, and points out countries such as China are also stepping up emission reduction efforts.

It says all the 2009 conditions for moving above a 5% target have been met, as have many of the conditions for a 15% target.

The government is required to state by 30 April whether it intends to move beyond 5% for its 2020 target. A post-2020 agreement is supposed to be finalised by the end of next year.


Abbott has never understood the process of global warming. For him, it's a communist anti-capitalism plot with no real evidence of increase in temperature. His "direct action plan" has nowhere to go should the 5 % reduction be reached by 2020, a target the "direct action" plan cannot guaranty and cannot achieve anyway in reality... Abbott's plan is a bunkum way to repay the big polluters (his mates) with cash from the carbon pricing, without any real results. His mate Malcolm said so. I believe Malcolm, though not a brilliant broadband analyst, has a greater knowledge that Tony Abbott about the economic non-efficiency of the "Direct Action" plan... Abbott has a great knowledge of the trickery his "Direct Action" plan has: to con everyone he is "doing something positive", while he is doing something negative — as usual...

Abbott is a denialist iddiott...


fact checking without the full facts...

But it goes on to note that consumers won't necessarily notice the difference because the RET's certificate scheme costs will cancel out the benefit.

"Although the LRET may contribute to low wholesale spot market prices, this does not necessarily translate into lower residential electricity prices. This is because the cost of the renewable energy target, which retailers face directly, is also recovered from consumers via retail electricity prices."

It is clear that the RET adds to the cost of household electricity bills. The amount varies from state to state and depends on the conditions set by regulatory bodies. There is evidence to suggest that encouraging renewable energy into the electricity market does push down wholesale prices - but whether that benefit can cancel out the cost of complying with the RET - or even makes it to the consumer - is not clear.


In the twaddle offered above, whoever is doing the fact "checking" knows he is on thin ice or trawling through a sewer for turds.... One of the factor not included in all the pricing of this or that is the cost of global warming coming to you through higher insurance and potential damage to property (whether it is your own or not), subsidies to farmers for floods and drought, and other cost below the line. Thus it is disingenuous to compare prices of all this and that without including the NEXT. The NEXT is that annoying unknown/known factor that is still fluctuating and that we call the future. Our behaviour strongly influences the NEXT... Scientifically we know: should we burn more carbon, the NEXT will make us pay more for the damage...

Should we use a condom to prevent pregnancy? Should we use renewable energy to prevent global warming?... Same stuff.


"dominant cause"... IPCC findings.

Climate change has already left its mark "on all continents and across the oceans", damaging food crops, spreading disease, and melting glaciers, according to the leaked text of a blockbuster UN climate science report due out on Monday.

Government officials and scientists are gathered in Yokohama this week to wrangle over every line of a summary of the report before the final wording is released on Monday – the first update in seven years.

Nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to "abrupt and irreversible changes", according to documents seen by the Guardian.

"In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans," the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.

Some parts of the world could soon be at a tipping point. For others, that tipping point has already arrived. "Both warm water coral reef and Arctic ecosystems are already experiencing irreversible regime shifts," the approved version of the report will say.

This will be the second of three reports on the causes, consequences of and solutions to climate change, drawing on researchers from around the world.

The first report, released last September in Stockholm, found humans were the "dominant cause" of climate change, and warned that much of the world's fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.