Climate change doesn’t have to be a leftist cause

I’m a liberal voter and I’m passionate about action on climate change. Did that sentence seem weird? Under Tony Abbott’s stewardship of the federal Liberal Party, the term ‘Liberal’ has almost become synonymous with climate change denial. It need not be so.

The climate debate has unfortunately descended into an ideological battle of Left versus Right, with parties of the Left taking ownership of the moral necessity for climate action. Yet this is an issue that should never have been framed in ideological terms, since history will be harsh judges on those who refused to accept the scientific consensus that something must be done to preserve the planet.

It’s a confusing time to be a social liberal, free market champion, and an environmentalist. In fact, many people would scoff that such a three peat of convictions is the product of confused ideological preferences rather than a carefully considered set of priorities. Yet the essence of ‘conservation’ should fit neatly with conservatism. The want and need to maintain and sustain the planet as we have known it.

But what of that other faith? What of the free market? Can long term sustainability fit with a continued commitment to free market capitalism?

As part of my summer reading, I settled by the pool to explore Naomi Klein’s latest polemic, This Changes Everything. With sound research and fine prose, Klein contends that capitalism, or more precisely, neoliberalism, is ultimately responsible for the current crisis and for the failure of nations to act. The message being that market forces are incompatible with sustainability.

Herein lies the conundrum for many young liberals. How does one reconcile faith in the free market and a commitment to climate action? While Klein rejects the notion that the free market can usher in a new paradigm of renewable energy, I believe that the role of any thinking Liberal should be to explore how best to use government policy to create business incentive to make the transition.

A party that champions innovation and enterprise as the driving force of mankind should embrace the renewable sector with alacrity. As with anything in history, it will be technology that drives behavioural change, not any punitive scheme from a government. The role of those on the Right should be to remind people that the market is the best mechanism for technological advancement.

If capitalism is purely to blame for the damage wreaked on the environment since the industrial revolution, then how does one explain the ecological vandalism of Soviet Bloc countries during the Twentieth Century? This is a point Klein conveniently overlooks in her book.

The Australian Liberal Party has traditionally embraced economic rationalism and policies grounded in pragmatic logic. It should therefore accept the inevitable economic necessity to shift Australia’s heavy reliance on fossil fuel energy. Yet worryingly, the Abbott government has demonstrated no such desire to embrace this shift.

In fact, rather than support the renewable energy sector, the government has pursued policies contrary to the industries’ needs. Its current attempts at shelving the renewable energy target being a case in point.

Rather, the Prime Minister has openly and enthusiastically embraced the coal industry. In fairness, coal has been and will continue to be a valuable source of energy for a number of years, but the party risks becoming stagnant if it does not appropriately embrace alternate forms of energy, as it will one day inevitably have to do so.

The government’s direct action plan needs to be called on for what it is: a facade to give the impression that it cares about climate change, all the while protecting the views of skeptics in the ranks.

For a young political enthusiast, Australian politics presents a frustrating conundrum. The Australian Greens embrace environmental zeal at the expense of everything else, while the Australian Labor Party presents a confused mix of economic rationalism, protective unionism, and environmental tokenism.

The party for individual enterprise, autonomy, and the free market, presents a rejection of forward thinking energy change and thumbs its nose at liberal social freedoms. It’s a most unfortunate quagmire.

Perhaps the last word should be left to the party’s founder, Robert Menzies. ‘Modern history is, as you all know, full of examples of great movements that disappeared because they ceased to have any genuine reason for existence.’ The Liberal Party should look to its core values, or risk sitting on the wrong side of history.

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5 Comments on Climate change doesn’t have to be a leftist cause

  1. Dale , sorry mate, you need to read Klein’s book again. You have misunderstood parts of it. Klein certainly did not overlook the damage done by communist governments. I think you are looking for an ‘out’ for your desire to excuse the dogma of free trade. Still I agree with much of what you say. In the end when the effects of Climate Change start to bite it won’t matter what our individual political leanings are. We will all be in together.

  2. davidftarthurdavidftarthur // January 7, 2015 at 6:59 pm // Reply

    Simple solution? Revenue-neutral Consumption Taxes on Fossil Fuels, the rates of which can be increased year by year until the requisite emissions reduction is achieved through the demand-driven creation of new industries in non-fossil generation, non-fossil transport fuels, and energy efficiencies. Because this solution is purely a response to a carbon price, it will be the economically optimal solution, as predicted by Weitzman (1974), “Prices vs. Quantities”.

    For more information, see the submission of “Mr David Arthur” to the Green Paper on the Emissions Reduction Fund, at http://www.environment.gov.au/topics/cleaner-environment/clean-air/emissions-reduction-fund/green-paper.

  3. “In fairness, coal has been and will continue to be a valuable source of energy for a number of years, ” Err, in News Just In, we have a letter to Nature from UCL’s McGlade & Ekins, “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C”, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html

    Table 1 of their paper “Table 1: Regional distribution of reserves unburnable before 2050 for the 2 °C scenarios with and without CCS” (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/fig_tab/nature14016_T1.html) is a revelation; if carbon capture and storage can be fully implemented (and only Howard Liberals could believe that one), then we can burn up to 18% of known coal reserves and still avoid a 2 deg C temperature rise. But if we look at this realistically (ie NO CCS), then only 12% of known coal deposits can be burnt.

    Now, while it may be true that coal will continue to be a source of energy for a number of years, we need to be fully aware that its ultimate cost is more likely to be way in excess of any “value” that Australia may get from its exports.

    As a Liberal voter, you really need to know that, and reflect on it.

  4. “In fairness, coal has been and will continue to be a valuable source of energy for a number of years, ” Err, in News Just In, we have a letter to Nature from UCL’s McGlade & Ekins, “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C”, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html

    Table 1 of their paper “Table 1: Regional distribution of reserves unburnable before 2050 for the 2 °C scenarios with and without CCS” (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/fig_tab/nature14016_T1.html) is a revelation; if carbon capture and storage can be fully implemented (and only Howard Liberals could believe that one), then we can burn up to 18% of known coal reserves and still avoid a 2 deg C temperature rise. But if we look at this realistically (ie NO CCS), then only 12% of known coal deposits can be burnt.

    Now, while it may be true that coal will continue to be a source of energy for a number of years, we need to be fully aware that its ultimate cost is more likely to be way in excess of any “value” that Australia may get from its exports.

    Liberal voters reading this page need to know this, and reflect on it.
    The same holds for ALP voters (if any).

  5. There isn’t any country in the world that can have any sort of industrial base and not be heavily reliant on fossil fuel for reliable power—unless it has massive hydro and/or nuclear power.

    Australia has neither of the latter , and no prospect thereof, so how do you propose we have any industry when this suicidal divestment movement kills off both coal and gas as it surely will?

    When we have no industry and severely diminished export income, how do you propose Australia fund Medicare, PBS, NDIS, HECS, welfare, jobs etc?

    Powerhouse and poster child for RE, Germany is unable to do it—-is still so reliant on coal that it’s opening new brown coal mines in spite of its still operating nuclear plants, massive RE spend, and gas from Russia—and its precision industry that needs very reliable base load power that can only come from nuclear plants that are to be closed down the track and from FF—-is going offshore to China.

    Your very LW-inspired view is destined to ensure economic backwater status for Australia—an energy-poor energy-insecure country in a world that is so captive of the Left and their CAGW hoax [ as you appear to be ]—-that it will prevent Australia from using the massive energy reserves we have—let alone export them.

    You are sabotaging Australia for decades to come by helping the Left in their plan for the world’s resources to be distributed at the whim of the LW despot and dictator-ridden UN under cover no doubt of some innocuous new name —-from a LW hub in central Europe.

    You are handing Australia’s sovereignty to the global Left on a platter as surely as if the Soviet Union had comprehensively won the Cold War and thereby achieved their aim of world domination.

    You ‘believe’ in climate change you say.

    What is your explanation for the FACT that there has been no correlation between CO2 rise and Global Temperature for 18-20 years—and only for a short time before that when GT rose for a while starting with the completely natural Great Pacific Climate Shift in 1976-77 taking GT to a new height—followed in 1997-98 by a super-El Nino[ also completely natural] taking it [ naturally—nothing to do with CO2 or FF] to a new higher plateau.

    Since that short ‘trend’ in the scheme of things, there has been no warming—no correlation—and even warmists are conceding that the sensitivity of GT to a doubling of CO2 is far far lower than has been factored into models and generally stated.[ IPCC}

    The oceans make up by far the largest part of the earth system, and it wasn’t possible to reliably measure OHC until the deployment of the ARGO floats in 2003–the result of that deployment being that the oceans were not warming significantly in any way.

    With that fact, why do you think it was that warmist ‘scientists’ announce a ‘consensus’ decades before that—-telling us this consensus set in concrete that CO2-induced GW was leading the world to catastrophe and that FF were to blame?

    How on earth could they have known such a thing when they couldn’t measure most of the earth’s system—when much of the land surface had not been measured in the past even intermittently—and certainly not with the extreme precision with uniform methods that’s required for such small tolerances and to make such apocryphal claims–and isn’t even now!

    How could they make such claims and tell us the science was ‘over’, ‘done’—that there was no legitimacy in discussing it any more—-before the great bulk of the science that needed to be done for such a conclusion [ that’s extremely unscientific anyway and against everything science is supposed to stand for] had ever been done—anywhere on earth–clouds[ vital in any study of climate]- oceans- the natural oscillations and the decadal cycles-the completely natural Indian Ocean Dipole that’s crucial to drought patterns in Australia and on and on—just ignored when LW warmist ‘scientists’ made what can only be seen as a LW political decision to silence dissent that would get in the way of the real agenda—overarching Socialism usurping every democratic nation’s sovereignty—-permanently.

    Maybe you’re swayed by the 97% of scientists claim—but even those who did the study were forced to admit that it was 97% of a very small number—meaningless!

    This climate hoax strategy puts the democracies in a fight for survival of their countries—and for the survival of democracy itself.

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