Why are Labor voters in Australia far more accepting of climate science, whilst coalition voters are far more likely to be sceptical? Why should this be a political issue, when the peer reviewed science presents such a clear threat?
Perhaps it can be explained by Milton Friedman, the economist and hero of the American right. In Friedman?s most famous work, Capitalism and Freedom, he argued (as the name suggests) that capitalism and freedom go hand in hand; that there can be no freedom without capitalism and vice versa. The defence of one was the defence of the other.
However science has increasingly been finding evidence that capitalism is failing in a crucial respect; it is failing to protect the natural environment upon which all life (and all economies) ultimately depends.
Scientists are finding more and more evidence that industrial emissions are causing widespread damage to human and ecosystem health. The free market is causing problems – unintended consequences – that the free market does not know how to solve. Climate change is a market failure, because the cost of environmental degradation and the value of environmental health is unrecognised
Governments have a variety of potential remedies, one of which is regulation. Regulation flies in the face of the capitalist ideal and is regarded by some as a threat to the free market. That is why some try to dismiss climate science as a left wing plot, despite the enormous amount of solid science that supports it, and despite the lack of peer reviewed science that casts doubt.
That is one of the reasons why climate change has become so politicised. If a financial value could be placed on environmental health, then I don?t think there would be much ?debate? about the science.
Environmental health is the foundation upon which all markets ultimately depend. Failure to appreciate its worth is modern society?s greatest weakness.
Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes is a book that everyone interested in the scientific process of climate scepticism should read.
Electricity Price Hysteria
The following is a summary of some points raised by Bernard Keane, a political commentator based in Canberra.
The decision of the NSW regulator, IPART, to approve another round of electricity price hikes this week has prompted more hysteria from the media and politicians about electricity prices. But the outrage is constructed squarely on ignorance and short-term memory.
According to IPART, the customers of Country Energy, who face the highest electricity prices, are looking at average power bills of $1747 a year after the current round of increases, or $33 a week.
Here’s some context for households in NSW: in the December 2010 quarter, the contribution of electricity prices to the CPI result was less than that of increases in the cost of education, holidays, hospital treatment, clothing, alcohol, tobacco, takeaways, eating out, fruit and veg, meat and seafood and communications ? not to mention significant costs like rent or mortgage payments.
According to AGL, both NSW and Queensland residents are now paying, in real terms, what they were paying in the 1980s for electricity. IPART, reports a similar story: electricity prices fell in real terms in the 1980s, and only recently began rising. And all this in a period in which real incomes are rising quickly, even for low income earners, including pensioners.
As Ross Garnaut notes, average weekly earnings consistently outstripped electricity price rises since 1993. Low income households are still paying less for electricity than if prices had matched the increase in disposable income since 1998.
According to Garnaut, we?re still paying about the same as the Americans, and much less than Europeans, for our electricity as a proportion of GDP per capita.
The best way for households to reduce their electricity bills is to reduce their consumption. That fact has been lost in the political debate.
If voters are worried about rising electricity prices, they should demand their politicians stop stuffing around and introduce a carbon price. A carbon price is a much more efficient and cost effective way of reducing emissions than the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target currently supported by the left and right side of politics.
50/50 by 2020 ? absolutely, and a refreshing way of life!
Raise awareness, move forward, dig deep, think laterally…….
We’ve got every angle covered and guess what, it’s paying off.
In South East NSW, our own backyard, we’re getting it right. Despite obstructive legislation, bureaucratic red tape and rigid mindsets over the last five years, and ground rules that change without notice, we have still made remarkable progress…… we’ve completed and established ongoing wind and solar energy projects, created jobs, introduced educational programs, stimulated community interest through public meetings and political forums, and are more aware of how to treat where we live.
The little community of Quaama is a brilliant example of community spirit ? 30 households at time of writing have quickly and enthusiasically signed up for home solar installations under CEFE’s most recent Solar Bulk Buy offer, and as a result are helping earn a solar system for the Quaama Community Hall. All in a couple of short weeks.
The first Tathra Enduro saw local businesses and organisations pulling together to build from scratch a world class mountainbike race with proceeds supplying solar systems for three public buildings. International and national champions have given the course their approval and will return next year for a bigger and better event.
In Bermagui over the last three years, we’ve initiated the first solar bulk buy program in southern NSW, and supplied solar installations to the Bermi Surf Club, the Bermi Pre-School and the Rural Fire Service building.
The list goes on and on, including renewables in Jindabyne and Cooma, Narooma and Moruya, and proves we are conscientious, better informed than ever before and ready to act.
At our AGM held for the first time in Cooma recently, CEFE members travelled from Adelaide, Mosman (Sydney), Canberra, Jindabyne, Merimbula, Tathra, Bega, Cobargo and Bermagui to step up the pace and plan what’s next.
So add to this the work of our many sister voluntary organisations and together we’re a powerful force. We should all feel proud of what we’re doing to save our world.
No to nuclear
In the hot glow of the Fukushima tragedy it seems likely that developed nations will now review their nuclear power plans. Germany has shut down 7 older reactors and halted plans to renew other plants. China and Brazil are reviewing their use of the technology. However, the 27 other countries currently operating nuclear power facilities are continuing as before.
We may feel some comfort in the likelihood that Australia will not now go down this frightening path. But on our doorstep Indonesia continues to pursue its current plan for four reactors. These will be situated in one of the most populous and seismically unstable areas in south east Asia. If the scrupulously regulated Japanese nuclear industry could not build reactors that could withstand an entirely predictable natural event, what chance is there that Indonesia will do better?
We can only hope that no one would be stupid enough to sell uranium to Indonesia? ah.
The radioactive cloud currently threatening Tokyo came from uranium that was mined in Australia. The industry figures behind this sale would have us believe that we must continue to mine and sell uranium and that Indonesia is a legitimate and ?safe? market for our toxic product.
David Noonan of the Australian Conservation Foundation pointed out this week that Australia makes more money exporting cheese than we do exporting uranium. Should an Indonesian nuclear accident send radioactive clouds our way one can imagine the effect on our dairy industry, let alone on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians.
The Bega Valley Shire is already famous for its cheese but we also have the opportunity to become known for our bold pursuit of renewable energies, sustainable communities and healthy environment and lifestyle. Rich in solar, wind and possibly tidal resources we also have in our favour an impressive community spirit. We may not be able to directly influence sales of uranium but we can demonstrate that communities can tackle reducing CO2 emissions without resorting to nuclear power.
When Indonesia begins the process of purchasing uranium for it?s reactors it may be a good time for Australians to fly the NIMBY flag and offer alternatives. Wouldn?t it be a feather in our cap if the Bega Valley could host delegations of curious Indonesian energy industrialists? and maybe boost cheese sales to the region at the same time!!