we’re going to burn

Maybe I’m too pessimistic but I just can’t see now how there’s now going to be any serious action on climate change in the short to medium term. As Bernard Keane argues, the Rudd government’s latest amendments to its emissions trading scheme represents ‘almost complete surrender to the largest polluters, who will now face virtually no increased cost associated with their carbon emissions’.

The whole tenor of Rudd’s approach has been to insist that there’s no crisis, no emergency, and that targets for carbon reduction can be dickered about as if they were donations to a charity, where you just give amount depending on how generous you feel. Framed that way, they’ll always be trumped by some more immediate issue.

As David Spratt argues in the forthcoming edition of Overland, the real argument’s quite different. Either you accept the science or you don’t. If you agree with the scientific consensus, you reach certain targets or you suffer the consquences. You can’t just do the best you can since failing by a small amount produces results just as disastrous as failing by a lot.

That’s why climate denialism seems to be gaining ground. By acting as if climate change were simply another issue to be bargained about, the Rudd government sends out the message that, really, it thinks the scientists are exaggerating. And if you agree with that — if you feel that the scientific establishment isn’t telling the truth when it warns of looming disaster — why do anything at all?

In any case, it’s clear now that there’s going to be a hard core of climate denialists in the conservative parties and that these people will have the continued support of the Murdoch press (despite Rupert’s alleged conversion some years back). In other words, there’s not going to be a political consensus about the need for action. To get anything done, Rudd will have to stare down the Australian and and its tabloid siblings. In other words, he’ll have to fight. And that’s something for which he’s never shown any enthusiasm.

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

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