Home > Boneheaded stupidity, Environment, Oz Politics > Falling off the tightrope

Falling off the tightrope

October 24th, 2013

Having gained office on the basis of three-word slogans, the Abbott government has the problem that it now needs to answer questions in complete sentences. As a result, Abbott has immediately faced some tricky tests, and failed most of them. “Stop the Boats”, for example, ran into the problem that it assumed the Indonesians could be strong-armed into doing our government’s bidding. Unsurprisingly, that proved false, though the inevitable backdown was managed reasonably smoothly.

The trickiest balancing act, though, is on climate change. The government needs to balance its base, the vocal elements of which are almost uniformly denialist[1], with the risks of adverse consequences to Australia if we repudiate our commitments on the issue, and the risks to its own credibility of being openly anti-science.

After only seven weeks in office, both PM Tony Abbott and Environment Minister Greg Hunt, have fallen off the tightrope, rejecting the clearly established (and intuitively obvious) IPCC findings on bushfire risk in Australia [AR4 (2007) , WGII , Chapter 11, Executive Summary]

“The climate of the 21st century is virtually certain to be warmer, with changes in extreme events. Heatwaves and fires are virtually certain to increase in intensity and frequency (high confidence).”

These findings were reinforced in an interview with the head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres (listen to the audio,as the report may mislead)

Abbott’s response was to accuse Figueres of “talking through her hat”, while Hunt went to Wikipedia to discover that “bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year”.

This was really an unforced error by both Abbott and Hunt. They could have ducked the issue by resorting to the standard formula that climate predictions are about frequencies, not about individual events. Abbott could even have cited Figueres who was careful to say that “the World Meteorological Organisation has not yet established a direct link between the these fires and climate change.” (emphasis very clear in audio). Hunt scrambled back to the script at the end of his interview, but after the Wikipedia reference, it was far too late.

Given Abbott’s earlier “total crap” statement[2], it’s going to be hard for him to walk back a second time. He now faces two problems. On the one hand, now that he’s outed himself as one of them, the denialist base will be encouraged to demand the scrapping of his Direct Action policy. On the other hand, locking the LNP into denialism is a recipe for long-term disaster, especially with Malcolm Turnbull waiting in the wings.

It’s highly likely that 2013 will turn out to be the hottest calendar year on record for Australia. The frequent occurrence of record highs like this is a predictable consequence of climate change. Abbott had better get his spin doctors working on a form of words to handle the inevitable questions.

fn1. I’ve decided to abandon “delusionist”, my own coinage, in favor of the more standard term “denialist”. I’ll write more on this later.
fn2. In fairness, this statement was presented as a view his audience might hold, rather than as Abbott’s own. But since he’s held every possible view on this topic, and some that seem impossible, fairness can only go so far.

  1. October 24th, 2013 at 15:08 | #1

    Re: the LNP base.

    I suspect that you underestimate their capacity to hold several contradictory views simultaneously.

    The silence over the “Credit Card” limit for example.

    They really are such (LNP) ‘true believers’ that Abbott will find it virtually impossible to lose their support. Whether the electorally crucial ‘swingers’ abandon the LNP in any numbers or at any pace will be determined by how the ALP conduct themselves, particularly when parliament resumes.

    In my view they will squib it, we’ll see.

  2. rog
    October 24th, 2013 at 15:23 | #2

    Turnbull wil has his own battle, that of the mythical business plan for a a slower NBN

    Amsterdam: Internet giant Google has sought to dispel what is says is a “myth” that consumers don’t want, won’t pay for or don’t need high-speed, gigabit broadband.

    Speaking at the Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam on Tuesday, Kevin Lo, general manager of Google Fibre, said he’d heard the argument bandied around about broadband circles “quite a bit” but that it wasn’t true. He based his assertion on Google’s recent foray into building privately backed gigabit fibre-to-the-premises networks in Kansas City; Austin,Texas; and Provo, Utah, in the US.

    “I can say with full confidence [it] simply isn’t true,” he said. “There is huge consumer demand… for faster internet and we believe that faster internet speeds will lead to what we call the next chapter of the internet.”

    “We’re confident that the next 100x improvement in speeds will lead to more innovation… and our goal at Google is really to give our users and entrepreneurs alike ubiquitous access to high-speed broadband.

  3. Ken_L
    October 24th, 2013 at 16:10 | #3

    John I really think you under-estimate the tendency of human beings to believe what it suits them to believe, and you over-estimate the capacity of evidence-based argument to triumph over faith-based belief. The biggest obstacle to effective action on climate change (as opposed to tokenism) has always been the fact that it requires acknowledgement of the magnitude of the threat and its implications for daily life; since true acceptance of those things is quite terrifying, and most people will instinctively go to great lengths to avoid feelings of terror and impotence, I expect the conviction that climate change is no big deal will actually become stronger amongst a majority of the population in parallel with the increase in evidence of its reality.

    Abbott and company will hopefully be persuaded by their professional advisers that they have to take some action, but I can’t public opinion doing the trick. Quite the reverse – assuring people everything’s gonna be all right and there’s nothing we can do about it anyway is likely to gain them support.

  4. Ootz
    October 24th, 2013 at 16:11 | #4

    There is no doubt in my mind that the “talking through her hat” comment was for consumption by the growing “Agenda 21 conspiracy” crowd. Given that Cory Bernardi and his Astroturfing enterprise have great “faith” in the UN conspiracy and the comment was made on Neil Mitchell’s sermon, it fits the bill.

  5. TerjeP
    October 24th, 2013 at 16:59 | #5

    Why cite AR4 instead of AR5?

  6. Nick
    October 24th, 2013 at 17:14 | #6

    Because AR5 WGII: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability isn’t due until March 2014.

  7. rog
    October 24th, 2013 at 17:39 | #7

    @Ken_L I don’t think it’s a matter of faith-vs-evidence re climate change, more faith-vs-evidence on the role of govt in a citizens life. Take any issue eg guns, tobacco, education, health etc and the lines of division remain roughly the same.

    Even war has its divisions, those that believe war is ultimately wasteful and self defeating and those that believe that individual freedoms need to be fought for, at any cost.

  8. Alphonse
    October 24th, 2013 at 18:13 | #8

    Abbott is in for a long hot summer.

    I see that Krugman buys Nordhaus’ qualified support of direct action here:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/nov/07/climate-change-gambling-civilization/

    Trouble for Abbott is Nordhaus’ qualification: the direct action must focus on destroying the coal-fired power station industry globally. That is not what Abbott means by “direct action”.

  9. Donald Oats
    October 24th, 2013 at 18:51 | #9

    I believe the Abbott government strategy is a regressionist one: disband anything, disown everything, that is considered to be a progressive move by the previous two Labor governments. And they will do it. IMHO, I don’t accept that the Abbott opposition ever intended to proceed with their “Direct Action” plan in a truly meaningful way; it was simply a way of placating the moderates within the Liberal voter ranks, and a few farmers who thought they might get something out of it.

    I don’t believe that the Abbott government are actually conservatives—a more accurate moniker for them is “The Regressive Party,” for that is exactly how they are playing the game right now. Once they’ve chucked the mining tax, railway upgrades (see how they tossed the Gawler electric rail plan under the bus [South Australia]), and environmental regulations out the door, they can hardly be described as conservative. So much for the business of actually governing for everyone.

  10. October 24th, 2013 at 19:04 | #10

    Hockey is a master of the canine whistle.

    I heard him say something (completed unrelated to climate change or the NSW fires) along the lines of: “Well, Labor lit the fires and we have to put them out.”

    The people who are supposed to make the subliminal connection will do so.

  11. October 24th, 2013 at 19:22 | #11

    Pr Q said:


    The trickiest balancing act, though, is on climate change. The government needs to balance its base, the vocal elements of which are almost uniformly denialist[1], with the risks of adverse consequences to Australia if we repudiate our commitments on the issue, and the risks to its own credibility of being openly anti-science.

    He now faces two problems. On the one hand, now that he’s outed himself as one of them, the denialist base will be encouraged to demand the scrapping of his Direct Action policy. On the other hand, locking the LNP into denialism is a recipe for long-term disaster, especially with Malcolm Turnbull waiting in the wings.

    It’s highly likely that 2013 will turn out to be the hottest calendar year on record for Australia. The frequent occurrence of record highs like this is a predictable consequence of climate change. Abbott had better get his spin doctors working on a form of words to handle the inevitable questions.

    It would be a brave man to predict that the climate change issue would cause the L/NP to lose the 2016 election or that a series of bad polls would force Abbott to deal with a leadership spill. I dont really have a clear political picture of how the domestic polity would react to international sanctions on Abbotts repealing the carbon pricing scheme. A canny politician could easily exploit a populist nationalist backlash to such international meddling.

    The collapse in the GRN vote at state and federal levels does not augur well for the politics of climate change realism. Although this may be a result of voters getting sick & tired of the GRNs banging on and on about the national emergency of banned homosexual marriage and the moral sanctity of a booming people smuggling industry.

    The early tennies were bad years for AUS climate change awareness. We had a couple years of La Nina rainfall that put a dampener on ecological realism. Perhaps another spell of El Nino drought, a long hot summer and a few catastrophic bushfires will jog the publics memory about climate change.

    My not very original view on the 2013 election was that the Abbott-L/NP opposition did not win the election, the Rudd/Gillard-ALP government lost it. The ALP lost because most people can’t stand the ALP party machine, which is careerist, incompetent and corrupt. Although, somewhat ironically, the people tend to sympathise with a conservative form of social democracy. (hence pollies spend a lot of time telling everyone how “working families” are their first priority.)

    The L/NP won a landslide victory by promising a “cheaper & nastier” implementation of the ALP’s policy program, plus axeing two popular taxes. This is not a very positive platform with which to build a solid support base.

    The main thing the L/NP have going for them is a not very justified reputation for good economic management. The biggest danger to L/NP political prospects is its HR Nicholls wing having another brain fart or Hockey getting the austerity bug.

    The less the L/NP talk about the unpopular aspects of their own ideology, the more likely they will govern longer. Generally speaking, the Tories do better when they govern like grey men, think Menzies and the second half of Howards tenure.

  12. October 24th, 2013 at 21:18 | #12

    Yep. At some time in the nearish future, there will be a climate related catastrophe large enough to capture the public imagination sufficiently that action begins. But what will do it?

    The Australian drought nearly did it here. The Russian heatwave didn’t do it. The US heatwave didn’t do it. 1998 didn’t do it. Sandy didn’t do it. Our bushfires won’t do it. What will be enough?

    Maybe a good analogy is a boom which has become irrationally exuberant. Often a boom will survive things that should halt it, only to finally collapse at a quite unpredictable time.

    Has there been a study of what caused substantial change in the past? In particular, change to a practice that caused no individual harm, but did cause societal harm. So the hygiene revolution doesn’t count, because in the end people were just looking after their own well being.

    Of course, the face of concerted opposition, maybe nothing will cause change. Just look at the US with their gun massacres. There is no meaningful action because of the power of the NRA and the historical significance of guns to Americans.

  13. Catching Up
    October 24th, 2013 at 21:28 | #13

    If Abbott and Hunt believe in the science, why the outrage from them. Why are they so thin skinned.

    I though all that was in dispute, was the way carbon emissions was addressed.

    They say the accept the science.

    If so, why do they object to the statement, that the fires could be linked to climate change, they science they say, they believe it?

  14. October 24th, 2013 at 21:32 | #14

    @Catching Up

    Even if Abbott and Hunt accept the science, they certainly don’t accept the responsibility. Which explains a bit of their ambivalence.

  15. October 24th, 2013 at 21:47 | #15

    The one thing that would break the L/NPs political will on climate change policy would be the US introducing a serious Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, either indirectly through imposing a cost on carbon, or directly through regulation and decommissioning of coal fired power stations.

    The L/NP takes its status cues, including ideology, from US sources. If the REPs suffer a political collapse (which appears likely) and the DEMs get an effective CPRS through then the L/NP will be out on a limb.

    So really, the fate of the L/NP, and a global CPRS, all depend on whether the REPs continue with their political melt-down. Given its recent form there are reasons to be cheerful.

  16. Donald Oats
    October 24th, 2013 at 22:06 | #16

    Tony Abbott is either a human weathervane, pointing whichever way the wind blows, or is very confused, when it comes to AGW. For every one thing he has said about climate change, he has said something with much the opposite meaning: that’s his mode of operation. Now that he is in power, I wouldn’t be surprised if once they’ve rid themselves of all things to do with climate change (policy) action by the previous two governments, he’ll become more strident in rejectionism with respect to the scientific evidence of anthropogenic global warming (i.e. climate change, as it is rather unfortunately labelled).

  17. October 24th, 2013 at 22:09 | #17

    @jack strocchi

    You say:

    The collapse in the GRN vote at state and federal levels

    What “collapse” is that? In the 2013 Senate election they either held their 9 seats in the senate or, subject to the WA recount, picked up a seat. They held their 1 House of Reps seat.

    Whereas the establishment party duopoly lost 7 seats between them.

    How is that a Greens “collapse”?

  18. rog
    October 25th, 2013 at 03:19 | #18

    In the US flood insurance premiums have sky rocketed impacting on property values.

  19. Hermit
    October 25th, 2013 at 06:27 | #19

    Is the public impressed with Hockey when he announces the repeal of the MRRT? In the next breath he then says what programs he will cut. It’s as if a Newspoll result found that battlers want fewer personal breaks but bigger profits for miners. I have to hand it to the LNP they are sticking to their guns or at least suppressing information about policies that may be floundering. At some point the gloss will fade and it will come across as regressive and spiteful.

    I suspect Direct Action will never get off the ground. Hunt’s eagerness to get rid of carbon tax means it will be replaced with nothing. Again how will the public react? This time I doubt Hunt checked with an online encyclopedia which seems to be talking about something else
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_action

  20. rog
    October 25th, 2013 at 06:38 | #20

    Abbott/Bolt interview

    AB: I’ve been struck by the insanity of the reaction in the media and outside, particularly linking the fires to global warming and blaming you for making them worse potentially by scrapping the carbon tax.

    PM: I suppose, you might say, that they are desperate to find anything that they think might pass as ammunition for their cause, but this idea that every time we have a fire or a flood it proves that climate change is real is bizarre, ’cause since the earliest days of European settlement in Australia, we’ve had fires and floods, and we’ve had worse fires and worse floods in the past than the ones we are currently experiencing. And the thing is that at some point in the future, every record will be broken, but that doesn’t prove anything about climate change. It just proves that the longer the period of time, the more possibility of extreme events … The one in 500 year flood is always a bigger flood than the one in 100 year flood.

    AB: The ABC, though, has run on almost every current affairs show an almost constant barrage of stuff linking climate change to these fires.

    PM: That is complete hogwash.

  21. rog
    October 25th, 2013 at 06:41 | #21

    CSIRO

    we expect climate change to alter the likelihood of extreme events such as heatwaves, fires, droughts, and floods.

    Link

  22. Ikonoclast
    October 25th, 2013 at 06:55 | #22

    @rog

    Yeah well, buying a home on Florida waterfront is not a smart move given current trends; sea level rise, increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and the limestone karst (sinkholes) geology of large parts of Florida.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/06/23/2199031/scientist-miami-as-we-know-it-today-is-doomed-its-not-a-question-of-if-its-a-question-of-when/

  23. Ikonoclast
    October 25th, 2013 at 06:55 | #23

    Yeah well, buying a home on Florida waterfront is not a smart move given current trends; sea level rise, increased frequency and intensity of hurricanes and the limestone karst (sinkholes) geology of large parts of Florida.

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/06/23/2199031/scientist-miami-as-we-know-it-today-is-doomed-its-not-a-question-of-if-its-a-question-of-when/

  24. Donald Oats
    October 25th, 2013 at 07:43 | #24

    I don’t think there is a tightrope being walked by the Abbott team: they know what they want to do, which is to repudiate, destroy, crush, reject. Once Labor and the Greens, and to a lesser extent, the independents who combined to form an ALP/Greens/Indep government, have been punished and air-brushed from recent history, once the Rudd-led ALP government’s policies have been evacuated (metaphor alert) and dumped in the bin of it-never-happened, the Liberals will claim that they have “fixed” the wreckage strewn by ALP across our economy. This is a deeply regressive government, so no, I don’t think they are walking a tightrope—they were never on one. If all of the newspapers turn to seriously questioning the Libs’ policy (in-)actions, and giving them the third degree, then perhaps the tightrope analogy would be justified. As it is, the media did a good job of convincing a big chunk of their readership that scientists are clueless on climate change and AGW.

    The Tony Abbott LNP government has surrounded itself with consulting advisors who are out and out AGW rejectionists: their collective job is to provide ministers and their offices with the media talk points that seemingly contradict the scientific advice coming from the IPCC’s reviews, from universities, bureau of meteorology depts, and other research institutions such as our very own CSIRO. These advisors are the same shills we’ve seen fluttering around the LNP in opposition, and the Howard Liberal government before that. The Liberals are simply not interested in a serious conversation about the evidence that humans are now a significant factor in altering the whole dynamics of our climate, both on a regional level and on a global one.

    Finally, remember the Little Ice Ages that the denialist/rejectionists batter climate scientists about the head with? Note how the denialists never seem to dig for reasons why such events have occurred in human history? Well, scientists do, and how’s this for a big fat causal factor, a mega-volcanic eruption in 1257 on the island of Lombok (Indonesia). But you won’t hear it from the denialists, as it would spoil their narrative.

  25. Ken Fabian
    October 25th, 2013 at 09:52 | #25

    I think Mr Abbott deliberately retains ambiguity in his statements and lets his policies, actions and choices of advisers and confidantes speak into the artificial zone of silence that shields him and his team from having to explain themselves. Mr Abbott is allowing the public to fill in the blanks and having those concerned about climate accuse him of bad faith on the issue actually shores up things with the climate science denier bloc years of LNP efforts have cultivated and entrenched in the political landscape.

    I think Abbott and team are seen by the gullible and unthinking faithful as being denied the opportunity to be honest and forthcoming on the climate issue because green left thinking has so infected and distorted the public debate that reasonable and rational debate is not possible – so toxic that being opaque, uninformative and ambiguous and even outright deceptive is seen as clever politicking rather than … deceptive and misleading.

    They can be relied on to claim the unreasonable and irrational green left are at fault. Greens are at fault for promoting the alarming view that impacts of Biblical proportions – and effectively eternal consequences – will result from getting policy wrong on climate. They are at fault for going on and on about it and getting ordinary Australians upset over it. The are also at fault for not being pro-nuclear, which prevents the LNP from promoting nuclear as the solution to a problem to satisfy the elements of the Conservative Right in Australia that do think the climate problem is real and serious.

    Abbott and team can take advantage of these memes only as long as they do not have to explain themselves and avoid being up front and informative. Yet I do not believe they cannot be induced to tell us where they really stand – or have that exposed – by a competent mainstream media. Doing so before they were elected would have been… more democratic.

  26. October 25th, 2013 at 12:07 | #26

    a competent mainstream media

    I see your problem, Ken.

  27. may
    October 25th, 2013 at 13:28 | #27

    Megan :Hockey is a master of the canine whistle.
    I heard him say something (completed unrelated to climate change or the NSW fires) along the lines of: “Well, Labor lit the fires and we have to put them out.”
    The people who are supposed to make the subliminal connection will do so.

    i still reckon it’s not turnbull he has to worry about, it’s hokey.

  28. Alphonse
    October 25th, 2013 at 20:39 | #28

    @may , I agree. Turnbull mounted the wrong nag. He failed to realise what Howard had wrought. Turning the Libs into GOP lite is not a reversible procedure.

  29. October 25th, 2013 at 21:17 | #29

    @Ken Fabian

    Very true Ken. In the minds of the gullible, there are vast shadowy networks running the world. Once you are stupid enough to believe that, you’ll believe anything. Which is very useful to those who rely on the gullibilatti.

    Having said that, I note the same phenomenon amongst the rabid greens. They gleefully believe the most extreme rubbish without any thought.

  30. Chris O’Neill
    October 25th, 2013 at 21:41 | #30

    @jack strocchi

    We had a couple years of La Nina rainfall that put a dampener on ecological realism.

    This sort of observation always reminds me that there have been surveys that show that acceptance of global warming depends on the weather. There are a lot of not-a-lot-of-thinking type people out there.

  31. Jim Rose
    October 25th, 2013 at 23:08 | #31

    I do wonder how agricultural productivuty can go up because of warming but bushfire fuel does not grow as well. Each side has its taboos about what is growing faster as a result of warming

  32. October 25th, 2013 at 23:44 | #32

    @John Brookes

    Rough definition of a “rabid green”?

  33. Fran Barlow
    October 26th, 2013 at 07:02 | #33

    @John Brookes

    Having said that, I note the same phenomenon amongst the rabid greens. They gleefully believe the most extreme rubbish without any thought.

    1. How do you define “extreme”?

    2. Do you have any specific examples of “rabid greens” and what they say/do that qualifies them to be compared with victims of rabies?

  34. Hermit
    October 26th, 2013 at 07:27 | #34

    An article suggests that Hunt’s beloved soil carbon will make little sense in an Australia with increasing bushfires
    http://theenergycollective.com/lindsay-wilson/293131/burning-carbon-sink
    Meanwhile coal barons BHP and Clive Palmer get their crowbars into the spokes. BHP’s chair Jac Nasser declares reformed coal exec Ian Dunlop persona non grata on the board. Clive pulls parliamentary strings to get the Galilee Basin dug up. After consulting Wikipedia Hunt will know what to do.

  35. October 26th, 2013 at 08:16 | #35

    Chris O’Neill @ #30 said:


    This sort of observation always reminds me that there have been surveys that show that acceptance of global warming depends on the weather. There are a lot of not-a-lot-of-thinking type people out there.

    Ecological realism responds to both changes in the weather over time and variations in climate accross space. The residents of Vanatu are cold-eyed climate realists because they have the misfortune of facing medium term innundation. Whilst the residents of Canada can indulge in misty-eyed climate delusionism because they have the good fortune of living in an elevated and sub-Arctic climate.

    A big problem for prompt climate realistic policy is that most of the world elite decision makers live, or own property bolt-holes, in the cold-climate metropolises of the North Atlantic and North Pacific. They have a lot of cold climate meat on the bone and will be the last to suffer the adverse effects of climate catastrophe, Indeed some may actually profit from it. (a good example of a profiting man losing both the world and his soul)

    The phenomenon of elite unaccountability from consequences of their delusional views is pervasive throughout most decision making domains.

    The “golden parachute is a well known escape technique in their professional endeavours. Escape techniques are also observable in the personal committments or lack there of, with gated communities and security condominiums and the like insulating elites from the adverse consequences of anthropological delusionism.

    As usual, I observe that various forms of accountable populism (in class, cultural and climate wars) are indicated.


    “If you want to live in New York, you’ve got to insulate, insulate, insulate.”


    Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities

  36. Ken Fabian
    October 26th, 2013 at 08:33 | #36

    John Brookes, in climate science terms the likelihood of apocalyptic outcomes is about equal to the likelihood it will be a mostly harmless fizzle. The middle of the mainstream outcomes for a world that fails to constrain emissions may be less than apocalyptic but very serious and made more problematical by being cumulative with a long lag time between emissions and outcomes. And they are effectively irreversible consequences.

    Which political movement is wanting Australia to put all it’s money on it being a fizzle rather than treating the middle mainstream science seriously? Who consistently tells us they accept the science whilst simultaneously telling us they don’t? And why is Abbott’s positioning being measured in comparison to The Greens at all?

    I think that what The Greens think and say is only important because of the ongoing failures of Australia’s mainstream politics to come up with anything even halfway appropriate to the seriousness of the problem. I don’t think The Greens can fix the problem, but not because the aggressive building of renewables won’t work but because nothing less than full acceptance and commitment to Australia doing it’s share, plus some more to be sure, will have any real possibility of fixing the problem.

    If the LNP can ditch their pitch to the climate deniers and lose climate action obstruction as their priority the possibility of bipartisan politics can emerge and what the Greens think would barely matter.

  37. Fran Barlow
    October 26th, 2013 at 08:41 | #37

    Given the new anti-explicit carbon price sentiment in Federal Parliament, I’ve been reflecting on the ways in which regulatory means could be strenthened to promote abatement and taking into consideration the denier focus on what they call ‘real pollution’ I have a suggestion.

    Should we not press each of the states to reduce sharply the permissible quantity of emissions from the exhausts of private passenger vehicles registered for at least 10 years? These measures could for example, cut the allowable quantity of CO2 and NOx and other particulates/VOCs emitted from the current mean for 1.6l vehicles per km of operation in urban traffic by 50% by January 1 2016 and by 90% by 2020.

    For the purpose of assessment, each vehicle presented for registration after January 1 2016 that had been registered for a cumulative 10 years would have to have had its exhausts tested by the RTA (or equivalent in each state) over not less than 25 km in urban traffic prior to reregistration. Vehicles that failed to meet the standard would attract a progressively higher registration fee and registering parties would also have to lodge, in advance, a conditionally-refundable deposit covering the likely excess emissions before the next registration period, based on their last two years of driving or if they had not driven for at least 2 years, a figure typical for people driving vehicles of that type living at their postcode. If they did fewer kilometers than that, the balance would be applied to their next registration charge or deposit. If they ceased to have a motor vehicle, then the balance, if any, would be rebated.

    In addition, vehicles purchased new after January 1 2016 would also have to comply with the prevailing standard.

    Disclosure: I have such 1.8l car and hubby has a 1.6l car both of which would be subject under my proposal

    I imagine that this would produce a number of consequences.

    1. A good many people would dispose of their older cars.
    2. Based on #1, the cost of cars 10 years or older would decline sharply
    3. A lot more car parts for cars nearly ten years old, or older, would become available.
    4. Businesses based on maintaining older cars and getting them compliant, would arise. Conversions to hybrid-electric or PEVs would become commonplace. In short, this would be a shot in the arm for engineering in this country. In many cases, people would convert directly to the 2020 standard, avoiding a second compliance round.
    5. More people would want solar panels so as to charge their now at least partially electric cars. In addition, the infrastructure to support fast charging of vehicles would expand rapidly.
    6. Many more people would avoid using their cars frivolously in the two years up to 1/1/2016 (in order to reduce their exposure to the deposit). There would be a lot more bike-riding and walking and use of public transport.
    7. Sales of new vehicles after 1/1/2016 would fall very sharply since hardly any of them (apart from the smaller HEVs/PEVs would comply.
    8. The cut in road contention would mean that all ICE-vehicles (including heavy commercial vehicles) would operate more fuel-efficiently and produce less pollution from their tailpipes.
    9. Urban air quality would improve and transport-related emissions would decline.
    10. The respiratory health of the population, especially in urban areas, would improve.

    If fewer vehicles were imported and fewer new vehicles were built, then the average embedded carbon footprint of vehicles on our roads would decline. Also, fewer vehicles means fewer collisions so we ought to see a decline in vehicle insurance claims (and thus costs to the insured) and a reduction in road trauma.

    In short, this ought to meet easily a ‘no regrets’ policy. It has no obvious impact on Australia’s trading position and would probably shift the balance on fuel and vehicle imports in Australia’s favour. It would almost certainly foster local employment amongst those with engineering skills or in warehousing, and generate some revenue for state governments (while cutting road maintenance costs), which could be put, in theory at least, into more public transport and urban consolidation.

    Putting aside the improbability of our state governments acting in concert in this way, are there any sound objections to this?

  38. Ron E Joggles
    October 26th, 2013 at 16:29 | #38

    Megan :
    In my view they will squib it, we’ll see.

    They bloody well better not squib it!

    I expect Labor to come out swinging on the floor of the House – I want them shouting and pointing across the chamber, demanding that Abbott retain the carbon tax, and the mining profits tax – they need to get right up in Abbott’s and Hockey’s faces, condemning their anti-worker agenda – that’s why I voted for Albanese to be leader – this is no time for politeness, for “respecting mandates”, what a load of BS! – let’s give ‘em a taste of the abuse they dished out to Julia Gillard – Labor needs to make Parliament contentious, dramatic, nerve-tinglingly exciting and terrible!

  39. BilB
    October 26th, 2013 at 18:19 | #39

    How you intend that a car can cut its CO2 emissions by 50% Fran is unclear from your proposal.

  40. October 26th, 2013 at 19:25 | #40

    @Ron E Joggles

    I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing. I’m not interested in theatrics.

    Things like this don’t change my view of what we can expect from the ALP:

    But Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek says the Government is creating the perception there are less boats by restricting information about their arrival.

    Having won the race to the bottom but lost the election, they seem to have changed nothing.

    I have a suspicion that Shorten will find a “pragmatic” way to pass the abolition of the meagre CO2 measures. I also suspect that whatever he does will be very vocally supported by ALP fans.

  41. Fran Barlow
    October 26th, 2013 at 19:33 | #41

    @BilB

    How you intend that a car can cut its CO2 emissions by 50% Fran is unclear from your proposal.

    H/PEV conversion? Perhaps it could be run on some form of biodiesel. Or maybe it fails the standard but someone uses it much more sparingly or sells it cheaply to someone using it much more sparingly.

  42. Nathanael
    October 27th, 2013 at 01:46 | #42

    @John Brookes
    “Yep. At some time in the nearish future, there will be a climate related catastrophe large enough to capture the public imagination sufficiently that action begins. But what will do it? ”

    It’s regional. Hurricane Sandy sure as hell did it *in the New York City metro area*, but unfortunately not much further out than that. I would have thought that the massive fires in Australia would have done it there, but I think your coal mining industry was too powerful.

  43. Ron E Joggles
    October 27th, 2013 at 11:07 | #43

    @Megan
    A future Labor govt is the only govt likely to introduce effective policy to deal with global warming, so we need to work towards that end. The involvement of the rank and file in the election of the leader resulted in a surge in membership and created a lot of goodwill among swinging voters, and we need to maintain the momentum.

    Whether you are interested in theatrics or not, they are important – Parliament is a theatre, and if we are to gather support for AGW abatement, the Labor opposition has to be vociferously and controversially attacking the Govt on the floor of the house – it worked for Abbott!

    I respectfully disagree with your assessment that “I also suspect that whatever he does will be very vocally supported by ALP fans” – we, they, anyone with the sense to want action on carbon, will be ropeable if Shorten is urbane and conciliatory, and meekly goes along with Abbott.

  44. October 27th, 2013 at 11:21 | #44

    @Ron E Joggles

    will be ropeable if Shorten is urbane and conciliatory, and meekly goes along with Abbott

    But they would still advocate unconditional support for the ALP.

    They do it on every issue. I think the leaders of the ALP know this (and actively foster it) and don’t really care what rank and file want because they will back them whatever they do.

    Take their recent election strategy: “Abbott would be worse”. That’s all they had because they had abandoned decency on so many issues.

    As as said, we’ll see. But I don’t have high expectations.

  45. BilB
    October 27th, 2013 at 18:16 | #45

    I think that plan fails the practicality test, and over ten year old fuel injected electronic ignition cars are not necessarily less fuel efficient that the latest cars. If it were possible to double the efficiency of old cars they would be doing it to new ones, and they are not, or at least not insufficient quantities.

    We really do need to be getting more electric vehicle on the road, but here again is the problem of range. The VWXL1 has the leading performance solution for today, but it is not in production and there is no plan for it to hit full production yet. There is a small production batch (250 vehicles) planned with a price tag of $150,000. If I had that much to sapre I would buy one in a flash.

    So it will be a few years yet before we have access to vehicles that can make a huge difference in national fuel consumption (CO2 emissions).

    The real problem will be getting mothers to give up their 10 seater Chariots and fathers their SUV’s in favour of 2 and 3 seater super efficient hybrides. That is the real challenge.

  46. October 27th, 2013 at 20:58 | #46

    @BilB

    Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to abandon the mass ownership of personal transportation vehicles?

    Free public transport combined with occasional rental options would easily do it, I believe.

    When I was a kid everyone walked/bussed/trained/biked to school. Now every school zone is crowded with cars picking up kids.

    I was told of a parent who got berated for dropping the car-pooled kids at the front gate of the school rather than driving up the driveway (“What were you thinking? Anything could have happened to them after you dropped them out the front!”).

    We need a better mindset than what has recently become BAU.

  47. Fran Barlow
    October 27th, 2013 at 21:35 | #47

    @BilB

    I think that plan fails the practicality test, and over ten year old fuel injected electronic ignition cars are not necessarily less fuel efficient that the latest cars.

    I’m not sure if you’re trying to be obtuse here.

    To meet the standard all ten year or older vehicles need to have half the mean emissions of current 1.6l ICE vehicles available. Presumably that would include some that are very low emitting. All larger than 1.6l ICEs/diesels would be at a severe disadvantage.

    Someone responding to the regs would have three basic options.

    1. Get/contrive a compliant vehicle by reconfiguration
    2. Dispose of non-compliant vehicle and make other arrangements for transport
    3. Do nothing and bear the extra charges, perhaps cutting down on usage to save money

    In the case of our household, I only drive my car on the weekend to do major shopping or go to Bunnings. I’d probably take the third option. Hubby drives a little more than I do so we’d be looking at retrofitting the Festiva with an electric-only engine. We looked at this a few years back and it would have cost about $12k. If these measures came in I daresay you could get it done a lot cheaper since it wouldn’t be some niche operation.

    We really do need to be getting more electric vehicle on the road, but here again is the problem of range.

    We looked at an iMiev a while back and if it had been cheaper, we’d have considered it. Some versions have PV on their rooves! The Volt has a range of about 600k AIUI. Of course, a measure such as this would be a huge shot in the arm for charging stations and hot swap batteries.

    The real problem will be getting mothers to give up their 10 seater Chariots and fathers their SUV’s in favour of 2 and 3 seater super efficient hybrides.

    Under my plan, I suspect most would, assuming the premium were large enough.

  48. Fran Barlow
    October 27th, 2013 at 21:39 | #48

    @Megan

    Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to abandon the mass ownership of personal transportation vehicles?

    Depending on what you mean by ‘easier’ I suspect not. At a purely technical level, banning cars would be highly effective, but politically, it wouldn’t be easier. I don’t think even Murdoch could help out a regime that pressed for that (not that he would).

  49. October 27th, 2013 at 21:56 | #49

    The transport revolution I would like to see is self-driving cars. You wouldn’t have to own one – just call one up when you need it. If its just you, it can be a one-person car. There would be a big saving on medical costs, as there would be far fewer car accidents.

    Thirty years from now, people will find it hard to believe that we once allowed people to totally control cars.

  50. Nick
    October 27th, 2013 at 22:16 | #50

    Fran, see:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emission_standard#Japan

    Your policy sounds quite similar to what took place in Japan during the 90s/00s.

    Some of the other countries on that page worth a read too.

  51. October 27th, 2013 at 22:18 | #51

    @Fran Barlow

    I wasn’t suggesting banning them (although, as you say, that would be highly effective – up to a point!).

    I mean ‘easier’ in the Oxford Dictionary Definition sense – responding to the idea that we should work at all costs to retain the mass ownership of personal transportation machines but find a way in which they don’t run on fossil fuels.

    If all public transport was “free” then most of these problems would solve themselves rather swiftly.

    It’s not a technologically difficult idea, but politically “impossible” perhaps.

  52. BilB
    October 27th, 2013 at 22:49 | #52

    Well that is a good range, albeit a hybride range. I was talking about electric only range. Still 25kpl is an excellent improvement. The next problem with the plan is deliverability. You do need to give the industry a lot more lead than 2 years for that degree of forced demand, else there will be demand price hike.

    I know that I for one would campaign against this plan. Not that I disagree with the objective, just the method.

  53. Fran Barlow
    October 28th, 2013 at 10:41 | #53

    Not the least of my reasons for putting the proposal for emissions control in this form is the potential for wedging the right.

    In effect, the proposal would acts as a significant non-tariff barrier to the import of new cars, which would please the economic populists. That’s not my intent of course, but it’s always a good idea when advancing a cause to see if you can’t structure your proposal to put your finger on lines of fracture in the enemy camp.

    The deniers say they don’t like ‘market-based’ schemes. They say they prefer to regulate “real pollution”. Well here’s our chance to test their claims in ways which would stifle “real pollution” including CO2 and to add in those who’d like to stifle the import of cars and get Australia back to innovating and engineering stuff.

    The moment someone from the right bobs up and complains about “red tape” or that this will cost us money, we can remind them that there’s no escaping the fact that controlling pollution costs money. The debate is about how to settle those cost burdens justly and efficiently.

  54. BilB
    October 28th, 2013 at 10:50 | #54

    I don’t know whether you visit Jo Nova, Fran, but the Libertarian (type) right have created an alternative solar system to live in. A proposal such as this would go down like a depleted uranium ballon. In there solar system there are only fluctuations, nothing at all to be concerned about.

  55. Fran Barlow
    October 28th, 2013 at 11:00 | #55

    @BilB

    I don’t know whether you visit Jo Nova, Fran,

    Never. I don’t care what the completely unhinged think, though I suspect that at least the economic nationalists would like this for protectionist reasons.

  56. BilB
    October 28th, 2013 at 12:41 | #56

    From what I can see, Fran, the Abbott mob are in lock step with the Monckton Nova delusion on Climate Change, and that sadly is the basis of their policies.

Comments are closed.