Home > Environment, World Events > Political change and climate change

Political change and climate change

September 23rd, 2014

Judging by the comments on my “derp and denialism” post, we seem to be mostly agreed on the proposition, amply demonstrated by economic studies, that the global economy could be decarbonized at a very modest cost in terms of foregone growth. On the other hand, it is equally obvious that the commitments made so far are nowhere near enough to achieve this goal[^1], and that the reasons for this lie in the operation of political systems, most importantly in the US, China and India. This raises several questions

(a) Why have political systems failed to yield the responses we need
(b) Can climate stabilization be achieved without fundamental transformation of political systems
(c) If so, what transformation do we need
(d) If not, what kinds of more limited change do we need

In this context, it’s only really necessary to look at the US, China and India. The EU may drag its 27 pairs of feet a little (it is the EU, after all) but will certainly match anything the US does. And, if the US were fully committed to climate change, denialists elsewhere in the developed world, like Harper in Canada and Abbott in Australia, would have the ground cut from under them.

In the US (and other English-speaking countries), the primary obstacle is not the entrenched power of interests that would lose from climate stabilization such as fossil fuel companies. The big global energy companies, like Exxon and BP, are perfectly capable of shifting their focus from oil to gas and if the market gets large enough, to renewables. In any case, they are balanced by potential losers from climate change like the insurance and finance sectors. Rather, the problem is the climate change denial is a rightwing culture war issue, which has became (one of many) Republican shibboleths.

Sustained action against climate change requires that the Republican party either be marginalized or replaced by something quite different (though it would probably still be called the Republican party). That’s a big challenge, but not impossible. A two-term presidency for Hillary Clinton, even without full control of Congress, would probably be enough to get things done through a combination of regulation and international agreements, the model currently being pursued by Obama. And four losses in succession would probably be enough to force a shift within the Republican party.

The situation in China is more opaque (to me, at any rate) but also more promising. Having been the worst of the spoilers at Copenhagen, and suffered a fair bit of opprobrium as a result, the Chinese leadership now seems willing to take a constructive role. Moreover, the pollution crisis in Chinese cities has led to a dramatic shift in sentiment against coal. So, it seems likely that renewables will be given a fair chance, including effective pricing of coal externalities, which is all they need.

Finally, there’s India. For a long time, Indian rhetoric on the issue was dominated by Third World grievance politics: the rich countries had burned lots of coal to get rich, and India had the right to do the same. But that seems to be changing, in part because most of the losers from climate change are also in the Third World, and in part because India’s coal sector is a total mess, making renewables more attractive. The new PM, Modi (from the deeply unattractive BJP, but that’s another issue) seems strongly committed to renewables. The historical arguments have shifted to the more productive terrain of arguing about how to share an emissions budget constrained by a 2 degree/450 ppm target.

At some level, all this is academic, in the pejorative sense of the term. Either existing political structures, with the kinds of changes I’ve discussed above, will manage decarbonization of the economy, or they won’t. There’s no chance that any kind of fundamental transformation of the political systems of the US, India and China[^1] will take place within the next 10-15 years, which is the time in which the necessary decisions need to be made.

To sum up this post and the previous one: even though the global climate could be stabilized at a very modest cost, the political obstacles are formidable. It may not be possible to overcome them in time, but we have no alternative except to try.

[^1]: I’m a little less confident in making this judgement about China. The apparent solidity of a one-party state can crumble quite fast. But the initial result of such a collapse would almost certainly be chaotic, and the outcome unforeseeable.

[^1}; There used also to be a lot of concern over whether these commitments would be met. While a couple of countries, such as Japan and Canada, have reneged, and Australia seems likely to follow, most of the big players are meeting their targets quite easily, reflecting both the softness of the targets and the low cost of decarbonization.

Categories: Environment, World Events Tags:
  1. Jay
    September 23rd, 2014 at 08:05 | #1

    I honestly don’t know how seriously to take the studies that suggest deep decarbonization will be relatively easy. The sources seem like mainstream, establishment sorts who I suspect would be happy to accentuate the positive. I’d be happier if I saw some academic types saying the same things, because I’d expect them to stay closer to the evidence in their pronouncements.

  2. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2014 at 08:22 | #2

    To talk about John Quiggin’s central arguments:

    1. “… the primary obstacle is not the entrenched power of interests that would lose from climate stabilization such as fossil fuel companies.”

    My mind is open on this question. It would be worth looking at corporate, worker union and rich persons donations to the US political process. Who does the weight of money come from and who does it go to? Also, are the pro-fossil interests, in aggregate, bigger than we might first think? They might well include all oil recovery and coal mining, fossil fuel generators, internal combustion engine and auto interests, airline interests, the military-industrial complex and the United Auto Workers to name just some. We cannot discount that some worker unions could well be reactionary on this issue.

    We need also to consider the fact that the US is demonstrably an oligarchy not a democracy. A few rich people run the country and get the policies that they want. Majority demand for policy is not effective. I am referring to the Gilens and Page study “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens”.

    “Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.” – Gilens and Page.

    2. “… the problem is the climate change denial is a rightwing culture war issue, which has became (one of many) Republican shibboleths.

    I do not find this theory very convincing. It seems nebulous and lacking in a material basis. The counter argument is that when ostensibly non-denialists are in power (Democrats, Labor) there is still either no action or much too little action on de-carbonising the economy. There must be, one would think, some other drag, some other intertia which is preventing the system from changing fast enough. I lack satisfactory theories on this myself, let alone explanations. The system seems to have an inertia of its own. A combination of cultural shibboleths (especially of the oligarchs), human predilition for immediate comfort and of actual material and system intertia might be part of the explanation. A system which is more or less in equilibrium and maintaining itself (our economy) tends to remain in that state until exogenous forces compel it to change. Internal forces for change (human demands for change from within the economy) seem inoperative while the majority are comfortable.

  3. Pete Moran
    September 23rd, 2014 at 08:48 | #3

    A two-term presidency for Hillary Clinton, even without full control of Congress, would probably be enough to get things done

    JQ, the extent of the US district gerrymander will be near impossible to overcome.

    They’re going to need electoral reform first, which requires some of their supreme court appointments (literally) to drop dead to be replaced.

    Perhaps China and India will advance quickly because renewable energy is energy security, like the German’s are discovering (re Russian gas).

  4. Ivor
    September 23rd, 2014 at 08:59 | #4

    (a) to (d) make no sense.

    If (a) Political system has failed to respond, then (logically) you cannot expect it to respond as postulated in (b).

    What should have been drafted is:

    (1) Why have political systems failed to yield the responses we need
    (2) Can political systems yield the response we need without fundamental transformation of other systems
    (3) If so, what transformation do we need
    (4) If not, what kinds of systematic changes do we need

    Politics can not solve climate change because politics was not the original cause.

  5. Pete Moran
    September 23rd, 2014 at 09:09 | #5

    Actually JQ, do you think divestment efforts are frightening the BAU horses at all? I wonder what the quantum of $$$ shifted really is, or if it’s anything like significant. I’ve seen proponents claiming they’re damaging coal viability.

  6. Hermit
    September 23rd, 2014 at 09:16 | #6

    This article puts it bluntly
    http://theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/576116/climate-change-failure-now-inevitable
    Alas I fear the response to high gas prices in eastern Europe and eastern Australia is a veneer of renewables backed by cheap coal largely uninhibited by carbon pricing.

    That’s for electricity. Steel production in China and India uses a lot of Australian iron ore and Australian hard coal for which we gleefully take the money and lack of emissions on our books. I don’t think renewable energy will power steel making any time soon.. no Prof Sadoway’s ideas are not cheap enough. I seem to recall Direct Action was to be in full swing by now. At some point we’ll be forced to take unpalatable measures, before 2020 I think.

  7. jungney
    September 23rd, 2014 at 09:26 | #7

    I’m pleased that JQ has raised the explicitly political angle to the ecological crisis. There is no doubt that the crisis is quickening. The personal impact of this quickening will be serious except for those people who are so delusional as to be able to sustain a state of psychological denial in the face of the evidence of their own senses. There are others already about the place, I’ve met a few, who have fallen into the grasp of nihilistic doomsday cults (see ‘nature bats last’ for an example). There will be many more like this. Naomi Klein is calling for global revolution, the world’s poor are calling for justice, first nature is under severe attack.

    The fight for a habitable world incorporates the aim of sustaining a planet worth living on. To that extent we are engaged with what Arne Næss described as ‘a long front’ in which all struggles for justice, equity and democracy simultaneously advance the ecological cause.

    As JQ notes, we may only have a slim chance but there is dignity in trying and none at all in kicking back with business and life as usual. I’m well and truly past even considering any monolithic models for change or the future. We are in a period of welcome radical political disequilibrium in which points of resistance will multiply. All we have to do is seize those opportunities and see what happens.

  8. Fran Barlow
    September 23rd, 2014 at 09:36 | #8

    PrQ says that we are mostly agreed that the global economy could be decarbonised at a modest cost in foregone growth. That may be true — I certainly hope it is — but assuming it is I suspect the growth will look a lot different from what we have now, and have to entail a substantial decline in ecosystem services. A substantial portion of what counts as economic activity now will have to be shed. We are going to need to be a lot more frugal with concrete, steel and hydrocarbons. Given that some of these things will be required for low carbon intensity development, we are face some tough challenges.

    I would like to see PrQ explain further how he thinks climate denialism has come to so grip the English-speaking right, and especially their far right. What, in his view, is its provenance? Why is this a culture war issue for them?

    While it may be so that we can go around them more easily than figuratively running over the top of them and win the fight over rational policy responses (not sure this is so) if climate denialism is key to the right’s dominance, shouldn’t those of us with a left-social democratic perspective seek to better grasp the relationship of denialism to structures of power and authority in order to refute the latter and press for the kind of governance that would bed down not only rational and equitable policy on the human call on ecosystem services, but in settling the benefits and burdens of social labour as well?

  9. calyptorhynchus
    September 23rd, 2014 at 09:40 | #9

    Previously in history it didn’t matter if single society made wrong decisions, or persisted in failed strategies and failed. They just disappeared from history and their miscalculations were soon covered up by ecological recovery.

    However, now we have a global economy operating well beyond the planet’s ecological capacity, so it does matter that global society makes the right choices. Sadly, human decision-making doesn’t seem to have got better over time.

  10. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 | #10

    The latest news.

    “The heirs of the Rockefeller family, who made their vast fortune in oil, have joined in a pledge to divest more than $56 billion of fossil fuel investments to reinvest in clean energy on the eve of a major climate change summit in New York.

    The Global Divest-Invest coalition has drawn 650 individuals and 180 institutions, which control billions of dollars in fossil fuel assets, to switch to renewables over five years using a variety of approaches.” – ABC.

    More promises to divest but we must watch and see what the real actions are. Does divestment mean sale (which means someone else buys the oil business and runs it) or does it mean genuine disinvestment that is taking a hit from and thus writing off stranded assets? Will we see ghost oil fields and ghost coal mines in the sense of ghost towns? That is what we need to see to know its real.

  11. Ken Fabian
    September 23rd, 2014 at 10:13 | #11

    Ikonoclast – i would include the financial sector that has a lot of money invested in fossil fuel related portfolios and has high expectations of returns as a crucial and politically influential player. In some ways they may be more crucial than even those directly in fossil fuels or big users (eg steel) or industrial users of energy who operate 24/7. I think I’m also dubious of Pr Q’s assertion that the big players in fossil fuels will willingly forgoe expected returns without flexing their political muscle to impede change; Australia is surely a case in point. I’m not convinced that Labor is any more able to resist their influence over politics than LNP. I’d like to think Labor were a credible alternative; to some extent they face media prejudice and partisanship that is against them but they could and should show some backbone. Climate is seen as a vote loser and was when they were in office too. They could have elevated it, by the same kinds of stunts that Palmer has cannily embarked on – publicly engage with leading scientists and proponents of action, invite them to conferences, make a fuss and really go on the offensive with the LNP’s doubters, deniers and delayers. Hell, I could think of better questions to demand answers for than we’ve seen so far from any quarter – media, Labor or Greens. But Labor has never had their heart in it – under Rudd or Gillard or now Shorten. Greens seem unable to compose the right approach, aiming maybe at their support base more than middle Australia. And our media “informers” are useless hacks who are unwilling or incapable of being well informed, if they aren’t outright partisans pretending to be impartial.

    I remain strongly optimistic that the technologies are largely available already, or else show sufficient potential for improvement, to believe there is no cause to resist commitment to a transition. I remain deeply pessimistic of the politics.

  12. Collin Street
    September 23rd, 2014 at 10:43 | #12

    Pete Moran :

    A two-term presidency for Hillary Clinton, even without full control of Congress, would probably be enough to get things done

    JQ, the extent of the US district gerrymander will be near impossible to overcome.
    They’re going to need electoral reform first, which requires some of their supreme court appointments (literally) to drop dead to be replaced.

    There’s actually a fair number of long-term structural problems with the US framework-of-governance [inability to handle hate speech, citizens united, gitmo, guns, taxes, legal status and control of the federal reserve, &c&c&c]. Fixing everything wrong — and I don’t just mean “gives results I don’t like” but “gives results that are terribly unpopular even in the US” — pretty much requires a reformat-and-reinstall, or sufficient careful patching that a reformat-and-reinstall would be quicker, easier, and more reliable.

    US constitution is essentially life-expired. Americans are bad at handling life-expired infrastructure, so… twenty years, maybe? actual change will come before then, though.

    [distraction, no response expected]

  13. Donald Oats
    September 23rd, 2014 at 10:49 | #13

    Back in the day when Rudd was PM–first time ’round–we had a fighting chance of getting some sort of ETS policy to the implementation stage. Unfortunately, the Greens quite correctly argued that the parameters in the policy were way too short of the minimum required to accomplish the task as it was then defined, by the climate scientists; the Greens did not vote with the ALP, and the policy ran into the rocky shoals of the coalition in opposition. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Greens position back then, namely that it is pointless painting some stripes on a horse and calling it a zebra, if a real zebra is what you want: a horse is still a horse. Whether the original CPRS could have evolved into the zebra we all want, we’ll never know. If I were to paraphrase the Greens position at the time, it would be to say “Stop wasting time on half-measures, do it properly the first time around, because we haven’t the time available to have a re-run.” Well, we are now hoping that a re-run gets a fighting chance, and that is with a strong political wind blowing the other way.

    The ALP has a strong block of AGW policy blockers, many of them coming from the economic rationalist (?) believers within the party–or trade unionists with mining sector alignment. Their view of the world is difficult to dislodge…

  14. Fran Barlow
    September 23rd, 2014 at 11:45 | #14

    @Ken Fabian

    Greens seem unable to compose the right approach, aiming maybe at their support base more than middle Australia.

    I hear this a lot, mostly from conservatives, but apart perhaps from being an appeal to be more right-wing on economic policy and socially conservative — which I take it, you’re not recommending — what does this mean in practice?

    If there is such a thing as ‘middle Australia’ in social terms then almost all of our members and our most reliable supporters would be part of it. Most of us have had tertiary education. Most of our non-retired folk earn above average wages and those who don’t tend to be younger people who are studying.

    Please offer more detail.

  15. Ken Fabian
    September 23rd, 2014 at 12:30 | #15

    We do have a government that is very successful at making it appear, with rather too much media compliance, that it’s everyone elses fault that they don’t do what they don’t really want to do – the things they don’t want to do but find politically expedient to pretend otherwise. If they can contrive to get The Greens to vote against Direct Action it will be like a rerun of Rudd’s climate policy – they get zero climate policy, which I believe they would (privately) welcome, but in public can blame on The Greens and use, with great enthusiam, to discredit them. For this government that would be a win-win. For The Greens, I truly do not know which would be better. We absolutely need clear voices saying that only the minimum necessary is good enough, but it’s almost certain to be used against them if they vote down Direct Action. Vote it in but use every opportunity to make clear that it’s a poor substitute for a real climate/emissions/energy policy?

  16. John Goss
    September 23rd, 2014 at 13:10 | #16

    I am more optimistic than even John Quiggin. I think the trajectory of change in our energy system towards renewables is so firmly entrenched that no likely coalition of political forces will be able to stop decarbonisation of the economy. The costs have come down and are coming down so fast, particularly for solar, that in 10 years or so in almost all parts of the world, it would be economically stupid not to install renewables for new energy generation. Right wing political forces will delay decarbonisation, and if the delay is great enough that may be a problem, but decarbonisation will come.
    There is still an argument for better political structures which limit the influence of these troglodytic right wing political forces, but (unfortunately in some sense) it is no longer an argument of necessity in the climate change space.
    .

  17. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2014 at 13:17 | #17

    I might add that we seem to be seeing an updated version of the Jevons Paradox.

    “In economics, the Jevons paradox (sometimes Jevons effect) is the proposition that as technology progresses, the increase in efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource.” – Wikipedia.

    The modern version of this combines the classic Jevons effect with an added variant. The added variant is that as we become more adept at more getting energy from more sources (adding in solar and wind energy stc.) then we simply continue to consume more energy overall from more sources and more from each and every source.

    Is the modern commerical-industrial system simply a system beyond all human control; an out-of-control system? Out-of-control-system events occur often enough even when the systems have human drivers/pilots. Clearly a car can spin out of control (driven beyond its limits) or a plane can have a serious structural or control failure of some kind and then be essentially unflyable. Is our current system too big, too complex and/or spiralling out of control? Structural and control failures are possible in this case too. There is a possibility that with all the political will, technical/scientific knowledge and political-economic strategising available and used to their fullest extent we might still find this system (including its fateful coupling to and dependence on biophysical systems) is now beyond out control.

    What I mean is we can still control component systems (e.g. supermarket supply chains, oil logistics etc.) but we have doubtful control over the “metasystem” meaning the system of all our systems. I rather doubt that we can control our metasystem all that well now. Then we have to add into that meshing and complicated feedbacks of two metasystems, the human economic systen and the natural biophysical system. External shocks (external to the human economy) from the biosphere will severely test us.

  18. Tom Davies
    September 23rd, 2014 at 13:33 | #18

    @Fran Barlow If Greens supporters mostly earn above average incomes perhaps the Greens need to be more attractive to people on lower incomes (am I correct in thinking average wages are above median wages?)

    Megan McArdle has a post on the political difficulties of even ‘free’ measures.

    Even if this is a free lunch over the long term, it is not a free lunch right now to the people who would need to make major changes in their lives. No matter how long you point to the equations, they will resist.

    Timothy Taylor has a summary of the short run benefits of carbon pricing perhaps something we need to emphasise more, instead of future problems people find it difficult to believe in.

  19. Paul Norton
    September 23rd, 2014 at 13:47 | #19
  20. Paul Norton
    September 23rd, 2014 at 13:49 | #20

    Ikonoclast @17, the Green Growth report that JQ linked to on the From derp to denialism thread claims to have found a way through the Jevons Paradox.

  21. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    September 23rd, 2014 at 14:00 | #21

    @Ikonoclast
    But Ikonoclast, our energy use has flatlined and our energy/$ of GDP is in decline – that’s why the RET’s projected 20% target significantly overshot the actual 20% mark.

  22. John Quiggin
    September 23rd, 2014 at 15:18 | #22

    @Ikonoclast

    And similarly to the point made by Nevil, despite more fuel efficient cars, people in developed countries are driving less
    http://www.economist.com/node/21563280

  23. rog
    September 23rd, 2014 at 15:26 | #23

    Carbonisation was achieved (mostly) by big govts or statist entitities eg building large power stations next to state owned coal mines. Now we find that big govt has made a big mistake (again, some would say). People are understandably wary of big government, particularly after the promises and declarations made over the Iraq wars.

    The issue has to be pushed by the people and this is where social media kicks in. The recent vote on Scotland came close to achieving what was once unthinkable – social media was seen as a critical component to this particular political process.

  24. Ken Fabian
    September 23rd, 2014 at 15:55 | #24

    The real fight for renewables will be to maintain open energy markets, that do not allow ever cheaper renewables to be refused access because it’s forcing fossil fuel plant into intermittency. Forcing them into intermittency is exactly what is necessary on the road to low emissions.

    Reducing feed in tariffs hasn’t stopped PV installation that feed in to the network and actually forces prices down, making it harder to argue on greater costs to consumers grounds. Variable pricing looks likely to exacerbate the coal generators’ problems, as rising evening prices make battery storage more attractive. I’ve been dubious of reliance on market forces to fix the climate/emissions/energy conundrum, but it’s beginning to look like a de-facto carbon price could be an unforeseen consequence of renewables forcing incumbents into intermittency.

    When it’s cheaper, renewable energy should be allowed to take full advantage in the market. Other dirty tricks that seems to be emerging is to shift the balance of electricity costs from usage to fixed charges in order to reduce incentives for self supply and imposing extra charges for those that do feed into the grid. The incumbents want the cheaper and inconvenient newcomers to bear the brunt of the costs that arise from their possession of outdated and unable-to-cope-with-intermittent-competition infrastructure.

  25. Ken Fabian
    September 23rd, 2014 at 15:57 | #25

    I should say I’ve been dubious of market forces in the absence of carbon pricing to fix the climate/emissions/energy conundrum.

  26. Donald Oats
    September 23rd, 2014 at 16:30 | #26

    South Australia’s state government has decided to set a 50% renewable energy target by 2025.

  27. Fran Barlow
    September 23rd, 2014 at 16:50 | #27

    @Tom Davies

    @Fran Barlow If Greens supporters mostly earn above average incomes perhaps the Greens need to be more attractive to people on lower incomes (am I correct in thinking average wages are above median wages?)

    I meant to say that of those in full-time work, most would be in the top 40% of income earners. This reflects the large number of us in semi-professional or professional work. We have many teachers, lecturers, doctors, lawyers, accountants and similar. We also have a good many students, semi-retired or retired folk of course.

    We do aim to appeal to those on lower incomes of course, (and often do in the case of retired people or the young) but many of them are either tribally ALP (occasionally LNP) or are fairly apolitical. It wouldn’t matter what we said to most of the tribals and the others are hard to get engaged. Certainly, pandering would not be the way to go.

  28. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2014 at 17:19 | #28

    @John Quiggin

    I am guessing then that the Jevons effect is only applicable where fuel is cheap and a small component of total costs. It might also be true only in the infancy of an industry and not in the mature stages though what factors might then change in detail I do not know. What is driving the drop in driving of I.C.E. cars I wonder? Engines are more efficient but if fuel is more costly by a greater percentage than the efficiency gains then I guess this would drive the decline in driving. That increase in price could be any combination of a scarcity price and carbon price. Of course, other things can drive a drop in driving petrol cars from concern about CO2 emissions to better public transport.

    If the Jevons effect disappears because of high differentials in fuel costs (solar/wind electrical cheap versus fossils expensive) then this problem could correct itself. Personally, I can’t wait to own an electric car. But I do insist that it must not cost me more than a petrol car of comparable size and travelling range. Ok, I would accept 25% less travelling range but I would not budge much on cost. As it is I think I drive far less than the average driver though maybe not less than the average for a retired driver. A tank of petrol in my Mazda 3 usually lasts me 3 or 4 weeks depending on particular requirements those weeks.

  29. Fran Barlow
    September 23rd, 2014 at 17:28 | #29

    @Ikonoclast

    I suspect that the obvious response on cars is that what ‘drives’ usage is need, and what constrains it is not the cost of fuel, which remains cheap, but the reluctance to drive and to some extent other marginal costs. If the cost of petrol fell by 50% would people drive anything like twice as many vehicle miles? I suspect not.

    I leave my car at home and take the train, not because fuel is expensive, or even because I’m a Green, but because it’s less stressful commuting by train, and is also quicker. It wouldn’t matter if petrol were given away free. I’d still take the train.

  30. Ivor
    September 23rd, 2014 at 18:02 | #30

    There is only one way out now, and there are only a few voices making the point.

    Developed countries must “degrowth”. See for example:

    Degrowth .

    It is not good enough to state

    Right wing political forces will delay decarbonisation,

    [John Goss]

    without mentioning why political forces oppose decarbonisation. This is essentially economics.

    It maybe too late now. With all the political games that our politicians have played over the last 30 years and spin over renewables – this is the result;

    New High Carbon

  31. ZM
    September 23rd, 2014 at 18:28 | #31

    John Quiggin,

    I’m too busy for a lengthy comment, but your statement

    “Judging by the comments on my “derp and denialism” post, we seem to be mostly agreed on the proposition, amply demonstrated by economic studies, that the global economy could be decarbonized at a very modest cost in terms of foregone growth.”

    I am only in the middle of reading one of the sources you gave – the UN deep decarbonisation report – But it does not decarbonise sufficiently by 2050 to stay within 2 degrees I have yet to finish the whole report, but might have a bit of spare time tomorrow –

    But, that source wasn’t considering other ghg emissions, and still had Australians emitting significant ghg emissions in 2050 of 3 tonnes per capita, while the worldwide per capita now would be around 5 tonnes per capita by my rudimentary calculations, although I have seen others lower than that at around 1.5 tonnes per capita so I might have miscalculated. Regardless – 3tonnes is too much for 2050.

    Other commenters have shown problems with the other two sources as well. And I have mentioned several times now how the IPCC technical report says the economic modelling is based on unlikely socio-economic policy making premises and non practicable technologies. I am keeping an open mind – but all this seems to me to lead back to my conclusion that the changes being mooted are not going to be enough – and are relying on things going to plan in unlikely sort of ways which we all know from following current events is not the way of the world, and we need more significant changes requiring a much more co-ordinated approach not relying on the vagaries of the market so much.

    It worries me that some people are not at all even willing to consider we might need a coordinated approach – even when their sources do not give a scenario for us keeping within 2degreees.

    It further worries me , because yourself and the author Tristan Edis from Climate Spectator who wrote “Banishing the hippies from the energy-climate debate” misrepresent that deep decarbonisation report as keeping within 2 degrees – even though the report states plainly it would go above 2 degrees

    Tristan Edis: “Recently (Pathways to a climate-contained, affluent 2050, July 9), I touched upon an international collaboration led by economist Jeffrey Sachs. This collaboration analysed how 15 of the globe’s biggest emitting nations could reduce emissions consistent with containing global warming to 2 degrees while still tripling economic output by 2050. ” This is blatant misrepresentation of what the report actually says, the editor should take him strongly to task indeed

    Of course since Climate Spectator sold and now is a paper run by Rupert Murdoch the editor is likely a spineless fellow who won’t take the reporter to task for misrepresentation :/

  32. Ken Fabian
    September 23rd, 2014 at 19:31 | #32

    Fran, I didn’t see your question to me earlier. My real point is that no-one appears to be able to call out the current government and corner them and I don’t think it’s because they are so much cleverer or so remarkably cunning – even when it’s clear they are experts at dodging the questions, even dodging the questions can and should give room to take them to task. Do they read the CSIRO and BoM and IPCC reports? Do they accept those reports? If they say it’s not so bad as the ‘alarmists’ say, does that mean they repudiate Australia’s scientists? Has ASIO got any evidence of a Climate Conspiracy? Have our leading Science bodies any evidence of incompetence, bias, data tampering or fraud? Have they consulted to clear up the bits they don’t understand or think are wrong or exaggerated? Why not? Do you agree with your advisors – and Julie Bishop and George Brandis that about eco-authoritarians limiting free speech? Do you have the courage of your convictions or is it just political expediency to knowingly mislead and deceive the Australian public on your true intentions?

    I know that the media goes for the single sentence comments but those people are on Arctic thin ice and the temperature is rising – I can’t believe they are invulnerable. It’s clear they are operating on the basis that mainstream climate science is not merely in doubt, they are operating with a conviction that it is wrong yet the extent they are willing to be misleading and deceptive makes them a target. Despite large sections of the media being as keen to find things to like about Abbott as they were to find things to dislike about Gillard, Rudd and Labor no-one is managing to cut them down to size.

    I just don’t see that The Greens are managing to do it any better than the media or Labor – whether it’s failure to connect with the glass jaws being presented or failure to connect with (the imprecise categories) “middle Australia” or “battlers” or whatever they are not managing to gain significant ground in this vitally important battle where the facts, expert opinion and truth and justice are on their side.

    Much as I want The Greens to hold to their demands for much better, for policies sufficient to the task, if Abbott baits them into voting down Direct Action he will get both zero climate policy and be able to lay the blame for that on The Greens – and the media will lap it up.

  33. Ken Fabian
    September 23rd, 2014 at 19:37 | #33

    Oops again – Last sentence of 2nd paragraph, despite all that some-one, anyone and everyone should be able to cut them down to size.

  34. Fred Struth
    September 23rd, 2014 at 20:10 | #34

    Good questions, and already answered by the always reliable Chris Hedges.
    For those who prefer reality and politics without the delusional denial of the requirement for revolutionary action.

    The Coming Climate Revolt

    Civil disobedience must be used to abolish the oil, gas and coal companies and replace a government held captive by corporations. Otherwise, we will say goodbye to life as we know it.

    If we appeal to self-identified liberals in the establishment who have no capacity or desire to carry out the radical reforms, we will pour energy into a black hole. And this is what the corporate state seeks. It seeks to perpetuate the facade of democracy. It seeks to make us believe what is no longer real, that if we work within the system we can reform it.

    To assume that Obama, or the Democratic Party, because they acknowledge the reality of climate change, while the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party does not, is better equipped to deal with the crisis is incorrect. Republicans appeal to one constituency. The Democrats appeal to another. But both parties will do nothing to halt the ravaging of the planet.

    We will have to cease our appealing to the system. We will have to view the state, including the Democratic Party, as antagonistic to genuine reform. We will have to speak in the language of … revolution. We will have to carry out acts of civil disobedience that seek to cripple the mechanisms of corporate power. The corporate elites, blinded by their lust for profit and foolish enough to believe they can protect themselves from climate change, will not veer from our path towards ecocide unless they are forced from power. And this means the beginning of a titanic clash between our corporate masters and ourselves.

    This reminds me of Frederick Douglass (c. 1818 – 20 February 1895) African American abolitionist, orator, author, editor, reformer, women’s rights advocate, and statesman who was born a slave as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey who said

    The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. … If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. […] Men might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.

  35. Ikonoclast
    September 23rd, 2014 at 20:14 | #35

    @Fran Barlow

    It is not only need that drives car driving. One needs to go to work by car if one is employed and not on a public transport route to a distant work place (say beyond practical cycling range). One does not need to go to the coast almost every weekend for recreation like some people do. One does not really need to go all grey-nomadish and motor around Australia for a year either. Quite of bit of driving has been driven by recreational desire not by real need. Either it’s a change in cultural and recreational habits or it’s a change in the price of fuel or it’s both that have effected changes in fuel consumption. I don’t think you can state that fuel costs at not becoming an issue.

    According to a short 2013 paper, “The Trending Price of Petrol” under the banner Innovative Synergies by Malcolm Moore:

    “This short document looks at the affordability of petrol / diesel / LPG powered vehicles by Australians in the longer term. Historically, the price of fuel is rising at a hyper-exponential rate with a constant exponential index that steps up by about 2.5% in nominal 40 year intervals.”

    Currently this historical step is moving from 6.5% pa to 9.0 % pa in line with long-term historical records. This step rise now very clearly exceeds the long-term inflation rate (2 to 4 % pa) in Australia, so within a few years, most people and most busineses will not be able to afford petrol / diesel / LPG / Aviation fuels as they do now. It is obvious that rapidly increasing transport fuel costs are becoming a disproportionately large component of the average Australian wage and of most Australian businesses. The Federal Government has to take a very strong lead by immediately funding massive transport infrastructure changes to provide Australia with far more economic transport infrastructures in to the future.”

    These are strong words, at least about petrol price rises. He goes on to write;

    By about 2020 long distance Road Freight (ie > 50 km) will become prohibitively expensive because of massive diesel fuel costs, and all this and associated highway infrastructure will become local distribution networks. Long distance Rail Freight will become the national Freight transport standard by 2025, but to date most rail infrastructure has been left to ruin or privatised with an absolute minimum of maintenance. This infrastructure will require a massive
    investment so that Rail Freight can be transported in near linear corridors capable of over 200 km/h and utilise low-cost electric power for their motors.

    International flight costs will become very expensive to the point that a second Sydney International Airport, if constructed, will quickly become a White Elephant because the patronage will quickly fall off well before 2030.”

    He makes some other statements or claims of general interest.

    “In this time, World War 1 transpired, and the history that we were specifically not taught “Who Won the Oil Wars” shows very clearly that this war was really about restructuring Turkey (the Ottoman Empire), so that the vast oil fields here could be controlled by the main Western Economic powers (USA, England, France and Germany). This reference clearly shows the petrol
    interest implications of WW2, and the more recent USA takeover of Iraq to secure that
    oil for the USA.”

    Footnote: I don’t know what the author’s credentials are or how much credibility this document has.

  36. jungney
    September 23rd, 2014 at 21:15 | #36

    @Ken Fabian
    I know that your comment was directed to Fran but I’ll interpose a response: the Greens are waiting leadership from the movement. The political wing of the environment and justice movement has done an excellent job sustaining a presence, that’s The Greens. No small thanks to Bob Brown, an Arhat in my view.

    However, rebellion needs rebellious people who are not to be found within the parliamentary parties. It needs people who are prepared to live according to ethics and principles, whatever the cost.

  37. jungney
    September 23rd, 2014 at 21:30 | #37

    @Ikonoclast
    I’m pleased to see that you’ve referred to the working class’s role in contributing to the ecological crisis. There will be no leadership from that direction. The industrialized world’s working class is as deeply imbricated in the ecological crisis as capital. The old metaphor of ‘class war’ obscures the interdependency of the working classes with the ruling class; the relationship is not at all like a war and much more like a bad, warring marriage. Both classes are united in the common cause of the exploitation of first nature, in the interests of the actual, individual members of either class.

    There will be no general strike in favour if life.

    War is the predominant mode of resolving conflict in this epoch. Peace is the way, of course, but the working classes won’t be leading that.

  38. Fran Barlow
    September 23rd, 2014 at 21:51 | #38

    @Ken Fabian

    Fran, I didn’t see your question to me earlier. My real point is that no-one appears to be able to call out the current government and corner them and I don’t think it’s because they are so much cleverer or so remarkably cunning – even when it’s clear they are experts at dodging the questions, even dodging the questions can and should give room to take them to task.

    You’re missing an obvious constraint. The media determines who has been called out, not the regime’s rivals. At the moment, that scrum is being led by Murdoch, and he’s riding shotgun for Abbott. The regime could send its members out into the streets to bite babies and the Murdochracy would celebrate their lack of political correctness.

    Public discourse is not an artefact of reason, but a commodity owned by the boss class.

    I hear your pain, but until Murdoch’s monopoly is swept away or some catastrophe that nobody can ignore occurs, Murdoch will continue to shut down debate.

    I just don’t see that The Greens are managing to do it any better than the media or Labor – whether it’s failure to connect with the glass jaws being presented or failure to connect with (the imprecise categories) “middle Australia” or “battlers” or whatever they are not managing to gain significant ground in this vitally important battle where the facts, expert opinion and truth and justice are on their side.

    You keep slipping into this view that reason can triumph over power. Being unable to live by the rules of the boss class can subvert their power and then reason will wander in to be embraced by even the hitherto half-hearted and dissonant, but until that happens …

    Much as I want The Greens to hold to their demands for much better, for policies sufficient to the task, if Abbott baits them into voting down Direct Action he will get both zero climate policy and be able to lay the blame for that on The Greens – and the media will lap it up.

    Yes, they will. Frankly though, that would be the lesser evil, given, as I said, we have no leverage and the ALP is too vapid and craven to use what it has. As things stand, Christine Milne has offered to negotiate on DA but the terms of her offer exclude Abbott from agreeing — essentially he’d get to keep the name and we would rewrite it — and the RET would stay. He’s never going to accept what we would sign.

    If that occurs, Abbott does nothing at all and tries blaming us, we will remind him that he promised not to do deals with the minor parties and so he is in no position to complain. His failure to act is entirely on his own head. In the long run, he will look bad even if in the short run, he’s off the hook.

  39. September 23rd, 2014 at 22:16 | #39

    Other possible explanations for the reduced amount of driving in the developed world are congestion and parking costs. The former makes driving a pain, while the latter is a cost that can be as high as petrol (certainly here in Japan the cost of parking is probably more severe than the cost of fuel). Many people claim that because of the high up-front costs of cars, people need to use them more to make efficient use of their capital investment; but since most of that capital investment for most people manifests as a loan (i.e. large, ongoing expenses) it could be that this leads to the need to economize with discretionary aspects of the budget, especially in a period when people are running out of credit options (post-2008). Could it be that the high upfront costs of modern cars and the decreasing credit options available to the middle- and working-class in the UK, southern Europe and the USA has led to a reduction in the amount they’re used, even though they are a huge capital cost?

  40. September 23rd, 2014 at 23:52 | #40

    John’s follow-up to the “derp” post shockingly doesn’t respond to a point I made in comments there, that the finding that decarbonisation is very cheap or free is very recent. No political system can be expected to respond instantly to such a change of paradigm. And we are seeing policy shifts, net – China and India (plus Mexico, Iran, Turkey, etc etc) matter much more than Australia. And have you noticed that Obama is winning on coal regulation? The fight-back is feeble.

  41. Ikonoclast
    September 24th, 2014 at 00:11 | #41

    @jungney

    I feel that the 21st century working class in the West is very different from the working class of the industrialised West of the 19th C. The working class of the 19th C grew up in a much harder “school” so to speak. There was child hard labour, female hard labour and male hard labour. There were atrocious conditions and the gap between the rich coal mine owner and his coal miners (for example) was enormous and obvious. Wealth gaps are just as enormous now but not so obvious (we simply don’t know how the rich live anymore) and much of the working class now lives passably comfortably (though this is going backwards again). The conflict of interests in the 19th C between capitalists and workers was very open and stark.

    The other difference I think is that the 19th C working class had its own intelligentsia component. Some men and women of the working class worked very hard at mental self-improvement, broadening their minds and gaining an intellectual understanding of what was going on in the political economy. Much of our 21st century working class (what’s left of it) is dumbed down and largely disinterested in intellectual pursuits so far as I can see. Much of our middle class is not much better. We are now clever perhaps at our trades and professions, but it is a narrow technical cleverness. People take far less interest in having a good general knowledge or reading subjests like history and philosophy which very much take us out of our current time and place parochialism. People can be time-parochial as well as place-parochial, Knowing no history means knowing no times and no possibilities other than what is existent now. Only somebody who reads no history can believe that there is no alternative to our current system (late stage capitalism).

  42. September 24th, 2014 at 00:27 | #42

    PS: JQ did not cite the latest report of IPCC WG3 on mitigation, here. They made a mistake IMH by presenting the finding that mitigation too met the 2 degree target would involve a reduction on the global growth rate of GDP by “0.06%”. Robert Stavins – at the Kennedy School at Harvard, so you’d expect better – solemnly projects this to 2100 and comes up with a shocking 5% loss of GDP. That’s 5 off the increase of 1170 if you project the IPCC’s 3% baseline growth rate. The number is well within measurement noise, for past GDP let alone future. The correct reading is “zero net cost to well within the margin of error”.

  43. John Quiggin
    September 24th, 2014 at 05:19 | #43

    @James Wimberley

    The finding that complete decarbonization is very cheap is recent, and does seem to be tipping the scales. But the fact that the first steps would be cheap was known 20 years ago, as this piece indicates

    http://www.uq.edu.au/economics/johnquiggin/news96/Greenhouse9612.html

    That didn’t stop powerful resistance emerging.

  44. Greg vP
    September 24th, 2014 at 07:07 | #44

    In the US (and other English-speaking countries), the primary obstacle is not the entrenched power of interests that would lose from climate stabilization such as fossil fuel companies. The big global energy companies, like Exxon and BP, are perfectly capable of shifting their focus from oil to gas and if the market gets large enough, to renewables. In any case, they are balanced by potential losers from climate change like the insurance and finance sectors.

    These three sentences are unfortunately wrong, irrelevant, and wrong respectively.

    Taking the second one first, the international oil companies now control less than 25% of production and 10% of reserves. More importantly, as Jim Hansen has repeatedly pointed out, oil is not the problem, coal is.

    To see the falsity of the first sentence, consider the likely responses to a proposal that Australia ban the export of coal. And who would be making those responses.

    Insurance and Finance are brokers. They will make their money whatever happens, so they do not constitute a balance to fossil fuel interests.

  45. Greg vP
    September 24th, 2014 at 07:12 | #45

    The answer to question A is clear: it’s a textbook coordination problem, as discussed in introductory game theory. Unfortunately this implies that the answer to question B is almost certainly no, unless one of the players threatens global nuclear war. The cure is much worse than the disease, at least in the short run.

  46. Ken Fabian
    September 24th, 2014 at 07:23 | #46

    @James Wimberley
    I think that’s a good point James and it affects all the decrying of how small the percentage of energy is renewables to date is; Pr Q correctly noting that more new generation installed around the world is now wind and solar than anything else, reflecting that shift. A Derp indeed. That term being a new one for my vocabulary.

    Most of the PV in Australia has been very recent, and whilst pulling all subsidies out may be a temporary price rise, there’s every reason to believe the financial incentives to install it will remain and grow, but there is no shortage of supply here and supplanting existing capacity is what renewables in Australia have to do.

    Fran, I don’t think I missed the constraint of a partisan, biased and incompetent media. Certainly I’m dismayed when members of Abbott’s team offer up straight lines that beg for follow up and journalists don’t follow up – or do so so inanely as to be giving them a pass. Yes, they are very good at not answering questions but I still think there’s a widespread inability to ask the right ones; and the right ones can make it through to the public and the failures to answer them along with them. I’m not sure mine are necessarily the right ones – certainly failure of journalists to be knowledgeable enough and quick witted enough to call them out and follow up with the right ones.

  47. Ken Fabian
    September 24th, 2014 at 07:42 | #47

    Fran, the more I think about it the more I think it will be a mistake for The Greens to vote down Direct Action – they can vote it in and maintain their strong criticisms of both it’s inadequacies and Abbott’s government’s denial and obstructionism. If they vote it down all the focus will turn back on The Greens. Perhaps even Labor should consider such a tactic – “DA is crap but let TA have it and let it be revealed as crap”.

  48. Greg vP
    September 24th, 2014 at 08:14 | #48

    Another comment. Decarbonisation of the economy is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Unless the economy is decarbonised rapidly, so-called “natural” phenomena will take over. Namely, the thawing of permafrost, the aridification of major rainforests, and either the stratification of the ocean or the destabilisation of major methane clathrate regions.

    Taking this back to economics, we need a rapid, large and sustained rise in the share of economic output allocated to investment. This necessitates a corresponding drop in the share allocated to consumption. Almost certainly, household real incomes must fall significantly and quickly. Unless we are visited by the altruism fairy (or, as mentioned above, the god of war), this will not happen irrespective of our political systems.

  49. Pete Moran
    September 24th, 2014 at 09:05 | #49

    Ken Fabian :
    … I think it will be a mistake for The Greens to vote down Direct Action – they can vote it in and maintain their strong criticisms of both it’s inadequacies and Abbott’s government’s denial and obstructionism. If they vote it down all the focus will turn back on The Greens. Perhaps even Labor should consider such a tactic – “DA is crap but let TA have it and let it be revealed as crap”.

    My understanding is that part-motivation for the possible Green shift to at least trying to implement DA, even though it will stick in the craw, is that it will force a $/tonne price to be revealed in operation.

    This can REALLY be used to club the hopelessness of DA to help return, almost precisely, to the scheme just abolished.

  50. J-D
    September 24th, 2014 at 09:09 | #50

    @Ikonoclast

    There were some people in the nineteenth century who were interested in history, philosophy, and general knowledge. So there are some now. Is the number much smaller now, or the level of interest much lower? What’s the evidence?

  51. Fran Barlow
    September 24th, 2014 at 09:14 | #51

    @Ken Fabian

    Fran, the more I think about it the more I think it will be a mistake for The Greens to vote down Direct Action – they can vote it in and maintain their strong criticisms of both its inadequacies and Abbott’s government’s denial and obstructionism. If they vote it down all the focus will turn back on The Greens. Perhaps even Labor should consider such a tactic – “DA is crap but let TA have it and let it be revealed as crap”.{apostrophe removed}

    I strongly disagree. It is very clear that DA has no support at all amongst economists as a tool of abatement. Its only support is amongst those who don’t attach a value to Australian abatement and therefore think that the less spent on it the better and/or think that it may have the extra benefit of tainting public policy more generally. Certainly, if we voted for it, we would part-own its consequences and lose credibility amongst those inclined to support us.

    Far better IMO that we leave the Coalition to have a bunfight over it, not proceed, break yet another commitment and await the moment when a government with a passing commitment to participation in abatement policy is returned. I doubt this regime will win the next election or even see out its full term.

  52. Ken Fabian
    September 24th, 2014 at 09:57 | #52

    Fran, I still think it would be a grave political mistake, because it delivers exactly what Tony Abbott wants – no climate policy and with the strongest proponents of action on climate to blame for that – and The Greens will hand it to him if they vote it down. DA is crap, we know that, but if it doesn’t get up, the wider public will not know that.

    Doing what your political opponents want you to do is not clever politics.

  53. Fran Barlow
    September 24th, 2014 at 10:51 | #53

    There’s also the maxim of not interrupting your opponent when he’s making a mistake. It is true that Abbott wants no action on climate, and for our part we want no fake action on climate because the fake action will be spun as real action until it is revealed as an absurdity that we Greens endorsed and becomes yet another example of why we should have smaller government.

    Abbott should be candid and admit that he was never serious about action on climate. The fig-leaf should be removed so that his naked cant can again be exposed.

    I don’t care if right-wingers ‘blame’ us for Abbott not acting on climate change. I will remind them that this is what they wanted and that the whole policy was designed with their desire to cop out in mind, and that all we did was ensure that expenditure they agreed was wasteful and pork-barrelling would not go ahead.

    Such folk are not going to vote for us anyway, but I will demand their respect for having the integrity that their PM lacked.

    If any non-rusted on asks us why we voted it down I will point out that in a choice between a bad something and nothing, the latter is preferable, and refer them to the analysis.

  54. September 24th, 2014 at 11:47 | #54

    Whatever decision the Greens make, I predict most people on this website will say they are either a) playing cynical politics with an important issue see they’re just as bad as the parties they criticize or b) sabotaging an important political issue with their naive idealism see they don’t have any practical sense at all. It won’t disturb anyone saying either of these two standard lines if the last time they criticized the Greens they used the opposite line. Bonus points for needless hippy punching or calling Milne “strident”, “hysterical” or a “harpy”.

  55. Ken Fabian
    September 24th, 2014 at 12:18 | #55

    Fran, I still think it will set The Greens wider standing back with the larger portion of the public who are sympathetic to The Greens, who I think would understand the politcal necessity of not playing into Abbott’s hands and who know Direct Action is an LNP policy not a Greens one.

    To me Direct Action policy looks like the mistake that the LNP should be allowed to make and letting The Greens take the blame for Abbott’s lack of climate policy is the mistake The Greens should not make. I understand your reasoning but I don’t agree with it. And I will be pleased if I’ve read it wrong and The Greens do gain respect in the longer run.

  56. Fran Barlow
    September 24th, 2014 at 12:43 | #56

    @Ken Fabian

    Fran, I still think it will set The Greens wider standing back with the larger portion of the public who are sympathetic to The Greens, who I think would understand the politcal necessity of not playing into Abbott’s hands and who know Direct Action is an LNP policy not a Greens one.

    I disagree. The most important thing our party can do right now is a kind of outreach. We need to be constantly engaged with folk who want rational and socially just public policy. We need to be a party that is not like all the others, not just in what we say but how we go about politics.

    If people want opportunistic horse-traders, they already have two major parties and a minor party owned by a billionaire to do that. Why would they choose us anyway?

    Our party is different because the members actually run it and the members only participate because we believe in certain principles and in inclusive practices associated with advancing those principles.

    If people inclined to support us are confused as to why we voted down DA then let them come find us and ask why. We will explain it to them in a respectful way. Then, hopefully, we will get a new member. If they don’t like our explanation then maybe they really do belong elsewhere with one of the rightwing parties.

  57. rog
    September 24th, 2014 at 14:08 | #57

    Climate has become politically off the table and may soon be put in the drawer; Tony Abbott has successfully stepped up to his very own crisis – War on ISIS.

  58. Paul Norton
    September 24th, 2014 at 14:32 | #58

    I think we may safely assume that those voters who are concerned and knowledgeable about climate policy know that (a) the “direct action” policy is a dud and (b) the Coalition aren’t remotely serious about the issue. Opposing it will not be politically problematic for the Greens, especially given how must hostility there is towards the Coalition among rank and file Greens members and given that most of the Greens’ voter base is far more anti-Coalition than anti-Labor.

  59. derrida derider
    September 24th, 2014 at 14:38 | #59

    You can’t tell me contingency doesn’t matter to history. A couple of thousand less votes for Bush in Florida, or just one less brazenly partisan Supreme Court justice, and the US would now have had strong climate change policies. And by now such policies would be conventional wisdom rather than a tribal marker.

  60. Ikonoclast
    September 24th, 2014 at 14:55 | #60

    @rog

    It is standard practice for the LNP. They need somebody to bash up or persecute. It serves two purposes. First, it distracts the masses from the fact that the right wing can’t actually do anything constructive, nor can they can they fix anything. Second, it seems to satisfy a deep seated psychological need in them. They are never happier than when they are exerting power over people by pushing them around, incarcerating them or killing them.

    It is a clear sign they can’t handle complex problems like the economy, unemployment and so on. Their frustration makes them want to hit someone. Finding a scapegoat is a displacement activity. They look for a convenient target, be it refugees or shadowy militants half a world away. Then they puff their chests up and go after these scapegoat targets from a place of safety behind the shielding of their security and military apparatus.

    Tony Abbott was fumbling around and looking like a complete dill while trying to deal with the real social and economic issues that a PM should be dealing with. Now, he is strutting and walking tall. He’s found a target to hit; just about the only thing he knows how to do. Actually, behind his macho facade, I sense he is scared. He’s got a scared look in his eyes. The massive security over-reaction he ordered is the sign of a frightened and not very brave man. Blustering bullies are always scared people who are over-compensating and trying to act tough.

  61. Pete Moran
    September 24th, 2014 at 14:56 | #61

    derrida derider :
    A couple of thousand less votes for Bush in Florida, or just one less brazenly partisan Supreme Court justice, and the US would now have had strong climate change policies.

    The US President sets his desired legislative timetable, but does not control introduction/debate of bills that is the Speaker.

    A Gore Presidency may have made the US more likely to have tackled AGW, but I doubt it.

    I agree with your point on the US Supreme Court but I’m not aware anything AGW has been tested by them has it? The EPA CO2 regulations were tested and allowed by the current court (pretty sure that’s correct).

  62. Ikonoclast
    September 24th, 2014 at 15:08 | #62

    @derrida derider

    Well, the 2000 and 2004 US elections were stolen. There is plenty of documentary evidence on this and it is not hard to find. Naturally, the main stream media almost completely suppressed this story. Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky both said separately these elections were stolen.

  63. rog
    September 24th, 2014 at 15:39 | #63

    @Ikonoclast I wouldn’t say that Abbott is a frightened or not brave, more that he is uncomfortable when not in combat.

  64. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    September 24th, 2014 at 16:14 | #64

    @Pete Moran
    The current court gave us 5-4 decisions on matters like Citizens United (unlimited political spending by corporations, unions & c.) which has led to a lot of fossil fuel money entering politics.

  65. derrida derider
    September 24th, 2014 at 16:21 | #65

    @Pete Moran My reference to SCOTUS was to the effects of its behaviour in Gore vs Bush 2000 only, not to any later actual or hypothetical cases.

  66. jungney
    September 24th, 2014 at 17:50 | #66

    @Ikonoclast
    There will be no leadership from what remains of the blue collar unions and working class on the matter of climate change. The metaphor Marx used to describe the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the working class was of ‘war’ but, like all metaphors, it has obscured more than it reveals. A far better metaphor would suggest that the relationship is like a bad marriage. At present, the two classes are locked together in a mutual agreement to hyper-exploit whatever is left of first nature. They are heedless of the way that they are wrecking the planet.

    In my many conversations with coal miners and all types workers whose employment depends on coal mines, including CSG workers, they play the victim card; they suggest that they are just ordinary workers trying to earn a living and that the enviro movement is getting in the way of that. What? We should just eff off and let them get on with it? Well, pardon us for interrupting your lifestyle.

    BTW: Craig Emerson and Greg Combet, former cabinet ministers, are economic consultants. Their clients include AGL. Nice move to the revolving door chaps. Remember that Combet had roles as Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and later as the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change (then Wong). Apparently there are no AGW issues with fracked gas and nor are there serious concerns about water tables, toxic water.

    Blimey.

  67. Doug
    September 24th, 2014 at 18:03 | #67

    Christine Milne has offered the Government assistance in making Direct Action more effective along with keeping RET as an effective tool – don’t know if she has had a response

  68. Megan
    September 24th, 2014 at 19:05 | #68

    @Ken Fabian

    All else aside for now, how would blame be sheeted home to the Greens for opposing “Direct Action”?

    In far more cases than not legislation is passed – or blocked – by ALP/LNP voting together.

    As a Greens voter (and frequent critic), I don’t want them playing stupid/clever political games as Fran points out. When they start going after that perceived vote they lose mine, and I’m guessing others of a like mind.

    My feeling is that there isn’t anywhere near the level of blindly obedient “rusted on” Greens as there is in the duopoly parties.

    Greens can’t single-handedly block DA.

  69. Ivor
    September 24th, 2014 at 21:22 | #69

    @jungney

    Unfortunately there will be no change unless the working class takes the lead.

    You cannot change conditions if in opposition to the working class.

    The fact that the working class so far has not taken on this challenge probably explains why we are in the predicament we seem to be (or heading into).

  70. QuentinR
    September 24th, 2014 at 22:59 | #70

    Religion and politics seem similar. Why not seek advice from a select few well-educated heads of religion (no oxymoron jokes), asking if followers should continue in their current activities, leading to global warming and … high costs and lots of suffering. Or would their deity (or philosophy) be better served if followers were to make minor changes to their consumption habits to limit greenhouse emissions. If educated, one might expect support for limiting greenhouse emissions.

    Then seek advice from politicians asking what they intend to do about climate change now that (this list of supportive heads of religion) think that their followers should reduce greenhouse emissions.

    The Greens could get many new supporters, or the major parties could get new greenhouse gas policies for the next election.

  71. Fran Barlow
    September 24th, 2014 at 23:39 | #71

    @QuentinR

    Or would their deity (or philosophy) be better served if followers were to make minor changes to their consumption habits to limit greenhouse emissions.

    Western people who believe in deities need not wonder what God ‘wants’. By definition, God knows what will happen. It’s all for the best because God made it so. You can’t act without being part of the cosmic plan, so you are relieved of the need to serve his ends. By definition, you have no choice.

  72. ZM
    September 24th, 2014 at 23:44 | #72

    Quentin R,

    The Australian Religious Response to Climate Change is quite active http://www.arrcc.org.au. Also the Uniting Church has been the first major Australian organisation to agree to divest from fossil fuels.

  73. Megan
    September 25th, 2014 at 00:04 | #73

    @Ken Fabian

    Just to be a bit clearer: How does the vote pan out so that defeating/passing DA is due to the Greens?

    If Greens are the only ones against it, then ALP/LNP/minors voted for it.
    If Greens + ALP only are against it, then it gets passed by other minors + LNP.
    If Greens + ALP + minors are all against it, then it fails.

    Are you seriously suggesting the only other scenario? ie: Greens + LNP vote together against ALP/minors? And if so, you are saying that the Greens should do this to avoid criticism??

  74. September 25th, 2014 at 00:50 | #74

    @John Quiggin
    John: Give yourself credit. 20 years ago you were a voice crying in the wilderness. How many economists then were siding with the likes of Amory Lovins? Now the free lunch is CW. Opponents like Stavins just look slipshod.

  75. Ken Fabian
    September 25th, 2014 at 07:19 | #75

    Christine Milne has made a point of seeking to negotiate over Direct Action – voting for it if it’s improved. Of course they alone don’t hold the power to pass or deny passage, but, yes, I think perceptions of The Greens, as the strongest voices for action on climate/emissions/energy will put them in the spotlight on this even without deliberate efforts to frame them in the worst light. I’d like to see them avoid being seen in the worst possible light.

    I think the electorate’s perceptions of them will be influenced strongly by what they do -whether they hold the crucial vote or not – and if they vote against it I expect all out effort to discredit them over that choice. I don’t think Direct Action will get up. I don’t believe Abbott and team actually want it to get up, but that they will seek to persuade the public otherwise as the lay the blame on others, as they always do, for their own failures.

    It may be, as Fran insists, much better for them to stand firm against bad or inadequate policy and legislation and seek to have their rationale heard over the negative noise. There will be no avoiding criticism if they vote against it, no matter how bad it is; how bad it will always remain hypothetical and debatable if it gets voted down. It may be they will be blamed for it’s failures if they support it and it gets up somehow and it turns out to be as bad as expected but it’s a much harder job for Abbott’s team to make that it’s failure is The Greens fault, especially if they make their grave reservations clear all along. If they vote for it but others vote it down I think that yes, they would gain by that politicallyat little or no cost to their goals. Perhaps the gain will not all be with the well informed in the electorate but they will gain. But I think they will be thoroughly forked unless they stop doing what their enemies expect – and in this case what their enemies want. Avoiding criticism is part of it but I also see it as doing something a bit unexpected and shifting the battleground sideways.

    Of course I continue to believe that we won’t get sufficient and timely climate policy unless the commitment is there in both Labor and Coalition, in which case The Greens could find themselves sidelined; that the issue is perceived to a large extent as being in their court because others have found it to their political advantage to do so – playing with public perceptions of them being fringe protesters in suits, with unrealistic and idealistic and even irrational policy aims – in order to associate commitment to the climate task as idealistic, unrealistic and irrational. I know very well that this is not so – it’s failure to address the problem head or even acknowledge it’s seriousness that is idealistic, unrealistic and irrational.

  76. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 07:57 | #76

    Here is a very good artcicle on the topic “Can We Make Steel Without Coal?”. It’s an issue because coal not only provides the heat via the blast furnance. Coal also acts as the reducing agent to convert iron oxide into pig iron.

    http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/can-we-make-steel-without-coal/

  77. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 08:05 | #77

    As a footnote I should say this article give the statistic that only 12% of all hard coal mined is used for steel making. Hard coal production is less than half of all coal production and maybe as low as 25%. I can’t quickly find an accurate figure. So, in the scheme of things, maybe only about 5% of coal burning is for making steel anyway. On that number, it’s not a desperate problem. Getting rid of all other coal burning first would make an enormous improvement to CO2 emissions.

  78. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 08:33 | #78

    As a second footnote:

    To de-carbonise, we have to remove from the world’s primary energy mix;

    (1) Oil – 31.5% of primary energy.
    (2) Coal and peat – 28.8% of primary energy.
    (3) Natural gas – 21.3% of primary energy.

    These are 2011 figures and the total is 81.6 %. Let us assume that now in 2014 the total is 80%. Thus 4/5ths of the world’s primary energy comes from fossil fuels. This does show the enormity of the task. I am not saying it’s impossible. Indeed, I think solar and wind power, along with hydro and a few other renewables, feeding in to a fully electric and electronic economy can do it.

    However, let us be under no illusions as to the requirements for an enormous revolution in the entire means of production, means of transport and modes of living. We will need the replacement of about 80% of fixed generating plant and the replacement of 90% or more of heavy machinery, goods transport and personal transport.

    Land transport will be the easiest to de-carbonise. How do we de-carbonise air transport? Personally, I see air travel ceasing to be affordable/available for all but the super-rich, the military, police and emergency services. Sea transport is an interesting one too. How do we de-carbonise sea transport? Do we go back to sailing ships?

    I think we can move to a fully renewables economy but part of that process will be accepting a more modest lifestyle in some respects. Unecessary physical travel will have to be reduced and electronic “travel” maintained or increased (like video-conferencing). I suspect global trade will reduce as it relies on air and sea travel which will be harder to de-carbonise. On the other hand, local, regional and continental trade will increase, at least as a percentage of all trade.

  79. Ken Fabian
    September 25th, 2014 at 08:48 | #79

    I really do need to proof read what I write. I was going to say that it may be that Fran is right and I’m wrong (but I shifted back to the rut of why I might be right). It would not be the first time, especially when I jump in with my thoughts of the moment and flesh them out after.

    Maintaining internal integrity and honesty with members and with the public, and staying the course do count for a lot – are essential even – no matter that we have prime examples in Abbott and his team of how successful being misleading and deceptive with a liberal dash of appeals to fear, prejudice and nationalistic jingoism – plain old close mouthed – can be. Especially when your friends own the biggest chunk of the media – or is it that they own you?

    Yet my sense of frustration with politics of climate and the failure to make much ground does suggest that those deeply engaged with it need to consider a change of tactics. I don’t really know what changes would work best but, to paraphrase another aphorism, if what we are doing is not working keeping on doing it some more may not be the best course.

  80. Salient Green
    September 25th, 2014 at 09:04 | #80

    @Ken Fabian
    I think there is much more chance of the rationale being heard for opposing DA than objections being heard for passing it.
    There seems to be a rapidly rising level of effort worldwide to take action on AGW which, if DA is scrapped now, could see the Abbott circus being forced before the end of its term to come up with a meaningful trading scheme whereas, if there was a DA scheme in place, no matter how crummy, it could be passed off as ‘doing their bit’.

  81. Collin Street
    September 25th, 2014 at 09:25 | #81

    There’s actually a good amount of theoretical/maths work being done on decision-making algorithms, where you’ve got multiple decision-makers [some of them broken in non-obvious ways] and you’re trying to produce some sort of sensible or at least coherent consensus.

    You can’t reliably do this if more than a third of the decision-makers are broken in non-obvious ways.

    This works for humans as much as for components.

    [byzantine generals problem]

  82. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 09:42 | #82

    The Greens suffer from the fact that the Australian public are extremely conservative. We live in a time when imminent revolutionary change is necessary and will occur in some form. We might not have a revolutionary change in politics but we certainly will experience a revolutionary change in the way we live and produce. Either we will meet the challanges and revolutionise our economy going from exhaustible and ecosystem damaging resources (like fossil fuels) to renewable and sustainable resources or we will suffer the extreme consequences for failing to do so. Either way, the changes to how we live and produce (or don’t live and don’t produce) will be extensive and revolutionary.

    We are in the last days of denial. Denialism is finally about denying that we have to change. The Greens and the general green and social democratic movement are in the vanguard of predicting that we must change or suffer the severe consquences. The Greens position is fully supported by all the science but often the messenger is unwelcome when the news is discomfiting. Conservative people don’t want to change. The conservative public are mentally wedded to the current system. They can neither perceive nor conceive of the need for anything much different from the status quo. They are moulded further into this false belief mindset by the mainstream media.

    The Greens suffer opprobrium for being the bearer and predicter of unwelcome news. The free lunch from unfettered exploitation and despoliation of the natural environment is over. In future we will have to pay much closer attention to sustainability in all its forms and maybe, at least in part, accept a more modest but still eminently acceptable lifestyle.

    In short, the Greens are suffering politically for being ahead of their time. When their time arrives, when they are proven correct as they amost inevitably will be (the laws of physics and biology pretty much guarantee this) then one can hope that finally they will become mainstream-acceptable. A change in the material basis of society will produce a change in the political paradigm.

    Whilst I cannot comment comment on interim political tactics for the Greens (I do not know enough to comment), I think the main game is to stay on message about the absolutely necessary green and sustainable “shape” of our future. Eventually, being proven right-all-along on these vital and imperative issues should be a gold mine of positive political capital. The thing then will be to not allow the right wing parties (LNP and the misnamed Labor) to lie about their history of bad policy.

    When the Greens are proven right they will need positive go-forward green policies for sure. They will also need to be a a bit politically hard-nosed, dredge up the ractionary party’s history continually. Keep it front and centre that the old parties were wrong, wrong, wrong about just about everything and nearly led us to total disaster. Rub their noses in it and destroy first their credibility and then them as viable parties at the ballot box. New parties can arise then and they will have to fight the Greens on the Greens’ home ground, “Sustainability Stadium”.

    (Sorry, it’s footy finals time, I couldn’t resist that.)

  83. John Quiggin
    September 25th, 2014 at 10:25 | #83

    Having criticized Milne in the past, I should say that I thought she made a good move offering to back Direct Action in return for retaining the RET. It increased the pressure on Abbott, and if he accepts the deal, so much the better.

  84. Fran Barlow
    September 25th, 2014 at 10:46 | #84

    @John Quiggin

    And indeed, given that this is an area of policy that is fairly discrete, I have no problem in principle with our party negotiating with the regime over abatement policy. In practice though, one would want to ensure that no feature of a policy to which we agreed subverted any other principle or goal of our policy.

    Milne has made clear that in addition to the preservation of the RET, fossil fuel subsidies should go, and paying not to pollute would be unacceptable. Our party would want to use these negotiations to illuminate the underlying abatement costs associated with DA as currently mooted. We would certainly oppose his proposed budgetary cap and of course the 5% target.

    If Abbott were to accept he’d need not only to preserve the RET (repudiating both Warburton and his rejection of deals with minor parties) but also open the door to us rewriting the policy. It’s hard to see what he would get out of going this way apart from embarrassment and obloquy from the right.

    All of this sits well with our role of educating the broader public about public policy so this is fine, providing we keep the above in mind. If he spurns us, as I expect he will, then he cannot later claim that we were unwilling to negotiate.

  85. bjb
    September 25th, 2014 at 11:11 | #85

    @Ikonoclast
    “In short, the Greens are suffering politically for being ahead of their time.” Problem is, the Greens, of which I’m a long term member, have been ahead of their time for 25 years. Everyone else is taking their own sweet time catching up.

  86. Hermit
    September 25th, 2014 at 11:41 | #86

    Arithmetic relapse again. To recap in 2013 BREE reckons 1.5% of our electricity came from solar and 2.9% from wind with biomass and hydro making up most renewables, the latter being mostly pre-RET. Transport consumes about 40% of our primary energy with the renewable contribution effectively zero.

    80% decarbonisation by mid century is prorata 32% for the period 2000-2020. Direct Action may fail to get even a shameful 5% emissions cut. To put it bluntly RET + DA won’t cut it. It is a feeble and shambolic gesture which to me shows the Greens are irrelevant.

  87. Collin Street
    September 25th, 2014 at 11:49 | #87

    Everyone else is taking their own sweet time catching up.

    Well, it’s not like you’ve been standing still. When people are walking and someone’s a hundred metres ahead, the ones behind would have to walk faster to catch up… and that they’re trailing suggests that they mightn’t be the most interested in walking faster.

    it’s not “left” and “right”, it’s “front” and “back”.

  88. David Irving (no relation)
    September 25th, 2014 at 12:43 | #88

    @faustusnotes
    FN, I still hear apparently intelligent and well-informed people saying much the same thing about the Greens having voted against Rudd’s original carbon price legislation. They quite happily ignore the facts that:
    1. It was nothing more than a cynical ploy to wedge Turnbull;
    2. We weren’t involved in any of the negotiations prior to Rudd announcing it; and
    3. We didn’t have sufficient votes in the Senate to get it over the line once Abbott rolled Turnbull and reneged on the deal.

    Never mind that it was worse than useless – that tends to be dismissed as a matter of opinion rather than fact anyway.

  89. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 14:24 | #89

    @bjb

    I know that. 🙂 I am 60 and I had friends in the School of Environmental Studies nearly 40 years ago. Those friends put me on to the LTG Club of Rome study (publ. 1972). We’ve had 42 years at least of knowing that we can’t trash the environment and keep a society and economy. In fact, we’ve had 52 years counting from the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” which perhaps first sounded the clarion against environmental destruction. Fifty-two years!!! And the PTB are still dragging their feet, kicking, screaming, denying, delaying, obfuscating, lying, propagandising, wasting, exploiting, despoiling, hacking and burning.

    “Destroyers and usurpers! Curse them!” – Treebeard.

  90. Ivor
    September 25th, 2014 at 17:49 | #90

    Ikonoclast
    Here is a very good artcicle on the topic “Can We Make Steel Without Coal?”. It’s an issue because coal not only provides the heat via the blast furnance. Coal also acts as the reducing agent to convert iron oxide into pig iron.
    http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/can-we-make-steel-without-coal/

    Yes.

    But presumably most steel is needed for growth, not to maintain present infrastructure.

    So we can back out of most steel production by “degrowth” and population controls.

    Our climate is being massacred by the production of new fuel, steel, and concrete. This is a pure result of growth.

    The Club of Rome had it right. There are limits to growth and we have breeched these limits.

    If you want to see who killed the climate, check out Figure 2 here:

    http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/052504_coal_peak.html

    If present trends continue – the end is clear.

  91. Ivor
    September 25th, 2014 at 17:50 | #91

    Ikonoclast
    Here is a very good artcicle on the topic “Can We Make Steel Without Coal?”. It’s an issue because coal not only provides the heat via the blast furnance. Coal also acts as the reducing agent to convert iron oxide into pig iron.
    coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/can-we-make-steel-without-coal/

    Yes.

    But presumably most steel is needed for growth, not to maintain present infrastructure.

    So we can back out of most steel production by “degrowth” and population controls.

    Our climate is being massacred by the production of new fuel, steel, and concrete. This is a pure result of growth.

    The Club of Rome had it right. There are limits to growth and we have breeched these limits.

    If you want to see who killed the climate, check out Figure 2 here:

    http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/052504_coal_peak.html

    If present trends continue – the end is clear.

  92. Fran Barlow
    September 25th, 2014 at 18:31 | #92

    Hmm

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/agl-warns-of-profit-hit-from-carbon-tax-removal-20140717-ztxwh.html

    Energy utility AGL has warned the removal of the carbon tax will cut heavily into its profit for fiscal 2015, although ongoing operational gains is expected to offset the impact.
    In total, AGL has flagged as much as $200 million in hits to the pretax profit outlook for the year to June, 2015, with the carbon tax accounting for the bulk of the drop.
    Removing the tax will slice $186 million off the pretax profit for the new financial year, with $100 million of this due to the impact of the loss of subsidies for the heavy level of carbon pollution of the Loy Yang A power station in Victoria.
    The balance of $86 million reflects the expected impact of the decline in wholesale electricity prices which will stem from the removal of the tax on the balance of the group’s generation …

  93. MH
    September 25th, 2014 at 18:52 | #93

    A long time ago a chap called Trotsky came to the view that ‘ ..revolution is impossible until it is inevitable’, seems he was correct. In my simple view it’s game over already to minimise or even forestall devastating climate change consequences and ecological collapse, simple arithmetic really – something to do with exponential functions and the misguided belief in never ending growth on a finite planet.

  94. Hermit
    September 25th, 2014 at 18:59 | #94

    I believe AGL and Energy Australia were major recipients of the near $1bn in cash (plus free permits) they got for supposed loss of asset resale value. The cash was doled out in quarterly instalments I gather. I thought the idea of carbon tax was that consumers got compensated not producers. Producers should also have seen carbon constraints coming for a decade beforehand. A couple of small clapped out brown coal stations (Playford, Brix) were bought out. Bizarrely the Anglesea station that helped power Pt Henry smelter may survive since the rising gas price makes brown coal a cheap backup source.

    What Ms Lambie seems to be ranting on about is that the remaining smelters shouldn’t have to pay the renewable energy certificate component on their power bills. I suspect that relates to a fiddle about a hydro ‘baseline’ being shifted from circa 1975 to 1997. If carbon pricing is ever to work keep politicians out of it. Xenophon for example wants Australia to buy a few million foreign carbon credits at 50c a pop. Pathetic.

  95. Tim Macknay
    September 25th, 2014 at 19:15 | #95

    @Ivor

    If you want to see who killed the climate, check out Figure 2 here:

    http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/052504_coal_peak.html

    Can I gently suggest that a source less than ten years out of date might be more appropriate?

  96. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 19:35 | #96

    Hermit,

    Never get between a free enterprise advocate and a big bucket of free government money. Welfare for wealthy corporations and rich oligarchs dwarfs welfare given to the needy.

    http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/01/13/ten-examples-welfare-rich-and-corporations

  97. Ikonoclast
    September 25th, 2014 at 19:38 | #97

    More on the same topic.

    “All the Federal welfare checks, food stamps, and unemployment benefits don’t begin to add up to the more than $1-trillion in indirect tax breaks awarded annually to America’s middle- and upper-classes.

    Whereas social benefits such as “welfare” are paid in the form of checks, “tax breaks function by allowing recipients themselves simply to keep more money, reducing the amount they would otherwise owe,” observes Suzanne Mettler in the current issue of The Washington Monthly.

    “As a matter of budgeting, however, there is no difference between a tax break and a social program: both have to be paid for, either by raising tax rates or by adding to the deficit,” Mettler points out.

    In short, “In the case of social tax expenditures…the most expensive of these subsidies shower their largest benefits on the most affluent Americans,” writes Mettler, a professor of government at Cornell University and author of “The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy,” coming this fall from University of Chicago Press.

    Her message: “Beneath the surface of American government lurks a system of social programs for the wealthy that is consuming the federal budget.” – Global Research.

  98. September 25th, 2014 at 20:31 | #98

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikonoclast: A thought to cheer you up. You start with primary energy consumption. With fossil fuels, 60% of the energy is is wasted – it goes up the chimney or out of the exhaust pipe as waste heat. The number is a bit lower with state-of-the art coal plants, quite a bit lower for combined-cycle gas, and a lot higher for vehicles. Now suppose you go 100% renewable. The waste drops mathematically to 20% or so. Why? One, the generation has, by accounting convention, no waste. The inefficiencies in conversion are just left out. This is fair, as “waste” wind and sunlight has no cost or environmental impact. Two, electric machinery is very efficient. The worst is probably the electric car, with 15% losses plug-to-wheel. You lose 5% in transmission. So with absolutely no change in lifestyle or non-energy production, you cut primary energy consumption in half. Source: Lawrence Livermore energy flowcharts.

    I suggest we all switch to using the LNL metric of “energy services”; the energy that does actual work for us in warming, cooling, turning pumps and motors, etc. But I wish they would change from the fossil-legacy quad to kwh, an SI unit.

  99. Ivor
    September 25th, 2014 at 21:30 | #99

    If you want to see who killed the climate:

    http://images.bwbx.io/cms/2013-01-03/econ_coalchart02__01__950c.jpg

    As India, Indonesia, China, Africa (quite rightly) seek the same living standard as in OECD, I see absolutely no solution whatsoever.

    Unless some new set of international institutions emerge with capacity to negotiate a global living standard for 10 billion people that limits fossil fuels.

    The human species do not have the ability to act rationally.

  100. Ivor
    September 25th, 2014 at 21:32 | #100

    Ok OK

    Rewrite.

    “The human species does not have the ability to act rationally.”

Comment pages
1 2 12742
Comments are closed.