Won’t anybody think about the sceptics?

Annabel Crabb asks “Who will speak for the sceptics now” and concludes “Watch this space, because it won’t be empty for long”.

In my view, Crabb is relying on two dubious assumptions. The first is that the denialist position adopted under Abbott reflected the “scepticism” of the party base, rather than vice versa. The great majority of “sceptics” are, in fact, credulous believers in what they are told by trusted authority figures, notably including conservative political leaders. Since most LNP voters appear to be happy with the shift to Turnbull, it seems likely that they will adjust their opinions to fit with those of the government. The minority who are seriously unhappy have nowhere else to go.

The second assumption is that any view which is widely held in the general community will inevitably get some political representation. That simply isn’t true. To take a couple of examples, all the evidence I’ve seen suggests strong support (not from the same people, though I’m sure there’s overlap) for the reintroduction of capital punishment and for the renationalisation of the Commonwealth Bank. Those views aren’t represented in the political process and aren’t likely to be.

Coming back to Crabb’s question, if we were going to see a significant backlash against Turnbull on this issue, there would be background leaks from senior ministers, not snarky tweets from insignificant backbenchers. People like Robb, Frydenberg and Dutton, who presumably would prefer the Abbott line, have stayed quiet, as far as I can tell.

The one option for denialists is a minor party run for the Senate. That would create some nasty complications regarding preferences, but wouldn’t really change anything, any more than the election of an LDP senator did last time around.

50 thoughts on “Won’t anybody think about the sceptics?

  1. Is it safe to start reminiscing about the good old days of climate change “sceptics” looniness? Does anyone remember twits like Austin Williams from the LM Group that the ABC gave a platform to – arguing among other nonsense that solar panels were destroying the community solidarity nurtured by coal fired power plants. These people need to be remembered.

    I hope it’s over as a political force, but it’s lasted longer than I expected. I think it was pretty clear that reality would re-assert itself and Abbott wasn’t going to remain leader full term or win another election despite labor doing it’s best.

  2. @Michael
    Remembered? We should be compiling lists of names. Especially of those judged as ‘most cynical mouths for hire’; we could do that by popular acclaim as an fb page.

  3. @Michael

    I wasn’t aware of “Living Marxism” until I searched for Austin Williams. “Living Marxism” apparently promoted an “Against Nature” stance. This demonstrates they understood nothing about Marxian or eco-s o c i a l i s t thinking. Actually “nothing” is far too generous. It would be more like -n where n is a very large number.

    It leads me to think that LM might not have been a bona fide group. It’s at least equally possible they are far right provocateurs as they were a group honestly attempting to be s o c i a l i s t.

    It seems George Monbiot thought they were a front group.

    “It has been stated by environmentalists such as George Monbiot[5] and Peter Melchett that the group of writers associated with LM continue to constitute a ‘LM Network’ pursuing an ideologically motivated ‘anti-environmentalist’ agenda under the guise of promoting Humanism.”

  4. I know I’ve asked this question before but I’ll ask it again – who in the LNP apart from Mr Turnbull, has, with any sense of conviction, argued strongly for more and stronger action on climate rather than less and weaker? Not grudgingly, not with endless caveats or in contradiction to other things they’ve said, but clearly and unequivocally? When they dare to raise their heads and look like they mean it I might believe climate science denial and obstructionism is on it’s way out. Until then it looks like supporting Turnbull’s small steps is the price they’ll pay to get re-elected, not indicative of any conviction, or indicative of real change within the LNP.

  5. LM is better known for its successor group Spiked. The big names are Frank Furedi and Brandon O’Neal. They grew out of something called the Revolutionary Communist Party, but are now firmly on the far right. As I observed a couple of years ago, these guys had spectacularly bad timing. They started out as Marxists just before the collapse of communism, then jumped ship at the high water mark of right wing intellectual confidence. Now, they are stuck with membership of the global party of stupid

  6. When Malcolm Turnbull declared he has no need for the business adviser Maurice Newman, I took it as a sign the traditional meaning of sceptical, prevailing during much of the 20th century, will be gradually recovered at least locally.

    During the past decade or more I used two different spellings, skeptical and sceptical – more often than not being worried I would forget which spelling I had assigned to which meaning. It was my way of avoiding going to the fundamentalist versions of ME religions vs science while reading a bit on this topic.

  7. “Trading and taxes could provide partial drivers but what level will they have to rise to disincentivise consumption ?$500 per tonne?”

    $50/tonne would be enough to produce a fairly rapid shutdown of coal-fired power. $100/tonne (25 c/litre on petrol) combined with some supportive interventions (eg a publicly-financed EV charging network) would drive a pretty big shift towards low-emissions vehicles, electric cars, public transport etc. The price implied by the Renewable Energy Target is around $40/tonne and no one minds very much.

  8. @Michael
    The Brendon O’Neill who frequents Q&A, The Drum, etc, is a libertarian; while not identical to the IPA’s political views, it’s no surprise that IPA members have views that are common to libertarianism. Birds of a feather, and all that.

  9. @Ernestine Gross

    Strange, Ernestine, because I always thought that (1) skeptical is a Greek word and (2) it is spelled skeptical because there is no letter ‘c’ in Greek, just good old ‘kappa’.

    Therefore to spell the word ‘sceptical’ is simply ignorance. Or am I missing something ?

  10. Newtonian, an implied price of around $40 a tonne from the Renewable Energy Target plus a lack of a coal industry has resulted in South Australia now generating electricity equal to 40% of its total consumption from wind and rooftop solar. And both wind and solar power are much cheaper now than they were when we started the shift from almost 100% fossil fuel electricity a decade ago. It is very clear that the rest of Australia can quickly and easily reduce its fossil fuel emissions at low cost.

    A carbon price of $50 a tonne is enough to eliminate coal use and end most natural gas use. And I am confident that I can remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it for around $100 a tonne or less, so that is probably an upper limit for Australia, and the world, to go carbon neutral.

    Note there will need to be a period of adjustment. A carbon price of $50 a tonne tomorrow it won’t end coal use overnight, but it will cut coal use overnight and lead to its elimination.

  11. @GrueBleen

    Therefore to spell the word ‘sceptical’ is simply ignorance. Or am I missing something ?

    “Sceptical” is the standard English and Australian spelling of the word. “Skeptical” is the standard North American spelling. Although, in line with Australia’s tendency toward American usage, “skeptical” is now increasingly acceptable here.

  12. Skeptical, with the capital “S” and “k” is now a seperate term to describe those who have gone way beyond “sceptical” into full blown beligerent anti science denialism. To be thorough I prefer to refer to this group as SCD’s, Skepical and Contrarian Denialists.

  13. @John Quiggin

    A quick followup to the problem of broader climate change skepticism that concerns me. The Guardian’s Giles Fraser has just put out this nice article on the problem.

    I commend this to you if only of the principle that professional journalists are much better writers than I am.

  14. @BilB

    Skeptical, with the capital “S” and “k” is now a seperate term to describe those who have gone way beyond “sceptical” into full blown beligerent anti science denialism.

    It appears to be used that way in some circles, but in general the meaning has not changed.

  15. Yes, “skeptical” is Yankish while “sceptical” is Pommish. But, as surprisingly often, it is the yanks who have the spelling etymologically correct.

  16. @derrida derider

    But, as surprisingly often, it is the yanks who have the spelling etymologically correct.

    Presumably you mean that the American spelling, because it contains a ‘k’, slightly more closely resembles the way the ancestral Greek word would have been written. That’s true, although personally I wouldn’t characterise it as being necessarily more ‘correct’.

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