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Federal

Nov 16, 2009

Take your CPRS and shove it

Bernard Keane is sick of Penny Wong's tedious droning, Kevin Rudd's sanctimony, Coalition climate denialists, Barnaby Joyce, rentseekers and everything else tied up in the never-ending CPRS debate.

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Welcome back to Parliament for the final time this year. Two more weeks of this stuff and then we’re finished for a summer that already feels like it’s been going a month. That’s assuming Anthony Albanese doesn’t keep his colleagues confined here at the end of next week, or even brings them back for another spell in December.

Wouldn’t want all those end-of-year “let’s all be best mates” speeches to get in the way of proper legislative business eh?

The job of a political journalist — not of course that I would know, since according to the national broadsheet I’m not a “real journalist”, and strangely proud of it — is somewhere between theatre critic and sports commentator. The main tasks of sports commentators are to tell you who’s winning and pretend something exciting is happening when it isn’t. That’s where it is closest to political journalism. Media coverage of politics is always about who’s winning and who’s losing, naturally, but the trivial and meaningless are routinely built up into events of monumental importance simply for the sake of pretending something significant is happening.

But you also need to appraise the performances of the principal actors (not to mention the ambitious walk-on players), assessing the conviction or otherwise with which they utter their lines, paying close attention to the effect not on professional observers such as oneself, who to use the immortal phrase “don’t know jack”, but the hoi polloi in the cheap seats at the back, from which vantage point scenery-chewing hammery or mindless repetition may look like the stuff of the Great Tragedians.

Once in a while, we’re reminded that this isn’t a show or a game that we’re watching. This morning the Prime Minister made an apology to the “Forgotten Generation” in the Great Hall in Parliament House. He was followed by Malcolm Turnbull. Both made heart-felt and emotional speeches, without political polish, the sort of speeches we can point to when people lament the lack of Australian political oratory. The tears and smiles and applause of those present who as children were abused in institutional care show how significant the actions of government can be, even in simply acknowledging those whose pain was ignored for so long.

This fortnight also sees some sort of climax in the emissions trading debate, another issue of more-than-usual gravity.

I don’t know about you (no, really, I don’t) but I’m utterly over the CPRS debate. It’s been a long road since early last year, when Penny Wong blithely called the Garnaut Review “one input” into the Government’s consideration, in effect spilling the beans, or giving the game away, or belling the cat, or whatever cliché takes your fancy. I’m now sick of emissions trading. Sick of Wong’s tedious droning, of Kevin Rudd’s sanctimony, of the Coalition climate denialists who make a virtue out of their own intellectual and emotional disabilities.

I’m sick of Barnaby Joyce and the National Party, so plum-stupid that they can’t even understand when the National Farmers’ Federation tells them it’d be a good idea to back the scheme. I’m sick of the rentseekers, the whingers, the sooks and Hookes, who preach the virtues of the market when it suits them but whose natural posture is of a hand stuck out, demanding assistance, and assistance in ever greater quantities, like blackmailers who just keep coming back for more.

And I’m sick of the media and their inability to understand what’s going on or their blatant support of denialists as part of an infantile ideological game. I’m fed up with ever more iterations of the CPRS that seek to obliterate, like an artillery shell aimed at an ant, any skerrick of carbon price signal, which is the only damn point of the entire exercise beyond the political gamesmanship of Kevin Rudd and Nick Minchin.

I’m sick, above all, of the vast gap between the farce being played out before our eyes and the real human and economic consequences of failing to stop the planet cooking, consequences I probably won’t see the worst of, but which my kids will.

Fortunately they and all the future generations who’ll really enjoy the fruits of out stupidity don’t get to vote now.

So I’m giving this elaborate production, this whole, interminable, mind-numbingly banal show, zero.

Let us hope that decades hence, the descendants of our current MPs — I mean their political descendants, not their actual kids, assuming the major parties don’t adopt preselection by hereditary right — will not have to stand up in the Great Hall and apologise for it. Apologise to the people who died of dengue fever or in bushfires, apologise to the families of the elderly who succumbed to heatwaves. Apologise to the tourism employees who lost their jobs when our great reefs died. Apologise to the farmers forced off the land as the Murray-Darling dried up. Sorry, dried up even more.

Apologise to the whole community because of all the economic opportunities we missed by locking our economy into some sort of carbon-era cryogenic freeze when we could have started the transition to the low-carbon economy that we will need to be in the future, now.

Hell, they may even apologise to all those foreigners who will die in far greater numbers than Australians because of the actions of developed countries like ours, one of the world’s premier carbon dealers on a planet unable to kick its addiction to the stuff.

Hysterical? Alarmist? Green religionist? If only. I’d give anything to see the Andrew Bolts and Barnaby Joyces of the world proved correct, to be shown that the whole thing is a left-wing con, the ultimate scam cooked up (ha!) by some lazy academics and watermelon greenies who accomplished what millennia of Illuminati and weird hand-shaking Masons and sinister religious orders failed to do — fool the world with a global conspiracy.

Because that’s the only basis on which our international position and the CPRS make any sense.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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122 comments

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122 thoughts on “Take your CPRS and shove it

  1. Heathdon McGregor

    Im sick of a PM who says a lot and does sweet fa

    Im sick of the non deniers thinking it is beneath them to debate and then crying that there wasn’t enough debate. If the risks are as great as you say they are then it shouldn’t be beneath you to debate them at any level.

    Im sick of being treated like a flat earther because I actually ask for proof more than “he scientist said so idiot and data that actually represents somebody noting down the information as it happened not theorised on it later.

    Im sick of Al Gore and the slick willy type of frontman he and George W represent. Got an unpopular idea? get a good ole boy with charisma top front it. I remember him from the last time. Censor.

    Im sick of seeing jet planes fly when I have been told that burning fossil fuels causes global warming and the only defence we have is carbon capture by trees which are down on the ground. With internet communications why arent Propeller planes good enough? At least for short trips?

    Im sick of the economists leading the arguement rather than the ecologists. Any wonder that people are starting to think it is the new millenium bug. Hard to disprove but very costly.

    Im sick that nobody has taken the time to explain how this statement is wrong “It doesn’t matter what we do in Oz until the big omitters have their plan in place” The only reply I have heard is “so you would rather do nothing”

    Im mostly sick that this government seems to be more concerned about how it/they look on the global stage than the country they are elected to govern.

  2. Robert Garnett

    As someone with a modicum of insight once said,

    “We get the politicians we deserve.”

    This was true up until perhaps 25 years ago. It is now untrue. The world is not run by politicians, it is run by corporations. It is much like King John and the Barons circa 1200 AD. The deal between the Barons and the King was: You agree to what we want and you can be king. If you don’t you are dead. The unfortunate child of this arrangement was the Magna Carta of 1215. This document, venerated as the cornerstone of British Justice, did nothing to deliver freedom to the serfs of England, that had to wait seven hundred years when the industrial revolution created the middle class. The Magna Carta was a deal done to protect the Barons. It also spurned a raft of rent seekers known as the legal profession who now run most of our major companies and provide about 80% of our politicians.

    Today any western leader who does not pay homage to the industrial barons (CEO’s) of the world’s major companies is dead , not physically, but politically. So whoever we vote for we get a sycophant for corporate Australia. The US get a sycophant for corporate America, The British, and these people are the ones we really should feel sorry for, got Gordon Brown. For those who are unfamiliar with his contribution, he was the great architect of the recent collapse of the City of London which has been bailed out by the collective contribution of the British and Icelandic serfs.

    As John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out in the fifties, societies are blighted by “conventional wisdom”. This is not wisdom in the sense that it has intellectual integrity, but a wisdom that maintains the vested interests of the modern Barons. Conventional wisdom always falls and is replaced, but almost invariably this involves substantial collateral damage to the serfs and their political representatives.

    The Barons as always keep the loot, retire a safe distance from the action until the coast is clear and then return for a repeat performance.

    So will it be with climate change. I can’t understand why Bernard would expect it to be otherwise. When you own everything and are in charge why would you change something that works so well?

  3. John Bennetts

    OK, JamesK, I have taken a good chunk of my evening to wrap my head around the references you cite.
    1. Nonsense reference to an inane discussion topic, contribution number 99 or so. A poor start.
    2. Better. This bloke has a PhD and cred. However, his gripe with IPCC’s 4th report is on page 690, Part 8.x. That’s really scratching for an argument. What about the first 689 pages? Or those following?
    3. A list of 450 peer reviewed papers… except that many of them are not peer reviewed at all, merely a listing of opinion pieces. Some that actually come from recognised journals, have been peer reviewed, but unfortunately about 50% are 5 to 20 years old, ie past their use-by date. If I was ever to cite work which was more than 4 years old, at most, in my postgraduate offerings, I would be struck down by the equivalent of lightning and pilloried, the exceptions being those seminal works which defined the future of the discipline during the ensuing decades. I don’t recognise many such in this list of papers. It is better described as an unfiltered listing of assorted readings which have been selected to reinforce the a priori assumption that the great majority of scientific knowledge re global warming is mistaken and that you are not.

    I have not bothered to review the remainder – the strength of your offering is clear.

    Thank you for providing this opportunity to review your thought processes – it was quite bold.

    Unfortunately for you, the world’s citizens are becoming impatient about the effect that your ilk have had on an otherwise rational and urgent debate.

  4. JamesK

    @John Bennetts

    I could have cited hundreds more but that’s not the point.
    I cited them in support of my response to Ben Avelings far from unique assertion of what he thinks ‘science’ says.

    1 Joanne Nova writes a forceful critique of Rudd’s speech last week.

    In it she explains the nature of science and why assertion like Ben’s are wrong.

    She was a delegate at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali in Dec 2007 and a speaker at International Climate Change Conference in New York this year. She was a lecturer at ANU and helped to develop the Graduate Diploma in Science Communication there.

    The essay I cited was I think quite extraordinary and wonderful. I urge everyone to read it. You don’t need to be a climate change sceptic in order to decry Rudd’s disgraceful effort last week at the Lowy Institute.

    Somebody with an open mind would have given pause before accepting the MSM and prime ministerial sliming of climate change sceptics.

    2. Dr. Roy Spencer is probably the second best well known climate change sceptic in the world. He received his Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. Before becoming a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001, he was a Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, where he and Dr. John Christy received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. Dr. Spencer’s work with NASA continues as the U.S. Science Team leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer flying on NASA’s Aqua satellite. (That measures global temperatures John Bennetts). He has provided congressional testimony several times on the subject of global warming.

    The article was but one article on his website. In it he argues that despite the fact that the magnitude of anthropogenic global warming depends mostly upon the strengths of feedbacks in the climate system, there is no known way to actually measure those feedbacks from observational data. This is one of the very live issues in climate science. Co2 doubling of itself even in the IPCC models raise global temps by only 1 degree Celsius at most. For the predictions positive forcings from feedbaks have to occur. (Incidentally Jo Nova addresses this too in the first article I listed thst you so casually denigrated after supposedly reading it all evening.)

    But there are hundreds more articles on that website , backed up by hundreds of graphs and tables of you know…..data…you know from observations and stuff like that.

    Spencer is one of those odd climate scientists. The kind of scientist that still prizes data from observation. You know boring measurements to support his theories.

    I’m not sure that he would be overly concerned with you’re in-depth analysis.

    3. I looked at it again. Yep ….. 450 articles all published in peer review science journals. I’ll stick my neck above the parapet here and risk a hansonian: “Please explain.”

    Furthermore when a research paper is published does not invalidate it. Almost no science publications I know fail to cite papers that are considerably older. Most in that reference were are within the last 7 years.

    Wow John Bennetts ! …….”a good chunk of my evening to wrap my head around the references” you say?

    You commented on three.

    Perhaps this was as a result of my posts in response to yours yesterday?

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/11/10/the-coalition-need-howards-pragmatism-on-climate-change/#comment-46224

  5. evidently

    Well Bernard

    I am DEEPLY CONFLICTED.

    I have always got a lot out of your daily insights but I am concerned, shellfishly, that you are raising the white flag while pointing out the p*ss poor efforts and the lack of real action. I wrote in the same key in reply to your popular piece on new Hansonism last week where I said.

    “I lay the blame for inaction on climate change at the feet both major parties, and I have to say I’m bloody disappointed in the stupidity of deniers who just wont join the real fight… which is step up to the government to fulfil their promises of taking real action – whether they believe or don’t believe.”

    And just so you know, I think you need to get over what ever ails you, and put a size 12 boot up the a*se of the denialist journo’s good and hard. They are obscuring a clear view of our underachieving ministers. We are relying on you since we can’t rely on our major parties to get off the easy-money teat.

    I swear its true, the australian public are gagging for that rare commodity that you have continually shown you’ve got, an abundance of guts and literary incisiveness. Australia is ready for it, roll those tosser deniers, they are just asking for it and let them take it out there frustrations on our shiny boy scout prime minister who just wants to be friends with the rest of the world’s leaders at our children’s expense. f*ck him, he has had his chance.

    go bern go bern go bern flame ’em bern burn bern

  6. JamesK

    @Julian Robinson

    You started producing an argument which is good but then fell over a cliff in a downward spiral of grandstanding.

    As if making your assertion without an argument in a grandiose and self-righteous manner was actually meaningful in making your case.

    In fact it sounds rather like an old fashioned denunciation of sinners from a fervent pulpit bible thumper.

    As I said in a much earlier post on this article:

    “It comes down to believing the IPCC or not. And they tell us that it’s all apparently too ‘complex’ to explain and we’ll just have to have faith.”

    Now like it or not there are informed and respectable fellow human beings and experts in this area who also are sceptical and this can’t be said to be ‘too complex’ for them as many of them still research and publish in the field.

    Some of them even argue that there is more than enough evidence already to dismiss this ‘greenhouse theory’. I suppose at a stretch such individuals could be called something more than merely sceptical.

    They would be the ‘atheists’ to my ‘agnosticism’ I guess.

    You, however are a religionist as is Bernard Keane.

    Malcolm Turnbull isn’t a religionist (at least I don’t think so) but he does accept the theory and some at least of the IPCC projections. He certainly accepts that it is worthwhile to attempt an amelioration by way of reducing anthropogenic CO2.

    I disagree with him as do many of his colleagues. That does not mean that I think Australia should not be a good global citizen and play its rightful part in a world-wide agreed strategy to decrease man made CO2.

    I personally think its pointless and without foundation and can only do harm but at least that harm should be fairly shared.

    There are others but they are in a very marked minority who don’t accept that we play our part as world citizens. in fact I’m not sure you could fairly characterise the Nats that way

    I suspect the Krudd isn’t a ‘religionist’. He thinks it just suits him to appear so. I suspect he is merely, in Bernard’s words, an opportunist in “an infantile ideological game”

    Now if I take a contrary position to yours based on my reading of the topic, including critiques of the IPCC, why does that enable you to call me a ‘denier’ with all its connotations of Holocaust denialism (see Clive Hamilton’s latest addition to his disgraceful series of articles along these lines yesterday)?

    Even worse why is reasonable that our PM, the leader of a modern western democracy that champions free speech be allowed, without denunciation in Bernard’s supposed counter-evidenced partisan MSM, ad hominem and offensive attacks on named individuals including incredibly Malcolm Turnbull and indeed generically me because I fit into his sick definition of ‘denier’?

  7. Justin Wood

    I wanted to leave a comment saying I emphatically agree with Bernard. (And I do!)

    Being somewhat new to Crikey [comments], I then skim-wade through the comments… Ahh the musing of @JamesK. Good god. I think my favourite is throwing up the notorious ClimateAudit against RealClimate; ie, a couple of right-wing hacks versus routinely published, seminal climatologists. I’d point out that not only is M Mann not discredited but that the ‘hockey stick’ has been substantially updated in recent times anyway, and confirmed by multiple independent sources (although with a less flat ‘stick’); or that M Mann doesn’t actually actively contribute to RC anymore in any case; but what would be the point.

    Funny stuff though! How crestfallen I am to find that ClimateAudit and WUWT have — apparently! — mightily overthrown the weight of the 10,000+ peer-reviewed scientific papers appearing each year that continue to reaffirm and deepen the unequivocal reality of anthropogenic climate change.

    And I just can’t resist. Regarding the Nature paper[1] which was cited in that list of 450 papers disagreeing with AGW (many of which from Energy & Environment no less!): if persons placing it on such a list had read it, or been able to understand it, they might have realised that it was referring to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. It specifically says that at the current mean climate sensitivity estimate of ~3 oC for 2x CO2, the increased atmospheric CO2 could only explain up to 3.5 oC of the observed warming. Other forcings feedbacks would likely have occurred to cause the rest. What this means is that there are other processes which could cause even greater warming, not in the slightest that CO2 didn’t do precisely as expected; at the very least for the PETM event.

    This all reminds me why I often try to avoid reading comments…

    [1] http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo578.html

  8. evamary

    Terrific post, Bernard. You have your finger on the pulse of a nation. Something is shifting – what a pity one of the mainstream pollies (apart from the Greens) couldn’t say it instead.

    Your respondent Joe Boswell completes the picture. What’s standing in the way is the people behind the politicians. One example is the electric car. India developed a car 15 years ago (the REVA) Its range was only 70 ks, but that’s enough for most Australian commute journeys. It’s been running around Europe for years and when Red Ken introduced the 8 pound bounty on cars using the London CBD in the day, the rich bought REVAs and left their Mercs at home. Bingo – a quieter less polluted London!

    Go forward to 2005-6 – the Solar Shop imports a REVA for a trial. The Howard government deems it to be unsafe and imposes a $60,000 + penalty if it’s driven on the road. Alannah McTiernan, the then transport minister in the WA Labor government, transports the car to WA and asks for 50 volunteers to buy the cars for a trial. No permission was given by the Feds. Bye bye REVA.

    Studies in Europe showed the car to be safe, so what was the problem? My opinion is that the car industry (sales and maintenance) and the fossil fuel industries used their political weight to nobble it. Why? First of all we don’t want profits going to Indian companies – that’s not de rigueur!

    Secondly, many jobs depend on sales (still fairly safe for electric cars) and spare parts etc – where jobs will certainly be lost, because electric cars require almost NO maintenance. And then there are all those American V8s, SUVs and Hummers to get rid of. Finally – they don’t use diesel, petrol or gas.

    Oh- I hear you cry -but what about the coal for the electricity? Well the cost to plug in to the grid at the moment is about $4 a week. It is a very efficient way of delivering energy to an automobile. Secondly it’s easier to control emissions from a power station (in the interim period between status quo and alternative) than from the tailpie of 2 milliom cars). Finally – the cars don;t wear out – also a negative for the car industry.

    This scenario is being played out in many industries and shows the failure of capitalism to address these problems. What’s good for the market is clearly not what’s good for the planet, in the short term at least. And the short term is what politicians have to deal with, because the electorate is so fickle. On this issue however, the grumblings are everywhere.

    Your piece says it all. More power to your arm.

  9. james mcdonald

    GeorgeD, I’ve been paying closer attention to JamesK’s posts in the past week, and I’ve begun to glean a method behind his abrasive style. I don’t think he’s a denialist. Actually I no longer think he’s a lot of things I’ve called him or implied him to be.

    Partly this scrutiny of him has been motivated by the effort to interpolate the insults he apparently throws at me which keep getting edited out. I haven’t really been insulted properly since I came to live in Sydney, kind of miss the entertainment of a good free-for-all (like John Cleese looking for an argument–insults are next door) and I find it a bit frustrating they keep getting edited out. Though I appreciate that the moderators are concerned with weightier matters than my personal entertainment.

    Anyway, I’m going to hazard a theory here that JamesK is actually on a mission to raise the standard of discourse in these threads, no more and no less. I base this on:

    1) His personal position is always in the background, evidence and devils-advocacy in the foreground
    2) He challenges us on our rationality and our methods of sophistry, not so much on our underlying politics

    So I’ve been re-examining my own style and finding that it leaves a lot to be desired. I also found an interesting book by Deborah Tannen criticising Argument Culture, which I intend to learn about in the hope of rising above the trench warfare of words that characterises so much of public debate in this country, as much in the Crikey threads as anywhere else.

  10. Ben Aveling

    @JamesMcD

    You may be right about JamesK. And he is right in his claim that I cannot prove that Climate Change is real. I cannot. Nor can I prove that smoking causes cancer. All I can do is look at a smattering of the evidence which goes past, and make a calculated guess, based on accepting what looks sensible (the anti-smoking literature, and the it’s-getting-warmer brigade), and rejecting (declining) what looks less than sensible (the smoking-is-harmless literature and the climate-skeptic brigade).

    But if his objective is to raise the (often low) level of debate then he could do better at leading by example.

    I am prepared to look at his evidence. Indeed, I have done so – in part, I admit. I have not looked at each of his 450 papers. But those that I have looked at, I have found wanting. In some cases, because I couldn’t understand what they were trying to say. Those I have had to ignore because whether they are either a lot smarter than I, or vice versa, I have failed to understand what they are trying to say. In other cases, I found the arguments unconvincing. I have listed 3 such examples above, and I am still waiting for James to respond. Until he does I will continue to believe that credible scientists overwhelming accept the reality of carbon driven global warming. If I had more time I would investigate his claim that Linden, Spencer and Plimer should be taken seriously. But, at the moment, I don’t. If he wants to persuade me, he will have to do some more legwork himself.

    And I will take this opportunity to add one more comment:
    >First of all there is no such thing as ‘science’ that tells us unequivocal truths.
    This is true.

    >There are merely operative theories that apparently explain observations until the said theory is proven incorrect.
    This is false. At least, it is as false as the previous theory is true. All theories that require the exercise of science for their validation are only approximations (though some of them are very good approximations indeed). As such, theories are neither true nor false, just better or worse.

  11. Justin Wood

    @JamesK writes:
    Where did you get the 3.5 oC Justin?

    I haven’t heard that one before.

    Oh good lord. You’re just underscoring my point — either you haven’t read, or don’t understand, what you cite. At least for this nature paper: http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v2/n8/abs/ngeo578.html. It, and I, refers to the 3.5 oC temperature rise inferred from proxy records for the PETM event some 55 million years ago. Clearer?

    IPCC AR4 — ie, the science — has actual observed temperature rise of 0.76 oC since pre-industrial. No idea what 1 oC you’re talking about. For the record, ‘climate sensitivity’, commonly defined in terms of a doubling of CO2, is currently estimated to be about 3 oC. Many (eg, Hansen, etc) in recent times argue from the paleoclimatic record that this does not properly account for slow feedbacks (vegetation, the cryopshere, cloud effects, etc) and is likely to be too low.

    I swore I wasn’t going to reply… and so now I shan’t further.

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