Crikey



Why understanding John Howard’s climate cognition is important

In reading about John Howard’s speech delivered yesterday that downplayed the threat of dangerous global warming — entitled “One religion is enough“  — one has to despair about the politics surrounding the issue.

As the title of the speech implies, Howard suggests that those advocating decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are akin to religious zealots. He suggests the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change incorporated “nakedly political agendas” in its advice. And the former prime minister states that his decision to proceed with an emissions trading scheme was driven by political imperatives to respond to a perfect storm of public concern about global warming, rather than any genuine belief of his own that it was the right thing to do.

For those concerned that unmitigated global warming poses unacceptable risks to human welfare, it might be tempting to launch a tirade of abuse against Howard. But it will get you nowhere — and will in fact be counter-productive.

Howard is a hero to a large section of Coalition MPs and their supporter base. To make meaningful progress on reducing Australia’s emissions we need policy that can support power generation investments lasting multiple decades. That means policy that will last through changes in government between Labor and Liberal.

So it’s not so much about belittling Howard, as getting into his head and those of his supporters to understand what it is that makes him and them dismissive of the risks of global warming. There were a few things I found interesting from his speech in trying to understand where he’s coming from.

Firstly, he sees addressing global warming as being opposed to economic growth, and that it would hinder the alleviation of poverty in the developing world. Secondly, he said the first book he’d read about global warming was one written by a former Margaret Thatcher government minister with no qualifications in climate science that was dismissive of the threat. It’s reported he said:

I don’t know whether all of the warnings about global warming are true or not … I instinctively feel that some of the claims are exaggerated.”

This seems to suggest to me that his views, like those of most people, are not based on a detailed and dispassionate review of the balance of evidence. Most of us, and particularly a former prime minister, are too busy to thoroughly inform ourselves about the nature of a complex issue such as global warming. Instead, we are partly driven in essence to “instinctively” select sources of information which fit with our pre-existing beliefs. A source of information we tend to agree with on other issues is probably viewed as more credible and trustworthy than someone we’ve disagreed with in the past.

Thirdly, he made the following revealing statement:

“I have never rejected, totally, the multiple expressions of concern from many eminent scientists, but the history of  mankind has told me of his infinite capacity to adapt to the changing circumstances of the environment in which he lives. Most in this room with recall the apocalyptic warnings of the Club of Rome, more than 40 years ago. They were experts; they predicted that the world would run out of resources to sustain itself. They were wrong.”

And he concludes with a point which I find profoundly important to this debate:

“Always bear in mind that technology will continue to surprise us.”

Looking through Howard’s points I am struck by the fact that, while I strongly disagree with Howard on the degree of threat posed by global warming, I am completely in accordance with him on both the importance of relieving poverty in the developing world, and the infinite capacity for human ingenuity to invent technologies that get us not just out of a bind, but overall, leaving us much better off. I, just like Howard, am not particularly worried about peak oil or running out of resources because I think humans can come up with substitutes and means of being much more efficient in our use of resources.

The thing is that I think that Howard actually underestimates the capacity for technological surprise. He has been drawn to believe that only with the use of lots more coal and lots more gas will the masses be dragged out of poverty.

It seems Howard and many of his conservative peers have come to see the debate surrounding global warming through the prism of older battles led by left-leaning hippies for us to retreat from technology. Yet many of the people who are most passionate about addressing global warming are also some of the most enthusiastic about the wonders of technology. These people will revel in different technological features of our energy options and enthusiastically tell you about what scientific advances are in the pipeline.

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Categories: Australia, ENVIRONMENT, Markets, TECHNOLOGY

107 Responses

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  1. To sum up the wizened, dessicated little coconut… “She’ll be right, mate”

    by Peter Bayley on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

  2. Getting inside the head of the climate sceptic/LNP supporter (generally one and the same) is difficult, but I agree that is what is needed.

    They have a clear vision of their grandchildren struggling to pay off an awful Labor debt, but no understanding of how those grandchildren might struggle with irreversible climate change….how to convince them to chart a careful course just in case their scepticism proves to be wrong 50 years down the track?

    by leon knight on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm

  3. Howards positions that action of climate change will stifle economic growth and that “technology will continue to surprise us.” seem contradictory. He seems to think technology can overcome the effects of climate change but not sustain economic growth while preventing it.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

  4. Also it is telling that Tony Abbott sees Howard as his mentor - and that for both of them a position on climate change is wholly political.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

  5. Irrationality is not just a conservative thing.

    Ironically, many on the green left “do a Howard” when the likes of James Hansen et al tell them solar and wind will not provide enough power to replace fossil fuels and nuclear must do the heavy lifting.

    Deniers, deniers everywhere, and none will stop to think.

    by @chrispydog on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

  6. The reality, and this has been a much studied phenomena of recent times, that no amount of facts will change a person’s mind, and the heaping of facts upon someone showing their thinking to be backward only entrenches the in their position.

    The deniers are just today’s luddites.

    The belief that technology will save the day is just another intergenerational inequity that the conservatives seem unable to comprehend. The growth for all mantra denies the simple mathematical reality that growth cannot continue forever.

    Mr Knight (2) suggests that they understand that paying off an awful Labor debt shows a clear vision of the inter-generational thing, but I doubt that is at the core of their motive. If the coalition were at all concerned they might have put a few bob away during the boom years rather than pee it up against the wall as they did. No, the ‘good economic managers’ myth has no substance.

    Education won’t work, and Howard was yesterday’s man whenhe was elected. Today he only wishes he was yesterday’s man.

    by Dogs breakfast on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

  7. Chrispydog - many on the Green left are not the Prime Minister of the country!

    Currently we have a situation where many in the conservative govt have views that are at odds with the vast majority of the credible scientific community and those that do agree that climate change is real hold a view on dealing with it that is at odds with the vast majority of the credible economic community.

    This is hardly comparable to the views on the left (that aren’t in a position to make policy) that renewables could not replace fossil fuels (after all Howard himself said “technology will continue to surprise us.”)

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm

  8. It’s refreshing to see a contributor writing in Crikey without the smart-arsed moral superiority I am used to - as illustrated by the comments already posted.

    I would point out however that your observation that “Most of us, … are too busy to thoroughly inform ourselves about the nature of a complex issue such as global warming. Instead, we are partly driven in essence to “instinctively” select sources of information which fit with our pre-existing beliefs.” is a characteristic of humanity, not a symptom of right-of centre views. This is in my view the central failure of the climate lobby and why it can’t shake off the pejorative insult of being a religion.

    The other point I take issue with is that it is not Howard’s belief “that only with the use of lots more coal and lots more gas will the masses be dragged out of poverty”, it is what is actually happening today. Asia, and particularly China and India, are building coal fired power stations at a huge rate. The introduction of electricity to those huge societies is the greatest single contributor to absolute greenhouse emissions today and also to the alleviation of poverty.

    I think Howard sees the potential for much more innovative solutions than a blind commitment to coal.

    by David Hand on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

  9. Dogs Breakfast- I thkn technolocgy will save the day, we just need to create an environment in which investing in creating greener technology is economically beneficial - a price on carbon does that - direct ation does not.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

  10. DAvid Hand - “The other point I take issue with is that it is not Howard’s belief “that only with the use of lots more coal and lots more gas will the masses be dragged out of poverty”, it is what is actually happening today.” That doesn’t mean that such an event is exclusively related to coal and gas.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:43 pm

  11. Howard mindset sees the world through prism of economic growth and no matter how much evidence there is for climate change, like-minded will ignore it due to corporate pressures. Governments are so corporatised now that environmental or other concerns like animal welfare don’t register. They don’t want them to.

    by bluepoppy on Nov 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm

  12. An ETS is still the best policy response to the issue. Even if Howard now wants to pretend he was dragged to it kicking and screaming. Technology that might save us needs market conditions that encourage it to be developed. No one thinks Direct Action will be the mother of invention.

    by Andybob on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:01 pm

  13. When a proven liar speaks, very few, other than his supporters and people that will make money from what he says listen. This liar mouths what the people who will give him money to say what they want him to say and will out of what he says, regardless of the science, accuracy, honesty or integrity of what he says.
    That little bag of dirt was not only chucked out of office but out of his electorate and politics; resigned forever to be a skid mark on underpants of democracy. Why would anyone pay to listen to him?

    by drmick on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:03 pm

  14. I Just can’t help disliking this guy. He should stay out of our political life unless, like one of his predecessors Malcolm Fraser, he begins to get wisdom!
    Otherwise, he should go away again.
    What makes him think that he has a right to inform us of his outdated, musty opinions.
    Oh he wants to help those poor nations, how kind of him..then he should tell Abbott to reinstate the AID funding!!

    by Lady White Peace on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:11 pm

  15. Bluepoppy - “Howard mindset sees the world through prism of economic growth and no matter how much evidence there is for climate change” But his view is also at odds with economists.
    His view then and now is all about political benefit, his speech was simply trying to make things easier for Tony and stop the ALP from saying “your view is at odds with the policy Howard, your mentor, took to the 2007 election.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm

  16. I am completely in accordance with him on both the importance of relieving poverty in the developing world…”

    Howard thought that was so important he cut aid funding to the developing world if it went towards sex education, reproductive health and contraception. Wrong then, wrong now.

    by Cyndi on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm

  17. Howard is master of unintentional irony.

    technology will continue to surprise us.”. Global warming certainly was a surprise, a direct effect of our use of fossil fuel technology. It will continue to surprise.

    He says that global warming is a religion, yet he is perfectly content to by satisfied with his imaginary being in the sky. He admits he has not even looked at the evidence for global warming, yet accepts a god for which there is no evidence.

    by Merve on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm

  18. “Always bear in mind that technology will continue to surprise us.”

    Except if it’s ‘renewables’, in which case the sceptics will find it disappointing and not up to the job.

    Religion: a particular system of faith in something that isn’t renowned for manifesting itself and saving the day when it comes to crunch time.

    by inkblot on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:42 pm

  19. @ Jimmy

    Dogs Breakfast- I thkn technolocgy will save the day, we just need to create an environment in which investing in creating greener technology is economically beneficial - a price on carbon does that - direct ation does not.”

    If it’s all so simple (and almost any scheme to give people a bigger net income stream for emitting less CO2 is going to work to some extent of course) what about giving us some facts and figures which paint a realistic scenario. How much tax on what (and do you include imports which embody, as nearly all do, masses of CO2 in the processes leading to their production and import)? (Those great leaders in the EU don’t seem to have got anything right). Where are the critical points for making someone substitute something suitably green in their business or domestic expenditures, including transport, so we can tell what policy settings will achieve worthwhile results? Who will pay as between taxpayers contributing to the general revenue, consumers of power and what power is used to produce, and even investors though the theory is supposed to work largely by affecting large utilities at the margin so they just find other ways to make as much money? How much less will GDP be reduced (and you could account for the known years - say the last 10) compared with what it would have been if the price of electricity hadn’t been forced up to pay a tax (or will individuals and businesses all prove able to adjust perfectly and get the same benefit from lower consumption of power? Like h**l!). You do of course make adjustment for the time value of money don’t you? So the benefits you expect to flow in future will exceed the costs in the short to medium term - but at what discount rate? Nicholas Stern’s one or zero per cent?

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 2:56 pm

  20. Warren Joffe - I never said it was simple, but it a pretty obvious and unoriginal statement to say that by putting a price on carbon and increasing that price over time by reducing the supply of permits as required to meet a pre-determined target, along with creating long term certainty over the regime and target you drive funds into investmewnt into alternative technologies and as Howard says - technology continues to surprise.

    As for you other queries there are far more qualified people than me to answer those questions - like the 86% of recenlty surveyed economists who supported a price on carbon, John Hewson or Malcolm Turnbull just for starters.

    As one economist said recently - any economist who does not think a price on carbon is the best solution should hand back their degree.

    NB (The only economists who didn’t support a price on Carbon also didn’t bel ieve in climate change).

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

  21. @ Tristan Edis

    What is the ground of your lofty confidence? I see you attended Melbourne University from 1994-97. Did you get say first class honours in physics which would have given you some of the basics for doing s serious review of published work on climate science and even to do some serious work your self for a supervised PhD? No, I didn’t think so.

    So your views are as derivative as 99 per cent of Crikey blog commenters and I wonder if your sources of information are, after you have closely questioned them - as you should, as sound and solid as the kind of people John Howard can get to advise him - or Nigel Lawson. BTW Lawson’s book only gives about 15 per cent to discussion of the science.

    If you claim expertise as opposed to employment in fashionable PR for a particular point of view can you provide answers to (comparatively) recent work suggesting that most of the CO2 increases have derived from warming of the oceans and that most of the fossil fuel emissions have been taken up in extra tree growth? Also, something I have just come across, the views of one Bob Tisdale, on the place of ENSO in global warming (his video is so long that I haven’t seen it all but it does appear to be very thorough - at the very least making it possible to falsify his views if someone has the expertise required)?

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

  22. Instinctive’ behaviour is not learned. It is genetically determined.

    If Howard is effectively saying that he can’t help himself when it comes to climate science, who are we to doubt him?

    by Boerwar on Nov 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm

  23. @ Jimmy

    I note that you agree that things aren’t simple. But you did say “just” in “we just need to create an environment in which investing in creating greener technology is economically beneficial”. I’m sorry if you expected others to edit your work for you, and I failed in that obligation.

    And in case you are inclined to quibble again let me point out that you believe in a simple tax to create the disincentive to investing in anything but greener technology. So “simple”…..

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

  24. Warren - If your argument is so weak you have to hang it on the pedantry you really should review it.

    But yes I did say “just” and in the context that the 1 act of putting a price on Carbon would be all that is required to increase the flow of funds to green technology and that flow of funds will increase the rate at which technology surprises us, I never said that 1 act would be simple or that the subsequent research and technological breakthroughs would be simple, but only that we need just one act.
    And I don’t believe in a simple tax but a market based mechanism - which is not simple - if you can’t distinguish between the 2 you have no place in the discussion.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 3:25 pm

  25. Civilisation exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice”….Climate changes, crikey (!) it would be slightly boring if it did not.. Wake Up! it is cod’s wallop of the highest dimension…Get over it…the world will survive…let’s get on with the economic pudenda / agenda… prosperity and humanity… It is not ‘deniers’ who are ‘luddites’…it is the warmists (I thought we called it ‘climate change’ now..!!) the ‘warmists’ are flagrant flat earth advocates… See you in 100 years…

    by graham churcher on Nov 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

  26. Apologist garbage to gratify people who will rightly be seen by future generations as the willing and enthusiastic engineers of a holocaust from which the human race might never recover.

    Grovelling to conservatives will do nothing but drag us further from a viable policy. Spending endless time reflecting on their stupidity is just another way to promote their vicious, monstrous agenda. You don’t seek to understand Howard, you seek to normalize him.

    In fifty years time young people will ask ‘why weren’t you treating these people like the mass murdering lunatics they so clearly are?’ and if we answer “we were too busy trying to look clever and ‘even handed’ for the false centrist set”, then we will be rightly damned.

    I’m all for learning how to ruin these people. How to fight them, how to undermine them, dirty secrets they have, it’s all good and it’s all fair game.

    But you’re not doing that here. What you’re doing is perpetuating some of the key myths that cripple a proper retaliation against these criminals.

    by Michael Jones on Nov 6, 2013 at 4:38 pm

  27. Good grief!!.. what astonishing vitriol.!!..another few lines of unmitigated drivel>>. …Have a cold shower whilst we still have some cold water.. obviously we will be incinerated before the break of whenever…

    by graham churcher on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

  28. Those who might find it more interesting to read what John Howard said than the comments of the Editor of the Climate Spectator on it can find what is presumably the same text at

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/australia/australia-features/9071781/one-religion-is-enough/

    BTW, who finances the Climate Spectator and what are its annual receipts and outgoings? That seems a fair question to those who imagine that someone paying a fare for Prof Bob Carter to speak at a conference in the US, long after he took up, for no academic or financial reward, a sceptical view of “the science”, is dodgy.

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

  29. Howard is repudiating his own 2007 policies of necessity.
    Remember how, in the interregnum between his first and second challenge to the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull and those same Howard ETS policies, Abbott famously petitioned Howard for his support and then only won by one vote with the old man on his side?
    This dissembling from Howard is aimed at settling the conservative pack, but by going in the face of climate reality as he does, he only highlight Abbott’s weakness.
    As did that one vote win with Howard’s support.
    They will probably do some sort of non-lethal John Paul I on Abbott, and put Malcolm back.
    It is clear that, in the long run, Howard and Abbott and not Turnbull will be the losers in repudiating the ETS.
    Then there is the fear and loathing of The Greens.
    More unseemly weakness.

    by Hamis Hill on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:14 pm

  30. “Always bear in mind that technology will continue to surprise us.”
    Except that the technology isn’t given a chance to run:
    * Wind turbines - Not within 2km of a protesting landholder
    * Concentrated Solar Thermal - No-one to back it, needs grants, etc
    * Solar PV - Got a bit of a run, but not really being supported much anymore

    by Ryan Akers on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm

  31. @ Jimmy

    You make another elementary error. I am not even remotely interested in arguing with you. My expressed pedantry was simply a response to your purporting to answer something I said but, instead, stuffing it up. I half hoped to be helpful to you and other people who might waste their time on Crikey blogs. So far from pursuing an argument with you I didn’t finish reading that emission of yours nor your latest.

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:22 pm

  32. am not even remotely interested in arguing with you” No apparently you are more interested in posting statements that add nothing to the discussion in the misguided belief that they make you seem superior to others.

    I don’t need your help nor did I ask for it, so if you don’t have anything constructive to offer keep your pedantry to yourself.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

  33. You on the left can understand the skepticism though can’t you? The science profession, especially in the climatology field, has taken a big hit in credibility over the last few years. Climategate’s 1 and 2, the hockey stick, the IPCC AR4 issues around environmentalists being chapter authors, Peter Gleick; it’s all been a blow to the science.
    And even with the science, while the theory is relatively sound, the statistical analysis of the temperature records and the climate forecast modeling has been crap. The dealing with uncertainty and errors has been rubbish.
    There is a reason why most of the leading skeptics/lukewarmers have advanced mathematics/statistical backgrounds…They look at the statistical analysis in the peer reviewed reports (the peers usually don’t include statisticians, though they are starting to now) and see the flaws.

    by Scott on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

  34. @ Ryan Akers

    Why should Solar PV need government/ taxpayer support? The Chinese have, I accept from secondary sources, reduced the price of solar panels by 80 per cent over the last 6 years. No need for those fashionable giveaways to the relatively well off who could install solar panels 5-10 years ago and receive feed-in tariff concessions.

    Forget about wind, despite the theoretical possibility of linking up sources of windpower in widely distant locations: it’s never going to make sense if competing against the cost of coal fired power in Australia.

    Agreed that concentrated solar thermal seems attractive but what sort of case is there for Australia to leap in with subsidies instead of waiting for the Spanish, or French or whoever to market a proven package at half the price we could achieve starting from near scratch. To enliven the imagination, just think how much could have been saved if we bought our submarines from competent established foreign builders rather than indulging in the Collins class folly.

    Anyone serious about cutting our CO2 emissions would be (a) buying up vast areas of tropical rainforest which is otherwise going to be burned - and thereby contribute a huge proportion of the world’s annual CO2 emissions from burning organic fuels; and (b) buying proven nuclear power plants from the French or Canadians or Chinese.

    I have to qualify my put down of wind because, without anything but my own imagination, I can see storage by lifting water as being a serious contributor to making wind, wave or tide viable.

    Apart from the creating of potential energy in the shape of water stored well above hydro power turbines there will surely be rapid developments in chemical storage and other techological surprises and unsurprising steady progress. Then solar should really come into its own.

    In the meantime I can think of better things to do with taxpayers’ money than make futile gestures that will have no practical benefit for Australia under 99.99 per cent of imaginable circumstances.

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:39 pm

  35. No Jimmy, only superior to you…..

    by Warren Joffe on Nov 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm

  36. Warren, I appreciate that you can mount a serious objection to more or less every single plan (except nuclear) that has ever been floated to attempt to combat AGW (and I don’t mean or intend to argue about semantics). I wonder though, if you think ANY response to AGW is necessary? You say you can “…think of better things to do with taxpayers’ money than make futile gestures that will have no practical benefit for Australia under 99.99 per cent of imaginable circumstances”, but I wonder if you think ANY taxpayers’ money should be spent on AGW? Any at all. Apart from buying Chinese nuclear power stations (would that be private or “taxpayers’” money) is there anything at all that Australia should do to adapt to rising sea levels and predicted changes to regional climates across Australia?

    by Hugh (Charlie) McColl on Nov 6, 2013 at 6:23 pm

  37. It’s rather curious that Mr Howard can on the one hand claim that climate scientists have a naked political agenda, then on the other hand claim that we’ll be saved by technology. Technology is basically the implementation of scientific research (physics, chemistry and increasingly biology). Maybe these scientists working in technology may also have a naked political agendas. Better beware Mr Howard !

    by bjb on Nov 6, 2013 at 6:46 pm

  38. is a characteristic of humanity, not a symptom of right-of centre views”
    Sorry it is not a characteristic of humanity but mainly of Anglo Celtic laziness and decadence. Villagers in Cambodia, Afghanistan and India have a better understanding of politics and social dynamics than we do.
    I have always said Howard never believed in global warming he simply reacted to community pressure, Abbott will do the same if he fears losing an election on this issue. That is why he will not defend his direct action fiasco.

    by Paul on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:01 pm

  39. Is Mr Howard a (climate) scientists. I know he’s a hypocrite and a war criminal, but a scientist?

    by dazza on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:04 pm

  40. Yes bjb, to me that was always one of the most tedious of Howard’s spin techniques, that is, claiming that almost anyone who disagreed with him had a political agenda and therefore, should be automatically discounted. It always seemed to discount the fact that Howard was a somewhat obsessed politician since the early 70’s. Somehow, his own viewpoint and that of his spinning colleagues was totally untainted by all that nasty politics.
    Also, another turgid bit of conservative spin that I find tiresome, is the labelling of concern for climate change, as some sort of green religion. It’s interesting that the origin of this particular confection, was the Bush Jr era Republicans and its original form was that it was ‘a religion for urban atheists’. The implication being that rural Christians were the superior real Americans, as opposed to those nasty liberals who lived in cities near the coast and voted Democrat.

    by Electric Lardyland on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm

  41. The Club of Rome did not predict as he claims. Howard claims that:

    They were experts; they predicted that the world would run out of resources to sustain itself. They were wrong.”

    He needs to do some research before shooting off the mouth.

    by Kevin Herbert on Nov 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm

  42. Hmm it’s a pity that “I instinctively feel that some of the claims are exaggerated” wasn’t the case when he considered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The same mindset really, he had decided to go to war and found the evidence to suit, now he doesn’t believe in climate change and finds the evidence to match. The death toll as a result of his deceit and incompetence in Iraq is estimated to be as high as 500,000, what will the cost be of the denial of climate change?

    by Terry Simons on Nov 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

  43. Howard is an ex politician, ex prime minister. Politicians have trained and become experts in their own sides of politics on the basis of what they believe is good for the economy. All policy roads lead to economic growth or one kind or another. Climate change has thrown a spanner in the works and none of them are prepared for the kinds of challenges this presents so they just continue with the old ways they know and hope for the best - somewhere, somehow.
    They’re all just politicians now. Same old same old. Leadership on climate change is being left to the fates.

    by Lee Miller on Nov 6, 2013 at 8:47 pm

  44. Interesting that Howard should quote the writings of a former Margaret Thatcher government minister, because the Iron Lady herself was an early recogniser of the threat of climate change, not just to the environment, but to the British economy. His latest views are typical of the short-sighted, narrow-minded view of the world which he displayed in Government. Remember, it is only now that everyone is waking up to the unsustainable fiscal situation which he and Costello left their successors, Abbott and Hockey included.

    by PaulM on Nov 6, 2013 at 8:50 pm

  45. Warren Joffe - It may be that your comments To seem superior only to me but they are still misguided and add nothing to the conversation, but as long as you get that smug inner warmth of self satisfaction from your inane comments than I guess that’s all that matters.

    by Jimmy on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:04 pm

  46. @warren - you don’t need to be a physicist to be a journalist - being a journalist is a profession. Besides i doubt physicists can write as eloquently and articulately as Tristan.

    by Ed on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:29 pm

  47. The belief that technology will come to our rescue ‘just in the nick of time’ is akin to an unsubstantiated religious faith. It is naive to the extreme Bernard.

    Foremost, the problems that beset us have been brought about the by instrumentalist approach to the world - that the world is malleable, orderable and subordinate to our (economic) and materialist interests. The problem will not be resolved by shifting merely from capitalism with fossil fuels to capitalism with windmills.

    Secondly, there is invariably a considerable lag and disconnect between the development of a technology against the implementation stemming for cultural, economic and social legacies that impose inertia. And technologies will never serve as a perfect solution when the economic imperative to a technology’s development outweighs all other considerations. The Ingenuity Gap by Professor Thomas F Homer-Dixon and Future Hype by Bob Seidensticker are excellent works on the subject.

    At to Howard, I would say it’s rich in the extreme to hear this man pontificate about alleviating global poverty as a practitioner of an economic globalist paradigm (neoliberalism) that indebted the poor, the working and middle class and 3rd world nations across the planet to a global elite - the kind of people in attendance at his speech.

    The man sickens me.

    by supermundane on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm

  48. In the end, I actually think we’re screwed no matter what. We’ve overshot massively so that there’s no way we can sustain out current lifestyles - the upgrading of our mobile phones every 6 months and our ditching of our 80” TV for the latest 100” TV’s - and resolve climate change, acidification of the oceans, soil fertility depletion, mass extinction, water constraints, overfishing, bee colony collapse (I could go on). All are syptomatic consequences of our ‘ingenuity’

    This world or TV’s, fridges, gadgets and having it all now is an aberration in the course of human and geological history. We can’t have our cake and eat it too, to use the old analogy.

    Your faith in technological solutionism is ultimately the religious POV Bernard.

    by supermundane on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:55 pm

  49. Sorry, I thought the article was by Bernard Keane for some reason. It read very much like one of his articles. My responses are addressed to Tristian.

    by supermundane on Nov 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm

  50. @Warren Joffe
    “what sort of case is there for Australia to leap in with subsidies instead of waiting for the Spanish, or French or whoever to market a proven package at half the price we could achieve starting from near scratch.”

    A very valid economic reason. Those who are the first with technology and develop it generally make the most money out of it by selling the technology to others. With the natural resources and brainpower we have in Australia we are crazy not to be in on the development and refinement of such technology.

    by Ken Dally on Nov 6, 2013 at 10:20 pm

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