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Abbott and Harper renew a blinkered coalition of denialism

Tony Abbott’s efforts to stymie international action on climate change ignores how central climate change is becoming to economic and security issues.

There’s a certain inevitability about Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper standing shoulder-to-shoulder in an effort to stymie international action on climate change. That’s not just because they’re middle-aged white conservatives, which is defining demography of climate denialism — if CO2 caused baldness and erectile dysfunction climate change would have been addressed decades ago — but because they lead two of the world’s most carbon-intensive major economies, both of which are reliant on resources exports.

It’s also a partial renewal of climate denialist triumvirate of the 2000s, a Coalition of the Unwilling in which Australian prime minister John Howard, US president George W. Bush and Harper as the new conservative kid on the block, fought hard to undermine binding global action on climate change and the Kyoto Accord. Harper is now the senior partner, with Abbott the new deputy denier. For a side of politics that insists nothing Australia does can have an impact on global warming, Coalition governments are always awfully busy trying to stop international action.

Tragically, however, George W. Bush has been replaced by a Democrat, and one who has belatedly decided to route around the Republican Party’s denialism and use his executive powers to impose an emissions reduction target on power plants. The Obama administration has also made it clear for some months that it wanted this year’s G20 meeting to take climate change seriously, a potential humiliation for Australia given the Abbott government’s stance. Australia’s response to the US push so far seems to have been derived from Basil Fawlty’s “don’t mention the war” approach.

For Harper, Abbott and the fossil fuel interests that support them, preventing climate change is at best a kind of luxury good beyond our budget.”

The problem for Abbott is not merely his apparently genetic disposition to dismiss climate change, nor his party’s strong financial links with fossil fuel industries and businesses opposed to regulation of any sort. It’s an inability to understand the linkages that mean climate change pervades the biggest issues facing Australia and isn’t some separate matter, like saving koalas, that can be dumped into a box and ignored. The global insurance and reinsurance industries are already dealing with a huge increase in insured losses due to extreme weather events since 1980. Unlike Canada, Australia’s geography and climate means it will be hard hit by climate change in coming decades — while trying to cope with an aging population at the same time — driving up prices, depressing economic and jobs growth, increasing pressure on infrastructure. For the sake of its future economy, Australia desperately needs global action to bring global warming under control. For the Abbott government, however, future generations are only thought about when they provide a reason to cut spending, not address a far bigger economic threat than government debt.

Climate change is also a national security issue. If other older conservative males can’t cope with the idea of climate change, America’s military brass have no difficulty. The Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review of March this year warned that climate change would increase the cost of future operations and increase the threat faced by the US:

Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing , more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Australia has its own version of exactly the same problem, as climate change begins to affect the small island states of the South Pacific — initially economically and then, eventually, so severely that whole states will have to be abandoned — and there’s nowhere else for their citizens to come but Australia and New Zealand.

One of the great successes of opponents of first, environmental action and now, climate action, has been to frame action to protect the environment as incompatible with economic growth — that environmental protection is a kind of luxury good only available at times of great prosperity. As the economic and national security implications of climate change are increasingly demonstrating, that framing is not merely a political device used by business interests, but it’s one that blinkers those who use it.

For Harper, Abbott and the fossil fuel interests that support them, preventing climate change is at best a kind of luxury good beyond our budget. But other leaders have begun realising that it is deeply connected to the biggest challenges they face.

41
  • 1
    Kate
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    It’s not just future tense: warming is already seriously impacting on Australia (and elsewhere). One example: extreme heatwaves during summer significantly affected economic activity and caused deaths, particularly amongst the elderly. We are not even implementing the coping strategies needed now, let alone in the future. More severe droughts, bushfires, flooding- we have very recent experience of these events, linked to warming. It’s a mistake to just talk about these as future events, when we know that the future will be more of the same, of greater frequency and intensity.

  • 2
    zut alors
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    If Abbott refuses to included climate change on the G20 agenda it would be a master stroke if Obama refused to attend.

  • 3
    SusieQ
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Abbott and Harper, our very own version of Dumb and Dumber.

  • 4
    Honest Johnny
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    As well as patting each other on the back, I wonder if Abbott had a chance to criticize the Canadian Government for continuing to allow the export of asbestos to India, and likely to cause countless health issues in that country?

  • 5
    Honest Johnny
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Two leaders both suffering the same cognitive dissonance = political ally.

  • 6
    aswann
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    It is a shame if these hoons are going to delay worldwide action at all, but really these two are lighting their own funeral pyre. You just can’t argue against the planet. She can shout louder. I am reminded of the arguments against lightning rods, which all ended rather badly for those who were on the traditional side.

  • 7
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Canada, the Third Eye. Of the Five, I mean, of the Five.
    And definitely not wide & Brown like ours…

  • 8
    MarilynJS
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Harper has even re-opened asbestos mines. I grew up in the SA Mallee and worked at the local paper where all the records were kept from the time of the settlement of the area in 1908 by my Great Grandfather.

    Before the area was strip cleared and up to 1950 the average rainfall was 20 inches per annum, by the late 1960’s it was 12 inches and getting drier and drier with massive droughts and dust storms.

    In the late 1980’s a couple of cousins started Trees for life in the region, now they have less drought effects and the soils are being revitalised.

  • 9
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Don’t look now, but is that Sir Les Abbott, or Sir Toady Patterson coming this way?

  • 10
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Commonwealth — > Common Dearth

  • 11
    Iskandar
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Friends in Canada assure me that Harper is recognised as a right-wing ideologue, and is detested by progressives coast to coast. A perfect pal for our Tony, and as unpopular.

    Abbott made one of his bumbling gaffes yesterday by calling Canada “Canadia” in a speech, igniting a storm of hoots in the social media.

    Like a typical white conservative male, Abbott cannot resist a bit of militarism; speaking at the war memorial in Ottawa, extolling the roles Canada and Australia played in 19th century British colonial wars, demonstrating again that he lives in the wrong century.

    Prior to that, at that other glorification of past wars at Normandy, Abbott was spotted having a tete-a-tete with the US-installed puppet President of Ukraine, Poroshenko. Could Abbott be contemplating another phase of military adventurism to boost his collapsing popularity? It worked for Thatcher and Howard after all. Best watch our Tony carefully when he returns.

  • 12
    Hunted Snark
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Iskandar, but hasn’t he already declared war on the Boats?

  • 13
    old greybeard
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Abbott is apparently linguistically as well as scientifically illiterate. Harper is a function of the ineptitude of opposition parties in Canada, where I have family. I’m not sure why he thinks smooching a complete nitwit is of benefit. Certainly my in laws consider Harper’s very name to be swearing. I do think, however that some of the thoughts on Putin are relevant. He is a threat and I don’t think there is anything particularly US about the Ukraine situation. Poor policy yeas.

  • 14
    fractious
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    The problem for Abbott is not merely his apparently genetic disposition to dismiss climate change, nor his party’s strong financial links with fossil fuel industries and businesses opposed to regulation of any sort. It’s an inability to understand the linkages that mean climate change pervades the biggest issues facing Australia and isn’t some separate matter, like saving koalas, that can be dumped into a box and ignored.

    Even on a personal level for Abbott it goes even further than that. He has 3 children - I’d really like to know what *their* view on climate change is - who are part of a generation who will have to deal with the effects already ‘in the pipeline’, let alone any additional load that disruption to global commitment might bring.

    For Harper, Abbott and the fossil fuel interests that support them, preventing climate change is at best a kind of luxury good beyond our budget. But other leaders have begun realising that it is deeply connected to the biggest challenges they face

    In addition, what Harper, Abbott and their ilk either don’t care about or choose to wilfully ignore is that in a couple of decades (or sooner) R&D and deployment of renewable energy sources, the technology associated with that and smarter use of dwindling resources is where all the smart money will be. Yes, the Harpers and Abbotts (and their backer$$$) may get away with it for a bit longer, but in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time when all the investment and innovation isn’t in Australia or Canada or whataver other nation invokes pariah status, what then?

  • 15
    francoontarienne
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    It is not fair to say that Canada will not be hit as hard as Australia by climate changes: the Eastern coast is quickly eroding due to more frequent storms in the Atlantic, and so is the terra firma of the North, as the pergélisol gradually disappears. Villages of fishermen and inuit settlements have already been wiped off the Map.

  • 16
    LucyJr
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Abbott’s particular old white view is continually fed by his company of Bolts and Joneses. Now finding the world has moved on, he clings to mirror-image Harper.

    As for insurance and climate. They were a little slow on the uptake but are with-it now. Some old whites can change their habits.

  • 17
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Climate Change is a left / right issue.

    The left use it to increase taxes to give more to the low and no income earners. The worlds temperatures have not increases for 16 years or something like that and the failed polar expedition a few months ago by lefties, saw then stuck in the ice.

    Yes do your bit to help the environment, but not at the cost of jobs (mostly low income jobs)

  • 18
    Honest Johnny
    Posted Tuesday, 10 June 2014 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s ironic isn’t it Suzanne, that the left have introduced an ETS based on the very capitalistic system of market trading, whereas the right, in order to create some differentiation have gone the opposite direction, the socialistic method of making all the taxpayers pay money from the tax base to ‘reward’ big business to reduce emissions (to help big business pay for those low income jobs). It’s all politics and ideology Suzanne, and you fall directly in line with it.

  • 19
    pragmatic
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 1:04 am | Permalink

    Again, no vision beyond the next election.

  • 20
    JohnB
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 2:15 am | Permalink

    Pragmatic is an optimist.

    Still focussed entirely on fighting yesterday’s wars, with no vision of tomorrow, let alone next election.

  • 21
    pritu
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Can anyone with knowledge of what’s happening in Canadian politics explain what has happened to their Liberal party?

  • 22
    Chris Hartwell
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Suzanne Blake demonstrates (once more) the outright-wrong thinking on environmental damage mitigation, that it somehow damages the economy.

    Protip: if you can’t environment without damaging the economy, you fail at economy. Mitigation of climate change through renewable energy deployment and maintenance, eco-tourism (of places like, say, the Great Barrier Reef), et al, are an economic goldmine, and will pay dividends long, long into the future, with sustainable and ever-increasing numbers of jobs being created as even the largest of the world’s economies realise, shit guys, this stuff in the ground is FINITE.

    But let’s not let facts get in the way of a little politicising.

  • 23
    Carlton Reginaldo
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    That would seem a euphemism that retracts on the funding of diseases of affluence/ignorance such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and HIV/AIDS. Perhaps not 100% but it is all relative.

  • 24
    j.oneill
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    The SMH recently suggested that Abbott and Harper were hoping to found an anti-climate change lobby with other conservative led governments in New Zealand and the UK. Which demonstrates yet again how ill-informed our msm and political leaders are. The UK has major polices directed at the mitigation of the effects of climate change, and New Zealand has an emission trading scheme among other policies.

    Abbott’s stance on climate change is entirely consistent with the Coalition’s anti-science approach generally (as seen in the slashing of science based bodies’ budgets) and their total enthralment to the fossil fuel industry.

    By way of postscript, Abbott’s embarrassingly bad attempts at schoolboy French with the French children confirm yet again the man’s pathological inability do the right thing.

  • 25
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Suzanne Blake - We have had a Price on Carbon now for almost 2 years, could you explain how it has negatively impacted on growth and jobs?

    Also could you outline how many job losses will be caused by this Govt’s cutting of investment into renewable energy?

    Also (this is a little off topic) given your prediction of the return of business and consumer confidence once the Coalition got back into power could you explain why both are currently in the toilet?

    Could you also outline what impact you believe climate change will have on future economic prosperity and compare/contrast that with any respected economist?

    Yes do your bit to help the environment, but not at the cost of jobs” The perfect example of short term thinking (or in theis can short term regurgitation of liberal party slogans as we are all well aware of your incapcity to think)

  • 26
    Luke Hellboy
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    At least with the expanding deserts in Australia, politicians will have even more sand to stick their heads into.

  • 27
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    @Jimmy Union Organiser

    Suzanne Blake - We have had Carbon Tax now for almost 2 years, could you explain how it has negatively impacted on growth and jobs?

    Growth and Jobs in Australia has stagnated for 5 years now -
    thanks to Labor / Green waste and the knock on impact through the economy. The only Jobs to increase were wastful public service ones. Now the current Government needs to cut to reduce deficit and reduce our $1b a month interest bill or which $700m goes offshore. This also impacts on jobs and growth and confidence. They take the blame for Labor Green waste.

    Also could you outline how many job losses will be caused by this Govt’s cutting of investment into renewable energy?

    Renewable energy - like Wind farms - google want happens to wind farms once subsidies stop. also the noise impact on locals.

    Could you also outline what impact you believe climate change will have on future economic prosperity and compare/contrast that with any respected economist? NONE, its all left wing mantra to move wealth from everyone to low and no income earners. Its been exposed now for what it was.

  • 28
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    SB - “Growth and Jobs in Australia has stagnated for 5 years now” Putting aside the fact that for Growth to have stagnated we would need to see 0% growth or lower instead of the 2.5% plus we have seen over the past 5 years - you are referring to something being constant for the past 5 years - meaning the introduction of the carbon tax just 2 years ago has had no impact - thanks for conceding the point.

    Renewable energy - like Wind farms - google want happens to wind farms once subsidies stop. also the noise impact on locals.” Yes and Solar and Geothermal, and Wave etc. - The noise impact has been proven again and again to be non existant through actual studies not stories down the RSL but as you didn’t answer my question I assume you concede that point to.

    NONE, its all left wing mantra to move wealth from everyone to low and no income earners. Its been exposed now for what it was.” Hmmm could you point me to some evidence of this theory and your so called exposing? Could you explain while every credible economist, climate scientist and numerous heads of state (including US, UK, EU and even China) disagree with you?

    I note you didn’t address why consumer and business confidence have tanked under your beloved tories - so I will assume you concede you were wrong on that as well.

    I do feel sorry for you, finding out what you thought would be utopia is really a toxic wasteland, to have argued so long against Gillard for not telling the truth only to find Abbott is breaking promises left right and centre and to have your delusioal paradise slowly crumble under the weight on reality.

  • 29
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    @Jimmy

    You must be from the Left spin office with that response. I did answer your question.

    The Carbon Tax did indeed cause a loss of confidence and lost jobs, look at all the job loss PR’s that mention carbon tax, or spun out “the price of carbon”

    The 2014 budget has also hit confidence - cause it needed to be harsh to turn around the Labor debt and deficit, that is costing is $1 billion (100 million) a month in interest alone, of which $700m is sent off shore. Even with the cuts, we wont be in surplus for 10 years.

    Look at Swan & Co, 600’s references to surplus, letter box drops saying we are back in surplus, yet it was all lies. Even you must see that.

    There is able evidence that wind farms are useless, they are cost justified with massive government subsidies, but not without. Wind, solar and wave only provide power when there is wind, enough sun and ebough waves. My solar panels produced 5 KwH today and produce 20 KwH in summer a day. Its worth it for me as I get 60c, but not worth it at 5c.

    On Gillard, please explain todays revelation at the Royal Commission!!!

  • 30
    fractious
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    #17 Suzanne Blake:
    “Climate Change is a left / right issue”

    Facts and sound science know nothing of arbitrary political cliches. It’s also a fact that your descendants (I’m assuming you have children) will have to deal with the worst of the (significant) effects, and I suspect they won’t thank any of their forebears who displayed disdain for the truth.

  • 31
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    @ fractious
    Its a left wing scare campaign, that is being proven to be false over the last 20 years, as temperatures stable. The World’s climate has been evolving for 1000’s of years, as you know.

  • 32
    MarilynJS
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Oh dear, another poor old Suzanne who fails to mention the trifling thing called the GFC.

  • 33
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    @MarilynJS

    The GFC was 2008 - March 2009!!

  • 34
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 11 June 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Also SB fails to realise the number of right wing govts that have put a price on Carbon, the UK and California for starters plus NZs current govt supports theirs.

  • 35
    Xnod Yudd
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    That’s not just because they’re middle-aged white conservatives, which is defining demography of climate denialism”

    How racist. Are you saying that only white conservatives are smart enough to recognize AGW for the leftist con that it is? Their lack of gullibility must be very frustrating for you.

    I love liberal logic. Whether or not a particular scientific theory is true has nothing to do with the phenomena the theory is concerned with: its truth can be ascertained by looking at the political party and race of its proponents. Crikey. Good thing you’re a “politics editor” and not involved in actual politics.

     — if CO2 caused baldness and erectile dysfunction climate change would have been addressed decades ago”

    And now you misattribute the ethics of gold digging bimbos like Sandra Fluke to male conservatives. When was the last time you ever heard them claiming that if you didn’t pay for their hairpieces and viagra, you were “denying them access” and similar silliness? They don’t obsess over these issues which you seem to have fixated on. Project much?

    But it is funny that you have so little regard for the sponging ethics of your own political in group that you misattribute it to people who believe differently, in order to criticize them.

  • 36
    Chris Hartwell
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Oh lawdy she’s actually citing wind farm syndrome like it’s a real thing.

    I quit.

  • 37
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    @Jimmy

    Did you see todays Unemployment figures were 0.5% lower than Swans forecast in the 2013 budget

  • 38
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    SB - I must say I find it hillarious to watch you flail so wildly - looks theres the royal commission dragging up 20 year old allegations, look Swan said we would be in surplus, the carbon tax caused a loss of confidence, I did answer your question - your arguments clearly stand up and you are trying desperately to shift attention and you are grasping at the slightest straw.

    I know it must be comfortable in your alternate universe but you really do need to join us in reality.

  • 39
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Also SB, your theory on “confidence” was in relation to my argument that the libs would have to cut services to keep their spending promises while cutting the mining and carbon taxes but you said increased confidence would raise tax revenue? What happened?

  • 40
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    @ Jimmy

    I am not sure why it is hard for you to understand. The Labor debt interest bill is $1 billion (1000 million) dollars a month, of which $700m is paid to overseas lenders. To reduce this and start paying the debt, there needs to be changes, and these changes impact everyone and this has a knock on impact to consumer confidence. The level of debt, plus the unknown Swan raid on RBA reserves (which need to be restored) is now clearly evident.

    There is no way Swan could have achieved a surplus - even you must admit that.

    There is no chance of a surplus this decade and not well into the next decade.

    Confidence will return sometime in 2015 and they will means more jobs, more tax revenue and a faster pay down on the debt.

  • 41
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 12 June 2014 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    SB- I understand perfectly, you predicted the change in govt would lead to a surge in confidence that would send tax revenue surging, yet now it hasn’t happened, now that the Libs broken promises (again predicted by me before the election) have lead to the worst confidence levels in years, now that the fact that you can’t cut taxes, increase spending and return to surplus is dawning on those who voted Abbott in (you excepted) you somehow blame debt levels that have been known for years.

    The one thing you are right about is something had to be done about eventually getting us back into surplus but choosing to cut the revenue coming from the Carbon and mining taxes and spending billions on “direct action” and the PPL has meant that the burden has shifted from those who can most afford it to those who can least afford it and some of the things that Australians hold dear, universal health care and access to higher education plus a safety net for the unemployed have been attacked - this is why the polls are running so badly, this is why confidence is down, this is why jobs figures are flat - not one of the smallest govt debts in the OECD

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