The Prime Minister reluctantly acknowledges “the broad theory about global warming” but is “sceptical about a lot of the more gloomy predictions”. John Howard’s scepticism is in stark contrast to the views of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who describes the challenge of global warming as “so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power, that it alters radically human existence.”

What the two leaders do agree on is the difficulty of the politics of addressing climate change, even if they express their agreement in rather different ways.

As Blair explains it, the political dilemma is that the “likely effect will not be felt to its full extent until after the time for the political decisions that need to be taken, has passed. In other words, there is a mismatch in timing between the environmental and electoral impact.” John Howard addresses the political dilemma in this way: “A country like Australia has got to balance a concern for greenhouse gas emissions with a concern for the enormous burden to be carried by consumers … of what you might call an anti-greenhouse policy.”

In other words, Blair advocates taking a radical approach to climate change now because the risks to the planet are too high, even though it will probably result in short-term political damage to his government. Howard, meanwhile, advocates an “anti-greenhouse policy” because a tougher approach would result in short-term political damage to his government.

Howard Government 1, Australia 0.

Peter Fray

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