Oct 24, 2013

Climate policy: when adults squib it, youth should take direct action

In the absence of action on climate change from our political class, young people are entitled to wonder whether 'direct action' of their own can end the rip-off being perpetrated on them and on future generations.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor


Greg Hunt is an adult sent on a youth’s errand.

It’s easy to think the opposite. With that boyish appearance, high voice and youthful enthusiasm, the Environment Minister can seem like the work experience kid mistaken for the boss. But Hunt is a seasoned political grown-up: a person who understands that you can’t be too wedded to your ideals if you’re going to make your mark in politics. People throw his master’s thesis on climate change at him as though politicians — or any vaguely intelligent individual — should for a lifetime adhere to the views they held in their early 20s. That’s unfair, and misses the point that Hunt has only done what most politicians who have any chance of actually wielding power have done, which is allow one’s positions to be dictated by political expedience. Moreover, in any event Hunt no longer relies on the ivory towers of academe for his knowledge about climate change, in preference for the greater rigour of Wikipedia.

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73 thoughts on “Climate policy: when adults squib it, youth should take direct action

  1. Jimmy

    Very good article BK – I fear history will judge us very harshly on this issue and in time they will look back and ask “Exactly why did people vote out the ALP for Tony Abbott?

  2. mikehilliard

    Bernard I suspect you have some passion for this argument, good on you.

  3. [email protected]

    Excellent article. Straight to the essence of the issue.

  4. Burt Chris

    Bush fires in Australia? Whatever next? What we do in Australia is completely irrelevent to a solution that would have the smallest impact on a global basis. The carbon tax here has proven to be unpopular and ineffective so the people have decided a different approach to be preferable. BK as per normal practice ignores their veiws and dismisses anyone who has a different view.

  5. Trevor Kerr

    :))) Bernard
    Like to venture an opinion on the mood in the Turnbull household today, after Hunt’s routine? The canvas is all yours, 70% of the outlets will be looking the other way.

  6. Roger Clifton

    Before we urge the youngsters to wreck their studies, their careers and their relationships with old friends and extended family, we oldies should remember the lessons hard-learnt during the anti-Vietnam unrest.

    Most powerfully, youngsters can use their vote. Persuading their contemporaries is the safest and most effective activity for young revolutionaries.

    Even then, as many religious groups did in the 1970s, there comes a time when the oldies must stand up and back a youngster who has got him/herself into trouble on principle.

    We oldies must face the music too. Why did we use the weasel word “reduce”, when we should have used the word “replace”? Why did we aim our armchair attacks at coal, but never at gas? Why did we fail to provide non-carbon electricity to essential industries like aluminium smelting?

  7. Hunt Ian

    Burt Chris makes some short completely wrong comments. Yes, what Australia does on it its own will not reduce global warming much. No doubt Burt Chris has tramped on many lawns reasoning that what he does to the lawn by himself will not affect it much. Burt Chris has got to grasp that what will slow global warming is concerted action by everyone, especially the bigger polluters, which includes Australia. By faking it, we undermine the confidence that every country needs to have that others will do something if we do something.

    As Brian Toohey points out in the AFR, any action must concentrate on supporting new technologies that will make demand for electricity elastic (Greg Hunt: it is inelastic only if you assume constant technology) and reduce other sources of emissions and, as he does not point out, accelerate the introduction of these new technologies by imposing the cost of permits on polluters, with the number of permits reducing over time. Done on a global scale this will prevent or temper the unfairness to future generations that BK rightly sees in the embrace of Abbott & Co and business groups. But then business rules, as Tony points out with his audit process, which will take up and recommend all the “good” work that business has already done in anticipation of the return of “their” government. Bernard is right: our younger generations need to demand that we don’t leave them with a lousy future. good luck to them.

  8. __PG__

    Australian contains a large fraction of the planet’s fossil fuels reserves. The policies Australians choose will have a significant impact on the planet’s future climate.

  9. Jimmy

    Hunt Ian – You beat me to the logic flaw form Burt Chris – it is like me saying I shouldn’t have to apy tax because my small tax amount wouldn’t effect anything.

    Burt Chris – “Bush fires in Australia? Whatever next?” How many bushfires of this scale have we had in October?
    And please see Hunt Ian’s comments.

  10. zut alors

    A good piece, Bernard.

    It’s particularly galling to hear politicians (such as Barnaby Joyce on Q&A last Monday) spouting that non-renewable forms of energy guarantee jobs. Jobs!! That four-letter magic word which they hope will shut down any intelligent debate.

    Joyce’s dumbo response assumes nobody would be employed in the renewable energy industry – apparently it would be bereft of staff and run itself. The logic is to stick with outdated 20th century mentality and practices which brought the planet to this precarious point.

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