It seems the global zeitgeist has ferociously outpaced the Rudd Government in much the same way that basic reality has outflanked the Abbott-Minchin-Robb COALition.
China has just announced a 40 per cent reduction in ‘carbon intensity’, although they have yet to specify an overall carbon pollution reduction. Unfortunately, this measure was invented by colleagues of George Bush. It indexes carbon emissions to GDP, so the Chinese are essentially locking their economy into a radically more energy efficient paradigm.
For China, which cares enough to send their President to Copenhagen, this is a solid first step. For Australian climate sceptics and other idiots, it’s one less stalling point. No longer can they say we should wait until China acts.
So get ready to hear Andrew Bolt, Stephen Fielding et al talking up the “global cooling” myth. According to these wits, because the globe hasn’t turned into a ball of molten lava in the last 12 months, all projections looking 10, 20, 50, and 100 years ahead are science fiction.
And this crew has been quick to claim that the hacked ‘Climategate’ email – in which an IPCC scientist stated that elements of the climate model don’t fully mirror current weather patterns – is evidence that climate change is one big media scam.
Rather than a catastrophic phenomenon that scientists even 15 years ago predicted would be, at least in part, unpredictable.
Unpredictable, also, was a government elected with a mandate for climate action choosing to water down targets, pay billions to polluters, say yes to almost everything demanded by their opponents, and excise the crossbench independents and Greens. One of those ‘independents’ is Stephen Fielding, who this week launched the equivalent of an 8-year old’s tantrum in the Senate to aid Coalition filibustering as he moaned about the evil popular influence of Al Gore’s film An Innocent Truth (yes, he got that one wrong too).
Amazingly, it has not been the Rudd Government’s timidity and big talk to attract global attention. It has, instead, been “The Perils of Malcolm”. The BBC Worldwide has been reporting that negotiations with the federal opposition have collapsed amid Liberal infighting, and that the result may be a change of leadership and the calling of a snap election in which they would certainly be decimated.
It is likely such an election would see Fielding sacked from the Senate, more Greens elected, and Nick Xenophon put in a better position to bend the government’s will as part of a progressive and newly-empowered crossbench.
Xenophon has been pushing well-prepared modelling and research upon a hapless Penny Wong. Bound by party discipline and exasperated with a scheme already reconfigured three times, she has politely rejected his input. Xenophon, however, has continued to argue that his proposal would save $50 billion, impose a smaller burden on lower and middle class families, and enable much higher carbon reductions and better environmental outcomes. The only hope for his plan now would be continued Liberal rejection of the CPRS and a double dissolution delaying an outcome until February after the Senate is flushed clear.
For the environment, for the Australian public and for future generations, this would be the best possible outcome. The CPRS and ETS as they are now are deeply flawed. They can be regarded as better than nothing if they are mere framework, but we should remember Kyoto was also a framework.
Twelve years on, the time for action is still now.