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Liberals Part 4: Australia has a legitimate government

27 January 2013

This is the fourth part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 examine the party’s climate policies. This part debunks their allegations that the incumbent government is illegitimate.

Both sidesIllustration: Stephen Wight

There has been a persistent campaign by the conservative Coalition, led by Tony Abbott and his Liberals, assisted by most of the mainstream media, to create the perception that the incumbent Labor minority government, led by Julia Gillard, is illegitimate. Don’t get me wrong: I have a long list of disagreements with the government. But the implication it is somehow illegitimate is simply unjustified. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aussie coal exports 2nd biggest “carbon bomb”

24 January 2013

A new report by consultancy Ecofys for Greenpeace, called Point of No Return, details 14 proposed fossil fuel projects, dubbed “carbon bombs”, that would together effectively lock in dangerous climate change.

Carbon bombs map

If the 14 projects go ahead, they would add 6.3 Gt/year (greater than present US emissions) to global CO2 emissions in 2020, a 20% increase at a time when we urgently need to cut global emissions as fast as possible. They would add 300 Gt CO2 to the atmosphere by 2050, about a third of the carbon budget for 2010-2050 required for a 75% chance of avoiding 2°C of global warming, the level which the world’s governments have agreed to prevent. They would keep us on the business-as-usual pathway that leads to an unimaginably catastrophic 6°C by 2100. Thus it is imperative that these fossil fuels be left in the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s high time we talked about coal

19 January 2013

Gillard two-faced

As Australia bakes in record-breaking heat and burns in devastating fires, the country’s political and media elites have yet again lined up to defend the industry driving global warming and cast those who speak out against it as extremists. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liberals Part 3: False crimes of a climate crook

16 January 2013

This is the third part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1 covers the party’s climate change denial and intention to abolish various existing climate policies. Part 2 examines the climate policies they promise to introduce. This part defends them against incorrect criticisms of their climate policies.

To use language which Liberal leader Tony Abbott might outside of a family program, the Liberals’ climate policy is complete crap. Having said that, its problems do not include some of the things for which it is most often criticized: fiscal impact, directness, and reliance on domestic action.

Fiscal impact

Some commentators (eg. Alan Kohler) claim the Liberals’ policy would have a massive impact on the government’s budget. But there is nothing wrong with the government spending money on addressing the greatest threat facing humanity. Indeed, we should be spending far more than either major party is currently prepared to. The real problem, as I explained in Part 2, is the Liberals would not spend enough. The Emissions Reduction Fund is capped at $10.5 billion by 2020, making it impossible to make sure it meets its target (let alone a more ambitious target). Because the Fund’s current costings depend on achieving 60% of its abatement through buying soil carbon offsets, it is difficult to see how it could make genuine absolute emissions cuts with such a limited budget. Read the rest of this entry »

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Liberals Part 2: Their “Direct Action” is neither

13 January 2013

This is the second part of a series examining the Liberal Party of Australia. Part 1 covers the party’s climate change denial and intention to abolish various existing climate policies. This part examines the climate policies they promise to introduce.

The first question to ask about the Liberal Party’s climate policy is “what is it?” This question is a lot more difficult to answer than you might think. One of the reasons why I have not focused on the Liberals is because although they are aggressive on process, their policies are vague if not contradictory. If they weren’t favored by nearly half of Australian voters, I would say the Liberals are the parliamentary clowns. Nevertheless, I will examine the few details they have provided.

The Liberals propose a set of measures they spin as a “Direct Action Plan”, a frame that has been uncritically adopted by many journalists. While the phrase “direct action” brings to mind images of protestors chained to bulldozers, the content of the Direct Action Plan is rather less exciting, neither particularly direct nor very active.

The plan is mainly articulated in a policy document released before the last election (all quotes below are taken from this document unless otherwise attributed). It is unclear how current this document is: it is nearly three years old so the timeline will obviously need to be condensed to meet the 2020 deadline, and the Liberals have since mentioned various revisions and reinterpretations, some of which I may have missed. Presumably a full updated policy will be released before the next election; in the meantime I have assumed the old document is accurate except where I am aware of later changes.

The plan is supposed to directly cut CO2 emissions 5% below 1990 by 2020, very similar to Labor’s meaningless target (with the positive difference that the Liberals would not use international offsets, a point I will come back to in Part 3). The Liberals also ostensibly support Labor’s conditional target range of 5-25%, though they have not mentioned it for a long time. Indeed, they rubbish their own 5% target. Liberal leader Tony Abbott has described it as “crazy” in the context of China’s increasing emissions. On other occasions Abbott has gone even further (which a leaked list of talking points shows was scripted), claiming the target will not reduce global temperature for 1000 years (missing that the point of climate action is to limit the rise of global temperature). The Liberals can’t have it both ways: is a 5% target insignificant or Liberal policy? Read the rest of this entry »

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award

12 January 2013

veryinspiringbloggeraward

I am flattered to have been nominated by thepoliblog.wordpress.com, a blog about politics and society, for a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Thanks, thepoliblog!

Here are the rules for accepting the award:

  • Display the award logo
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post
  • State 7 interesting things about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them
  • Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated

7 things about myself:

  1. I have been blogging for three years.
  2. The main focus of my blog is climate change politics.
  3. During 2010-2011 I was a regular writer for Skeptical Science, the first blog I nominate below.
  4. My favorite holiday destination is Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia.
  5. I have been interested in astronomy from a young age.
  6. I collect Melway (Melbourne) street directories.
  7. I hate sport, and the amount of media coverage it receives.

I nominate the following 15 blogs for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award (the first ten are on the same topic as my blog, climate change):

  1. http://www.skepticalscience.com/ – debunking climate change denialist arguments
  2. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/issue/ – comprehensive coverage of climate change issues
  3. http://grist.org/author/david-roberts/ – insightful commentary on climate change, environment, and US politics
  4. http://www.climatecodered.org/ – making the case for emergency climate action
  5. http://tamino.wordpress.com/ – the statistics of climate change
  6. http://hot-topic.co.nz/ – commentary on climate change from a New Zealand perspective
  7. http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/ – watching climate deniers
  8. http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/ – debunking climate denialism, The Australian’s war on science, and other stuff
  9. http://denialdepot.blogspot.com.au/ – satirizing climate denial
  10. http://www.marklynas.org/ – reflections of an independent-minded environmentalist
  11. http://pressthink.org/ – insightful media criticism
  12. http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy.html – debunking of bad astronomy by a not-really-bad astronomer
  13. http://www.badscience.net/ – debunking pseudoscience in medicine
  14. http://theness.com/neurologicablog/ – debunking of pseudoscience from the creator of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast
  15. http://www.mikebrownsplanets.com/ – about dwarf planets from the astronomer who “killed Pluto” (unfortunately has not updated for over a year)

I am not necessarily endorsing everything said on these blogs.

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Liberals Part 1: Climate denial and deregulation

11 January 2013

Almost all of my posts to date have focused on criticizing Australia’s incumbent Labor government. I have written very little about the alternate Liberal/National Coalition government. But as we enter an election year, it is time to examine the Liberals’ policies.

Can the Liberals be trusted?

To begin with, it is worth noting that the Liberals have given us every reason to distrust them on climate change.

According to a 2010 survey, only 38% of Coalition politicians accept that humans are warming the planet (compared to 98% of Greens, in line with the scientific consensus, and 89% of Labor politicians). Liberal and National politicians regularly spout denialist talking points, up to and including their leader Tony Abbott. Most notoriously, Abbott reportedly said in 2009 that the science of climate change is “complete crap” but “the politics of this are tough for us”. In 2010 Abbott met with Christopher Monckton, a man who claims climate scientists are conspiring to fake their results in a plot to create a socialist world government. In a speech to the Mining Council of Australia in 2011, Abbott said “the authors of the carbon tax do not see coal, oil and gas as the most important parts of our economy” but “as a threat to the very survival of our planet”, the obvious implication being that his party disagrees. In 2011 former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard launched a book instructing schoolchildren to raise denialist arguments in the classroom. Queensland’s Liberal National government wants to remove climate from the school curriculum, and its Premier and Environment Minister openly deny human-caused global warming.

I could list many more examples. Indeed, it would probably be quicker to list Coalition politicians who have never publically made denialist claims.

Almost all of the Liberals’ actions mark them as an anti-climate party. The Liberals did not take any significant climate action during the eleven years of the Howard government. They consistently prioritize short-term economic considerations like mining industry competitiveness and electricity prices ahead of climate change. Today they are putting way more effort into opposing Labor’s climate policy than in designing and promoting their own (the former is the subject of this post; the latter will be covered in Part 2). Thus it is questionable whether they would even implement their climate policy, let alone whether it would work. Read the rest of this entry »