Climate change countdown Part Two: Time to stand up and be counted

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By electing an Abbott-led Government, Australians have just collectively delivered an ironical two-fingered salute to our future environmental prospects, writes Doug Evans.



(Image via politicalhumor.com)


IN PART ONE of this essay, I examined some of the most recent predictions of our climate crisis, what action they required if a safe climate is to be retained and what progress is being made down that path. The outlook is gloomy but not hopeless — not quite.

Here in Part Two, we looks at options for Australia now that an Abbott-led Coalition has been elected. Where does Australia stand in relation to the huge changes that provide our only path to a safe climate?




What have we just done?

Australian voters have just collectively delivered an ironical two-fingered salute to our future environmental prospects.

With a shrug and a yawn, at this critical turning point which may mark the end of our environmental viability as a species, they have just elected a conservative Government that denies the scientific evidence of global warming and regards global warming as a socialist plot. This is a government determined to promote the best interests of the environment's worst corporate enemies. As if this was not enough, they have elected and delivered the Senate balance of power into the hands of Clive Palmer, whose business interests and personal wealth are inextricably linked to the destruction of our climate future. With time as short as it is, this was the worst possible outcome for the environment. The ludicrous climate change 'policies' of this disgraceful government are assessed here.

Starting with the Gillard Government's Carbon tax/ETS, the new Abbott Government is determined to dismantle as much as possible of the administrative apparatus for dealing with climate change legislated by the previous minority Labor Government. That this should occur at precisely the time the members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Charge are moving towards the establishment of a global carbon market, which in itself is an indispensible component of the only possible path to containing global GHG emissions, is unbelievably poor policy judgement for which we will pay dearly.

With the prospect that we will have to endure at least two terms (six years) of government by fools loyally supported by the liars and deceivers in the MSM, it seems certain that the critical decade will pass with Australia pouring fuel on the climate bonfire. Our options to resist the ravages of these climate vandals are limited. We will not now have another chance to reject them at the ballot box until after the all-important UNFCCC meeting in 2015. We will most likely have to endure them and suffer the consequences of their profound climatic stupidity until 2018 at the earliest.



So, what can we do about it?

Respected climate change communicators have suggested that, in the face of the rigid ideological intransigence of this government, that Canberra based lobbying for incremental change – the default position of several of the larger environmental groups – is a waste of time.

The only valid strategy, according to this line of thinking, are direct co-ordinated community based campaigns of opposition with as models the 'Lock the Gate' anti-coal seam gas campaign, the Greens' Federal lower house election campaign in the seat of Melbourne and newly elected independent Cathy McGowan's campaign in the seat of Indi. It has been argued that the key to winning this battle is re-framing the debate.

Both of these positions are laudable and no doubt true as far as they go but I can't help thinking the authors of these pieces are dancing around the elephant in the room.

Abbott has declared war on the environment, and his government's every climate- and energy related move reveals its profound indifference to our future environmental well-being. To these clowns, climate change is just another skirmish in the eternal culture war that is the sum total of their understanding of the world.

As David Spratt puts it:



The Abbott government will not be persuaded by reason and is not interested in compromise because this is a battle to be won, and compromise and negotiation are signs of weakness. For this government, fighting enemies is more important than reality-based policy-making. This is about the politics of resentment, fear and revenge, about winning, and about debilitating the enemy. Culture wars are not primarily about policy detail, but about building legitimacy, isolating the enemy and establishing dominance.



Stand up and be counted

From where we are now, the core of any successful campaign of resistance must be – can only be – civil disobedience. Peaceful, certainly, but there will be no happy ending here — unless and until ordinary Australians in sufficient numbers are prepared to physically confront the corporate beast and its elected, but fully owned, lackeys.

My neighbours are currently doing this by disrupting test hole drilling for the conservative Napthine Victorian government's cynical, socially and environmentally destructive and incredibly wasteful East-West link freeway tunnel. The Lock the Gate Alliance is showing the way on coal seam gas as is Quit Coal. In the United States 350.org is showing the way.

In his 2010 book Requiem for a Species, Clive Hamilton wrote:



The passivity of the public has allowed our political representatives to be more and more dominated by a professional class of power seeking individuals who stand for little other than self advancement. … Reclaiming democracy for the citizenry is the only way to temper the effects of climate disruption and ensure that the wealthy and powerful cannot protect their own interests at the expense of the rest. … We all value and benefit from a law abiding society. Yet at times like these we have a higher duty and are no longer bound to submit to the laws that protect those who continue to pollute the atmosphere in a way that threatens to destroy the habitability of the Earth. When just laws are used to protect unjust behaviour our obligation to uphold the law is diminished



There is no longer any other option

We either resist now, or we are complicit in the destruction of the safe climate on which we depend for our continued environmental well-being. Changing the light bulbs and recycling the rubbish (behaviour change) will not do it. Lobbying politicians will not do it. That time is past, that opportunity gone. Mobilisation and 'direct action' of quite another sort to that envisaged by Greg Hunt et al is all that remains. The last roll of the dice.

Successful organized community resistance requires institutional muscle. We have previously seen this emerge, albeit briefly, with the Southern Cross Climate Coalition (SCCC). This example is controversial. It ended badly as it divided the climate change movement's push to force the Rudd Government to strengthen its useless CPRS proposal and, having been tempted 'inside the tent' by the government's representatives with the promise of influencing the outcome, the SCCC was sidelined and  completely dudded by Rudd Labor. A classic divide and conquer manoeuvre.

Nevertheless, the SCCC provides a useful model. An alliance of ACTU, ACOSS and climate change NGOs with existing civil society climate change groups would have power and while last time, with Labor in power, political loyalties may have blurred the climate imperative, this time the task and the enemy are both crystal clear.

Institutional muscle needs political support.

The Greens continue to step up and have been integral to climate change campaigning for years, but they are a small party. Will the Labor Party shoulder its responsibilities? With both candidates for the Labor leadership having spruiked their party's climate credentials and talking boldly of community organising, the signs are superficially propitious. The political opportunity to differentiate Labor policy from that of the current government beckons. But scratch even a little below the surface and it is clear that neither of the leadership contenders is prepared to address the yawning contradiction between Labor's helpful, mid-green climate change policies and its environmentally destructive deep brown energy policies.

In response to this direct question from the Labor Environment Action Network:



'How do you see Labor managing the future of Australia’s coal seam gas, coal, oil and gas industries and meet Australia’s energy needs?'

neither Shorten nor Albanese had anything to say about coal, oil, gas or managing the transition to renewable energy, and they only mentioned coal seam gas in the context of the risk posed to ground water. Here is a serious test of the effectiveness of Party reforms underway, the mettle of the Party's leadership and the resolve of the membership. Not least, it directly challenges the Labor Environment Action Network to seize the initiative. Time to face reality and stand up and be counted.

There is no way of knowing whether the necessary groundswell of resistance will eventuate or, if it does, whether it will succeed — but as Pablo Casals is reputed to have said



“…the situation is hopeless; we must now take the next step.”

I'll end with another quote from Clive Hamilton.



‘If it is too late to prevent climate disruption there is still much we can influence. Any success in reducing emissions is better than doing nothing, because warming and its effects can at least be slowed down. Resisting those who want to capitulate is a fight worth having.’

The next two years will tell the story. We act now or the battle is lost.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License


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