February 23rd 2019


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

EDITORIAL Resistance grows to Beijing's soft-power push

CANBERRA OBSERVED Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders

TECHNOLOGY Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies

BANKING ROYAL COMMISSION A step too small?

CYBER SECURITY Chinese smartphone threat extends way beyond Huawei

SOCIETY Such grandeur of spirit

POLITICS John Hewson should have as sturdy a Constitution

FINANCE Hayne royal commission sets agenda for bank reform

FAMILY RELATIONS Dad: a girl's first and most influential love

COMMENTARY Words gone feral: rights and equality

MEDICINE AND CULTURE Book captures tragedy of falling foul of a fanatic

SOCIETY AND CULTURE A dog's life: reflections of a grey nomad

HUMOUR

MUSIC Serialism a killer: Ideas tend to get in the way

CINEMA Cold Pursuit: Revenge served up manic

BOOK REVIEW Why the West and nowhere else

BOOK REVIEW The escalation of horror and atrocity

LETTERS

FAMILY AND SOCIETY The end of Liberalism

SPECIAL EDITORIAL Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted?

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CANBERRA OBSERVED
Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders


by NW Contributor

News Weekly, February 23, 2019

It is extraordinary to think that Malcolm Turnbull lost the leadership of the Liberal Party not once but twice over climate change policy, first as opposition leader and then as Prime Minister.

An artist's impression
of Expo Australia 2030.

His successor, Scott Morrison, has not surprisingly adopted a cautious approach, threatening to apply a “big stick” to recalcitrant energy companies found to be ripping off consumers, but also standing by international commitments to reduce emissions previously made by Tony Abbott that will cut Australian emissions by a quarter of 2005 levels by 2030.

Clearly, Mr Morrison wants to fight the coming election on other, safer issues, such as lower taxes and more jobs, but in doing so is forgoing the opportunity to engage in a full-blown scare campaign on the need for reliable energy and lower power costs.

This is despite evidence of ongoing policy failure – summer blackouts, antiquated coal power stations running on their last legs, and the likelihood of even higher prices to come from Labor’s full-on love affair with a renewables-dominated supply.

Ironies abound in climate policy, which has bedevilled Australian politics as in no other country for nigh on two decades, ending the political careers of several leaders, tipping governments out of office, and rending the Coalition parties, in particular, into bitterly opposed factions.

How to account for this is worthy of serious historical study because on so many levels it makes no sense.

Australia is a large country with a small population that produces an inconsequential amount of carbon-dioxide emissions compared with, say, China, India and the United States; whatever Australia does or does not do will make the least difference to global emissions, and even less so to the temperature of the planet over the coming decades.

Not only that but Australia is one of the world’s wealthiest countries per capita and much of that wealth is derived from its export of fossil fuels. In fact, very recently, coal became Australia’s number one export.

But climate-change enthusiasts seemingly turn a blind eye to the export of coal to other countries, while advocating the closure of coal-powered stations even though coal provides 70 per cent of our electricity needs.

Prime Minister Morrison is considering 10 options to provide extra dispatchable power, including at least one high-efficiency, low-emissions coal generator.

But building a new base-load coal power station, even a “clean” one, would create violent opposition from every possible sector, from industry to financiers through to unions and schoolteachers.

Every recent Australian political leader, including John Howard and Tony Abbott, has been stumped by climate-change policy.

Economist Ross Garnaut, a climate-change true believer who was appointed by Kevin Rudd in 2007 to nut out a medium to long-term policy for sustainable prosperity, correctly des­cribed climate change as a “diabolical policy problem”.

“It has many demanding dimensions, any one of which might seem to make it unlikely that the human species will be up to the challenge,” he wrote back then.

“The most difficult of its challenging dimensions is that there can be no effective mitigation without all countries of substantial size making major contributions to the solution. And yet each country has an interest from a narrow national perspective in doing as little as possible, so long as its own free riding does not undermine the efforts of others.

“There will be no effective mitigation from unilateral action in single countries, however good that may feel to some people in those countries. Indeed, taking a step too far on a unilateral basis may set back the global mitigation effort.”

Garnaut’s words are prophetic.

Along the twists and turns of this road we have had an emissions trading scheme from John Howard, a carbon pollution reduction scheme from Kevin Rudd, a “no carbon tax under a government I lead”, followed by a carbon tax from Julia Gillard, a direct action policy from Tony Abbott, followed by the National Energy Guarantee from Malcolm Turnbull, to the “big stick” under Scott Morrison.

Australians themselves are schizophrenic about climate change. Everyone is very favourable towards renewables; especially solar power panels for those wealthy enough to install them on their roof. Yet they also demand lower power prices and reliable power.

And, even if the Australian people are willing to go without affordable and reliable power for the sake of the planet, industries that rely on power of that type in large quantities – aluminium smelting, for instance – may soon grow tired of turning off their operations whenever there is a blip in the network. They will go elsewhere.

Some will argue that the Coalition has missed an opportunity to prosecute a harder line and push harder for more sensible base-load coal power, but this approach would also inflame supporters of renewables in more affluent Liberal seats.

Others will argue it is time that two decades of unhinged debate on the issue need to come to a sensible conclusion, but no one should hold their breath.




























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