Given how easy it is for charlatans to demonise, I’m frankly amazed that any countries in the world – let alone thirty-two – have managed to implement a carbon price or emissions trading scheme.
Basically, it’s the prisoner’s dilemma. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at such a high per capita rate, we can hardly expect other countries to limit theirs for us. But the only way of not doing that is to slightly reduce, in the short term, our standard of living as we adapt to a more sustainable lifestyle and develop the technologies to make that lifestyle more comfortable. The only way to avert a serious problem for all of us is for us all, in all countries around the world, to work together – but we already know that our diplomats and politicians are incapable of achieving anything of the sort. We could conceivably act and then find that China and India won’t act and climate change happens anyway. It could already be too late.
No wonder so many people are determined to believe that NOTHING IS HAPPENING and will continue to insist that right up to the point where it’s definitely far too late to do anything about it. (One charming kicker from nature in this debate is that global warming is a self-reinforcing process; once you get to a certain point, it runs completely out of control. See: Venus.)
So the upshot is, we look after our own selfish short-term interests and, if climate change is happening, we do nothing about it. The Opposition is banking on Australian voters being unwilling to consider a small drop in their standard of living to reduce the risk of a massive drop in their standard of living later; it’s banking on us being short-sighted and hypocritical. (Hypocritical in the sense of, let the much poorer people in China and India live on even less before we consider tempering our unsustainable consumption.)
It’s a bit bizarre, since the “cost of living” pressures of any carbon price the ALP is going to propose will be small – much smaller than, for example, the GST was. And of course problems like the housing crisis, that both parties (through their support for negative gearing, inflationary grants and low capital gains tax rates) have no intention of tackling, are going to do a lot more to hurt Australians than any carbon price or tax.
In that context, and in the context of a world in which it is (a) clear that there is at least a real risk of catastrophic climate change; and (b) we can’t expect others to do what we won’t do ourselves, you’d think that it wouldn’t be such a hard sell convincing a rational electorate of the reasonableness of legislating a workable mechanism to reduce our carbon emissions.
But instead we have an electorate informed by the hysterical ravings of shock jocks, and Rupert’s boys and girls, and the lazy hacks on the commercial TV stations, and an ABC that thinks “balance” is running every story through the filter of Opposition talking points.
So – again I find myself hoping against hope that the deniers are, despite all the evidence, right. Because, in the absense of rational, risk-minimising action by our governments supported by rational, risk-minimising voters, that’s all we’ve got left: blind hope.