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Divide and Conquer Through Sound Argument

February 3, 2010

It’s not every day that the climate change policy debate gives you hope for the future of the planet.

But when Steven Fielding starts seeing the logic of the climate science, or at least contemplating that it might be correct, you get a sense that there might just be hope. Recall that Senator Fielding is undeniably one of the least rational Australian Senators to hold the balance of power in decades.

Fielding is quoted by the admittedly unreliable SMH as changing his stance on the climate science:

“I believe in climate change but there are still questions about the science…

“It looks like Barnaby Joyce and The Nationals have sold out the farmers and many Australians who still have concerns about the science.”


Of course, the SMH is too badly edited to clarify whether Fielding means that Nationals Senator Joyce has sold out ‘concerned’ sceptics and farmers, or ‘concerned’ climate change believers and farmers –  or even why he has sold out the farmers at all for that matter?! … but it sounds like Fielding is pulling a strategy he has used before effectively. That is, to wait until the shit really hits the fan for the Govenrment in the Senate then start negotiating on key bills, in the hope of getting things for his core constituency.

It includes a lot of farmers.  

Still, with the Greens proposals for a compromise $20 introductory-carbon-tax looking unpalatable to the Government, I think its a lost cause for Fielding and the ETS  for the February Senate vote. But Fielding’s comments are interesting. If even a mega-dope like Steven Fielding can start giving tacit public support to the science of global warming, then it really does seem to push the Conservative Coalition and its ultra-denialism out on a radical policy limb. In fact, as Peter Hartcher points out , that shaky limb is already looking a bit like a prosthesis!

Added to this, from reading the Australian papers this week and last, it appears that this will be the year for truth in climate policy debate in Australia. At least, there will be a debate about the relative merits and differences in the policy approaches . The Coalition’s radically different policy of directly regulating emissions (as opposed to pricing carbon like the Government’s ETS  or the Greens’ carbon tax) actually looks like it is drawing the long term debate more towards such an analysisPlus it will almost certainly be the key election issue.  This is good news for carbon pricers and potentially good news for the Government’s CPRS, because on the whole its decent policy, even if the market has some big and unneccessary design flaws that will need fixing after it starts. That said, the Government has played the politics of this debate appalling so far, so don’t get your ups too high.

That said, it won’t be easy given the public’s phenomenal apathy for technical detail in such debates, but if those who understand the economics of the policy choices can hammer the media debate, and if enough people who actually read the news can start to get the message in this election year, it might just be enough to divide and conquer the anti-science ideologues on the other side.

An electoral mandate for a price on Australian carbon later this year or next if the opposition crashes out would put carbon pricing and real emissions reduction policy back on the table!

Now is the time to push the facts and put the hard truths to work in Australia. After all, the truth has strateic value, because it has a propensity to look more true the more you look it at.

  1. willy permalink

    Good blog you might like to read,

  2. peter permalink

    Good post!

  3. roger H permalink

    The Rudd Government’s policy will never be considered a good one. It’s all about protecting big coal lobbies. But Barnaby Joyce is his own worst enemy, that much is certain.

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