Friday, 6 July 2012

The two-party denial machine

As I was just searching through my email, I found that Time had eight months ago published an article showing that since Obama came to power in 2008 the proportion of Republicans accepting man-made global warming as undisputed science has declined by two fifths from fifty to thirty percent. At the same time, those on the liberal side of politics have not changed remotely.

This is awfully troubling, not only because my own research clearly shows how rapid climate change has been in Australia over the past forty-five years, but also because non-academic parts of Australia, even if they vote Labor, appear to me politically akin to the most conservative parts of the United States.

What is crucial, but seldom understood, is how well-placed Australian corporations with a vested interest in denying the science behind anthropogenic global warming already were when climatic changes began to take hold in the late 1960s. Immediately before the big climatic turning point between 1967 and 1976, Australia had a mining boom somewhat analogous to what it is having today, with the only difference that the countries whose industrialisation was fuelled by Australian minerals were Japan, Italy and Spain rather than China and India.

What that meant was that at the very time anthropogenic global warming was “discovered” by writers like Barrie Pittock in the 1980s (his first major article was ‘Recent Climatic Change in Australia’ from 1983) politicians were being advised via roads departments directly by the car and related industries. Murray Lonie, after whom the 1980 ‘Victorian Transport Study’ upon which freeway expansion in Melbourne has been based was named, was originally an executive with General Motors. It says a lot about Australia’s politicians if any government chose or was forced to use someone likely to be so biased to assess transport policy! Along with the findings of the 2006 documentary The Greenhouse Mafia, this proves how corporations directly responsible for Australia’s very poor greenhouse emissions have been indisputably and constantly at very close call to politicians of both major parties, whilst climate belts have shifted so far that Perth now has the climate Carnarvon had before 1967. International strategies for reducing global greenhouse emissions must make countering such influence a top priority.

Even if Australia’s politicians are seriously not greenhouse sceptics (exceedingly doubtful with John Howard to mention only one), they are on a tight leash and have never showed themselves willing to execute essential changes to Australian energy and transport policy that would threaten the profits of the coal and aluminum industries, from greatly improved energy efficiency in houses to full taxation of aviation fuel to fund high-speed rail – which Australia should have developed decades ahead of countries like France and Japan.

As it stands, neither major parties nor even climate researchers are willing to come in tough on major greenhouse emitters, creating a situation where Australia alone could create runaway climate change without being policed internationally – as it should have been ever since the problem began. What is worse is that if the influence of these corporations grows, they might well deny climate changes even more obvious than those in Western Australia over the past forty-five years.

No comments: