Climate change denialism 2.0

Earlier in the week on Q&A the conservative commentator Tom Switzer talked about how he believed global warming is happening, then proceeded to make noises about the costs of doing anything and the ‘socialism’ of those who want to act more decisively. I had to smile at this. A similar rhetorical strategy is now being used by climate change deniers in the US: appear respectable by agreeing warming is happening. But then find all sorts of reasons to do nothing about it.

You can see the same tactic at work in the PM’s recent admissions that global warming is real. But are they doing anything meaningful to tackle it? Well, no. Just a lot of smoke and mirrors with ‘direct action’, while talking up coal as ‘good for humanity’. Here’s what the Cato Institute, one of the main US think tanks sponsoring denial, have to say about global warming. It’s pure climate change denialism 2.0:

Global warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975. But global warming is also a very complicated and difficult issue that can provoke very unwise policy in response to political pressure. Although there are many different legislative proposals for substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, there is no operational or tested suite of technologies that can accomplish the goals of such legislation. Fortunately, and contrary to much of the rhetoric surrounding climate change, there is ample time to develop such technologies, which will require substantial capital investment by individuals.

Switzer is a former staffer of the American Enterprise Institute, which features prominently on the US Union of Concerned Scientists list of denialist organisations, and is funded lavishly by the energy industry. I can only imagine that he, Abbott, Cato and co, think the rest of us are too stupid to see through their rhetorical nonsense. Perhaps when they start taking climate action seriously the rest of us will start to take seriously their acknowledgement that global warming is real.

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Behold the awesomeness that is Peep Tempel

For Christmas my wonderful wife and daughter gave me the Peep Tempel Tales CD. Can I just say how fucking wonderful this band is. A worthy successor to the great indy bands of the 1980s and 90s that I used to see in a million sticky carpet venues around this Melbourne town. Raw, simple, and rockin’. For those yet to be initiated, check this out. ‘I don’t think Trevor is good for you’. Now there’s a lyric.

The new politics?

It’s funny looking at today’s (and I mean literally today’s) disparate news stories, how much they have in common.

First we have the story about ongoing gender discrimination in federal politics, which is a story that the political and media establishment just does not get, and hasn’t understood since they missed the point of Gillard’s ‘misogyny speech’ last year and had to play catch-up after the story broke much larger on Twitter and YouTube than in the papers. The impulse among conservative pollies and pundits has been to get the conversation back to ‘real politics’ and ‘real issues’, as demonstrated by Joe Hockey wanting to talk about the supposedly more important politics that happened today. Well, guess what, gender is real politics, and not wanting to countenance that probably makes you part of the problem. When critics accuse Gillard of playing the gender card, they miss the possibility that she’s trying out a different kind of politics more attuned to the things people are really talking about. 

Then there is the Volkswagen recall story. This unmitigated PR disaster could have been avoided if the company had obeyed the first rule of good PR – ‘fess up then front up’. Clearly they thought that corporate might would win out, and even reportedly used lawyers to harass their own complaining customers, when actually it was the ability of a counter-public to make their voices heard, admittedly mostly through the old media of a campaigning Fairfax press, that inevitably won out.

Then there are the howls of outrage coming from the US establishment in defence of the Prism phone surveillance program, and the increasingly vicious pursuit of leaker Edward Snowden.

All have in common the increasing unviability of the top-down, establishment model of political and corporate power, and what feels like an increasingly bitter and vicious reaction to the realisation that power is shifting elsewhere. As Tim Dunlop pointed out in an excellent Drum piece today, this doesn’t mean we should go all dewey-eyed over a new social media paradigm — ‘Even with the rise of social media, few of us get to contribute meaningfully to public debate, to speak anything to power.’ But something is changing. Things don’t quite work the old way any more. And the powers that be don’t like it.

Leadership in the age of failed ideals

On a day when our elected representatives failed to provide anything in the way of leadership, solutions, or even a slightly inspired speech, and when politics-as-usual seemed finally, to have reached into every corner of our political system irrespective of the real costs in terms of lives lost, it seems like the right time to talk about leadership. So here, humbly, as boats capsize and asylum seekers drown at sea, as the Greens demonstrate their moral purity and bankrupt political impotence, as the opposition demonstrates its total, blank inhumanity overwhelmed by brute lust for power, and as the government demonstrates yet again that it lives still, with the whole country, in the shadow of the Howard era, is a speech I made late last year to the National Annual conference of secondary school English teachers. Thanks again guys, for being a great audience and for so many questions.

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