Dr Karl: 'Keep trying on all fronts'

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Climate Change Coalition is a new political party. Green Left Weekly's Zane Alcorn spoke to CCC candidate Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who is running for the Senate in New South Wales.

What motivated you to become involved in politics?

I got sick of yelling at TV shows. The politicians kept saying stuff that was openly wrong. For instance, a politician was claiming that buses in dedicated bus lanes could replace trains. If you can load dozens of buses completely full — and they can have a fairly unobstructed path across the city, with not too many traffic lights or intersections — then maybe they are nearly equal to trains. That is, if you can load them with 120 people in 15 seconds and have them take off again so that the bus behind can load up … That was what really did it for me … being told that buses in dedicated bus lanes can replace trains.

Why did you decide to run with the Climate Change Coalition rather than as an independent or with another political party?

Either you vote above the line — for a party — or you vote below the line, which is the only way to vote for independents. Only about 2-3% of Australians vote below the line … and one mistake out of the 79 numbers and your vote is void.

So I didn't want to run as an independent because then you are only looking at 2-3% of the vote. All parties are doing something [about climate change], but the Climate Change Coalition is a single issue party. People may deride the usefulness of single issue parties, but they should consider the example of the British anti-slavery party of 1823-39. They said "this is our one main issue", they focused on issues of slavery and child slavery, and they succeeded, and in 1839 slavery was abolished.

We have a position on other issues but climate change is our main focus.

How does the climate coalition work out its preferences?

Preferences are tricky. In 1918 in Britain, there were two main political parties. They came up with the preference voting system whereby a vote is actually worth two votes — one for the party you vote for, and another for if your party or candidate does not get in, which flows to other parties.

The fundamental thing about preferences is it is an incredibly bent and crooked system [designed] to allow two parties to maintain their position …

[It's] a duopoly, and parties who receive less votes than another party can get in due to preferences. It's very crooked.

Because you are working in a crooked system you have to do whatever works, not whatever is "nice". You have to do dirty deals to get in in a crooked system.

How does the climate coalition work out its emission reduction targets — is there any chance you may make your targets more radical?

We've been thinking about that and we're almost headed towards getting rid of all this targets bullshit. Were looking more towards just saying we need to have zero carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation in 20 or maybe 25 years from now.

So 20 years from now, we would be harnessing wind, wave, the power of the sun and the tides, and getting our power from clean sources like this.

Would you support the provision of free or highly subsidised solar panels?

I would make it compulsory. The coal companies get a subsidy of $400 million a year for diesel for their trucks … the thing about coal is we know where it is, we know how to dig it up, and we know that other countries will buy it. Why should it be subsidised when there is no risk in that industry? Those subsidies should be going to developing clean energy. When is the last time you heard of a coal company having a lamington stall to raise money to mine more coal?

You came out recently comparing "clean coal" to Nazi propaganda and then shortly after you clarified a point you had made in that statement about the logistics of making that clean coal technology work.

I made a mistake in the math. I [have since] checked the figure and two professors in physics checked it. From this we got the final corrected figures. The promotion of clean coal is still consistent with the logic of Goebbels who said "if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one".

I see geosequestration as a useful short-term thing. In 10 years we will probably still be burning coal so the question is whether we catch the emissions or just release them. But you can't keep doing that forever.

What alternatives are there to dirty coal?

We could get all of our baseload from hot dry [rocks] and supplement that with the renewable energy from wind, wave, solar and tidal.

We can inject water into giant beds of hot granite in South Australia which have horizontal fractures in them — the water travels through the fractures and turns to steam and this runs a generator. The beds will generate steam for 35-70 years.

Do you think nuclear power is part of the solution to climate change?

Yes and no, depending on how you are asking the question.

I reckon we do need one small reactor on each continent to provide isotopes for diagnostics, but there are three main problems with conventional nuclear power: there's the risk of meltdown; the problem of radioactive waste … and reactors produce [nuclear] weapons fuel.

I'm in favour of some types of nuclear power which don't have these problems. Unfortunately political leaders aren't interested in [these alternative designs, i.e. thorium] because they want the nuclear weapons.

Do you think that trade unions have an important role to play in ensuring the transition to a sustainable future?

We all do. Our obligation is to learn as much as we can about the situation and what needs to be done. All different groups and bodies have a part to play.

Were you at the Walk Against Warming? How important do you think mass action is to create change?

Yes I was there, and I think everything we do is [important to create change]. There's an old saying in the advertising industry that "half of your budget gets wasted, and you don't know what half it is". You just have to keep trying on all fronts.