Editorial – Deniers, pretenders and real climate action

March 19, 2011
Tony Abbott: Australia's leading climate denier.

Liberal leader Tony Abbott is a climate change denier. He told a recent meeting in Perth that he still doubted the science of climate change and said: “Whether carbon dioxide is quite the environmental villain that some people make it out to be is not yet proven.”

His party’s campaign against the carbon price deal struck between the Labor government, the Greens and independent MPs has one central aim: to undermine public support for strong government action to tackle climate change.

Abbott’s campaign is not crazy, even though it promotes an irrational response to the climate change threat. He is running a calculated scare campaign on behalf of Australia’s fossil fuel lobby.

The campaign avoids facts and evidence. It is designed to associate economic hardship, price rises and job losses with any kind of climate policy.

The truth is that a zero-emissions economy would be job-rich. And the “cost” of not cutting carbon pollution fast is a world of climate chaos.

There is a big danger that Abbott’s campaign will have an impact. It must be resisted.

But it’s wrong to think the climate deniers pose the only menace here.

The climate denier campaign works in tandem with the agenda of the climate pretenders — those who defend business as usual “solutions” to climate change.

Tony Abbott is Australia’s leading climate denier. Labor PM Julia Gillard is Australia’s leading climate pretender.

The danger is that the debate on climate will be narrowed to a false choice between two different kinds of inaction — one open, one concealed.

Pricing pollution cannot be the main response to climate change. Not when the climate science says we need to transform the economy rapidly.

Full details of the proposed carbon price plan are yet to be released.

But a carbon price or emissions trading scheme that shifts the cost-burden away from business and on to households would undermine public support for climate action and make it harder to win support for other, genuine climate measures.

It would give weight to the fossil fuel lobby’s hypocritical claims that climate action will always hurt ordinary people.

More compensation to the big polluters is inexcusable. Australian governments already give about $12 billion a year in subsidies to the big polluters. These subsidies should end and the money spent on zero-emissions projects.

In this context, the NSW Greens deserve high praise for their new Solar Thermal Plant initiative — a commitment to build three publicly owned and funded solar thermal power stations in western NSW.

The Socialist Alliance also calls for public investment as a key response to the climate emergency.

The federal Greens should follow the lead of the NSW branch and endorse a publicly funded rollout of renewable energy on a national scale.

Public investment in renewable energy and other carbon abatement programs is the most important and practical response to the climate emergency. We can’t allow the climate deniers, or the climate pretenders, to sideline it.

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