Politicians, Dirty Politics and Climate Change

(Andrew Meares)

It is becoming increasingly clear that most politicians don’t understand the science of climate change. Even if they do their actions are governed by gaining or retaining power, and thus using dirty politics, rather than tackling the difficult tasks climate action involves. There are numerous examples on both sides of politics of this situation.

The current conundrum of ALP leader Bill Shorten over the proposed Adani mine in Queensland and Labor’s quest for power means that he ends up sitting on the fence. On the one hand he states that he does not like the proposal to appeal to city based voters and on the other does not veto the project to appease his union base. This is the predicament that he currently faces in this weekend’s by-election in Batman.

It is also a problem for the so called ‘conservative’ side of politics, who when defending big money in the form of coal find themselves in ridiculous situations.  The Lib/Nats attempt at greenwash promoting the dying coal industry is ‘beyond the pale’ and such efforts as passing around a suitably varnished piece (so they would not get their hands dirty) of ‘clean coal’ deserves all the mockery it attracted. And politicians pushing low emissions (or lower) emissions with carbon capture and storage have yet to grasp the urgency of the situation.

In Gippsland the CFMEU, representing coal miners and forest workers, has a substantial amount of power and influence. This is clearly seen with the Labor state government’s purchase of the Heyfield timber mill – another example of pollies protecting their power base instead of grappling with the problem – logging of native forests – that is destroying the State’s most valuable and irreplaceable carbon storage. Each tree that is felled should be replaced by 100 seedlings. Each tree that is felled is another nail in the Labor Party’s coffin. It is also a nail in ours.

There are two separate but related major disruptions happening today. The first is man-made climate change. This is still well down our list of concerns, but in spite of this, requires urgent action. The second is what Tony Seba describes in his book Clean Disruption as the rapid uptake across the globe of solar, wind, batteries, electric vehicles and autonomous electric vehicles. The latter will be hugely beneficial in reducing our carbon emissions and Seba cogently argues that all this will happen very quickly regardless of politics. The rear-guard actions of the Lib/Nats against renewable energy will, aside from delays of a year or two, be pointless.

It is clear many bureaucrats – in Earth Resources for instance or Vicforests – and most politicians do not understand the problem of climate change, nor the urgency for action. For when they do working on mitigating and adapting to climate change will become their overriding concern and dominate their energies and efforts. Dirty politics should disappear and a return to bipartisanship at all levels of politics on this issue hopefully will return. As a starter attendance at Climate 101 classes should be compulsory for them all or at least watching one of Seba’s videos of the disruptions we are now facing.