Climate logic of the mad house

November 11, 2009 at 5:09 am Leave a comment


As the November 2-6 international climate change talks in Barcelona ended in poorly-concealed acrimony and weary expressions of “official optimism”, a funny thing happened in the mainstream Australian media.

The biggest story of Barcelona, the last before December’s climate talks in Copenhagen, should have been about Australia — for all the wrong reasons.

But instead, as the Barcelona conference closed, Australian media headlines were dominated by a November 6 speech by PM Kevin Rudd, where he ferociously denounced climate change sceptics.

On November 5, top African negotiator and chairperson of the G77 group of underdeveloped nations Lumumba Di Aping singled out Rudd and British PM Gordon Brown as responsible for undermining the negotiations.

African delegates walked out for part of the conference in protest at the rich nation’s refusal to consider emissions cuts based on climate science.

In particular, ABC Radio’s PM said Di Aping was most angry that rich nations like Australia had flat refused to agree to legally binding emissions cut targets at Copenhagen.

“The issue about whether there is a politically binding agreement and a legally binding agreement”, he said. “I do not know of anything called politically binding agreement.

“If there is anything that you know about politics and political manifestos … is that they’re worth very little. Tell me of any politician who delivered on his political manifesto. Was it Gordon Brown? Was it Kevin Rudd?”

It was an extraordinary attack. The chief representative of a bloc of 132 nations held up Australia as an example of hypocrisy on climate change. In essence, he said Australia was guilty of playing a double-game — of saying one thing but doing another.

In the discreet language of international climate diplomacy, Di Aping’s public rebuke of Rudd was the equivalent of scratching out an opponent’s eyes.

Yet by the next morning the story was dead — pushed aside by policy speech by Rudd to the conservative think-tank, the Lowy Institute.

Suddenly, the big news was not that Australia’s name was mud with most countries in the world for helping to sabotage a strong international climate agreement. Rather, the “news” was what the Australian government said about itself.

“Climate change deniers are small in number, but they are too dangerous to be ignored”, Rudd said.

“And the danger they pose is this — by collapsing political momentum towards national and global action on climate change, they collapse global political will to act at all. They are the stick that gets stuck in the wheel that despite its size may yet bring the train to a complete stop.”

It was left to Crikey.com’s Bernard Keane to respond on November 9: “If the Prime Minister is so angry about the efforts of denialists to derail action on climate change, then here’s a suggestion: stop giving them taxpayers’ money. Government funding flows through a variety of means to some of Australia’s biggest polluters and opponents of an effective emissions trading scheme.”

The federal government currently gives fossil-fuel intensive industries an estimated $9 billion a year in subsidies. Its misnamed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will hand out billions more to the biggest polluters if it passes a November vote in parliament.

More than anything else, Rudd’s speech was designed to prepare the electorate for complete failure at Copenhagen — a failure his government is helping to engineer.

Climate activist Geoff Lazarus pointed out that this is not a new tactic for the Labor government in the November 11 Canberra Times. “For many months, Rudd and Wong have attacked the Coalition parties for not being fair dinkum on climate change.

“While they are absolutely guilty as charged, it’s been a hypocritical political charade more to do with outmaneuvering the Coalition parties with voters as well as placating the mining industry and major industry associations, than meeting the challenge of potentially devastating global warming.”

The tiny Indian Ocean nation of the Maldives is one of the few nations that is taking on this challenge. The Maldives is the lowest-lying nation in the world and is at dire risk from rising sea-levels.

On November 10-11 it hosted the Climate Vulnerable Forum — composed of 11 countries most immediately at risk from dangerous climate change. There, it repeated its pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2020 and urged other nations to follow its example.

In his opening address to the conference, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed attacked the rich countries for steering Copenhagen towards a “global suicide pact” when it must be a “global survival pact”, said Voanews.com.

“At the moment every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible and never to make commitments unless someone else does first”, Nasheed said. “This is the logic of a mad house, a recipe for collective suicide.”

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Entry filed under: ALP, Australia, greenwashing, Kevin Rudd, shit journalism, The Maldives.

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