It’s about climate change stupid: the Australian election is a major blow to the denial movement

Quite a few commentators have stated what was obvious to voters, but some how eluded the major parties.  

Climate change is a real issue to Australians. In ignoring it both the Liberal and Labor parties got punished at the ballot box.

Tony Abbot thought the old “Stop the boats!” mantra would allow the Liberals to tap into Australia’s perceived xenophobia and win him the election as it did his political mentor John Howard. Labor thought the promise of really fast broad band (compromised by repressive censorship) would appear visionary.

No one talked about the elephant in the room: climate change.

However, in ignoring climate change both parties got a rude shock: a hung parliament and the rise of the Greens.

It would appear the Australian public is more visionary and “big picture” than most of our politicians.

Says Nature:

“Although Australia’s national election has failed to produce a clear winner, the result is pushing climate change up the political agenda once more.

Both the incumbent Labor party and the Liberal–National opposition failed to secure an overall majority after this weekend’s vote. That means that the Australian Greens, who now have a record 11% of the vote and advocate aggressive action on climate change, could become key players. Along with a handful of conservative rural independents, the Greens are being wooed by both major parties to help them form a government.

…The swing towards the Greens represents a direct message from voters to their politicians, says Glenn Albrecht, director of the Institute of Sustainability and Technology Policy at Murdoch University in Perth. “Australians are telling their parties that they take climate change seriously and they take the science seriously.”

  John Hepburn over at Rooted calls it the second climate change election:

“…When Kevin Rudd won the 2007 election in a landslide, it was heralded as the world’s first climate change election. Three years later, having squandered their mandate, the ALP went to Saturday’s election having tried to bury the issue. With little clear difference between the offerings of the two major parties, and neither pushing their climate change credentials as a strong point of difference, it was little wonder that climate change didn’t feature strongly in the media coverage of the election campaign.

But with the results almost in, it is clear that climate change once again played a major role in the election, but in a very different way than 2007.

In 2007, the Greens got 7.8% of the primary vote, a disappointing increase of only 0.6% from the previous election. Public concern over climate change was channelled into a vote for Labor – which was promising strong action and a clear alternative to Coalition inaction. But in 2010, with both major parties failing on the issue, the Greens were the only party promising strong and credible action on climate and their vote jumped 3.6% to 11.4%. Of the 5.4% swing against Labor, nearly 70% of it went to the Greens.

The result is a hung Parliament for the first time since 1940 and the clear emergence of the Greens as a third political force in Australia.

It shows that climate change is an issue that can’t be ignored. It can’t be dismissed with a talk-fest, a grab bag of half baked ideas, or pork barrels. Concern over global warming has entered the bedrock of the Australian body politic and politicians ignore it at their peril.”

George Monbiit sums it up nicely:

It’s not difficult to see why this is a hot issue in Australia. The country has been hammered by drought and bushfires. It also has the highest carbon dioxide emissions per person of any major economy outside the Arabian peninsula. Australians pollute more than Americans, twice as much as people in the UK and four times more than the Chinese. Most Australians want to change this, but the coal industry keeps their politicians on a short leash. Like New Labour over here, Rudd and Gillard’s administration was a government of flinchers. It has been punished for appeasing industrial lobbyists and the rightwing press.

Message to politicians: it’s about climate change stupid.  

While the political parties might think this is a crises most Australians are pretty pleased they’ve delivered such a strong message.

While the political class is absorbed in the drama in Canberra, the sun still shines and we go about our lives. Crisis? What crisis?

We’ve told you want you want.

Now act.

What does it mean for the denial movement? Politicians should stop listening to the denial machine  

The Australian public is very clear on climate change: they accept the science and they want action. They just given both major political parties the equivalent of an electoral backhand.  

“Are you paying attention now?”  

For far too long our politicians have listened to the vested interests and the climate change denial lobby.  

“It will cost too much….”  

“The science isn’t settled…”  

“We have to wait for the US and China to act…”  

This election sends a clear, powerful message: stop listening to the deniers, and act on climate change.  

Otherwise we will vote you out of office.  

It’s that simple.  

As a consquence the election result is bad news for the denial movement.

Politicians will simply look at the numbers and decide there are no votes in climate change denial. After all, the Australian Climate Skeptics Party received a paltry number of votes compared to the Greens.

This election has rendered climate change denial the political movement irrelevant.

At this point it will start degenerating into a niche “culture war” issue, the preserve of cranks and fools.

“Sound and fury, signifying nothing….”

4 thoughts on “It’s about climate change stupid: the Australian election is a major blow to the denial movement

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Plenty have said that it was Rudd’s back down on climate change that led to his demise. No doubt it was tough – the coalition blocked it hard and then with all the Copenhagen/Climategate nonsense, it may have seemed a huge risk to continue to support climate change action (plus the whole mess with the insulation scheme – that caused some dirt). However, I reckon if Rudd had stuck his guns – come down harder on the insulation issue and really pushed education on climate change, promoted early action by private enterprise and demanded this to be the issue of the 2010 election, he’d probably still be in power and have a bigger swing towards labour. It’s a strong, proactive leader that is needed and the public have made that clear.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Agree 100% – Rudd’s undoing was his loss of nerve. Labor’s flinching on the issue and attempt to chase the Lib’s the right was their greatest failure. They deserved the kick in the pants.

  2. […] public appropriate recognition for the general level of critical analysis demonstrated. Mike, in It’s about climate change stupid: the Australian election is a major blow to the denial movement, makes a compelling case about the awareness of climate change within the Australian public. I […]

  3. […] Originally Posted by Cassandra Syndrome Heavy snow still happening in Australia. CBBC – Newsround – Snow causes havoc in Australia Alas, the snow came too late for Australia's Climate Sceptics Party – the only one in the world (besides the US Republicans). The CSP were outvoted by the Greens about 90 to 1. If the election was tomorrow, I suppose they would be screaming from the housetops: "It is snowing in winter!! Therefore, GLOBAL WARMING CAN'T BE HAPPENING!". Some are claiming the Australian Election as the emergence of Climate Change as a "big issue" for voters. Both big parties were punished for not addressing it adequately, and the Greens have emerged as a political force to be reckoned with. It’s about climate change stupid: the Australian election is a major blow to the denial moveme… […]

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