Category Archives: Carbon tax

Queensland beautiful one day, coal free the next: QLD conservatives against CTAX hike coal mining royalties putting “billions” of projects at risk

From today’s Australian Financial Review: beautiful, just beautiful. :

Coalminers threaten Queensland shutdowns

BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other miners are reconsidering their plans in Australia’s biggest coal-producing state after the new conservative Queensland government hiked the coal royalty rate to help drive a record $6.3 billion budget deficit back to surplus.

Premier Campbell Newman’s first budget on Tuesday predicted a bullish rebound in global coal prices and a surge in the state’s biggest export as it sought to raise $1.6 billion over four years by increasing the coal royalty from 10 per cent to 12.5 per cent for coal prices above $100 a tonne and to 15 per cent for coal prices above $150a tonne.

But angry mining companies said the move, predicted in The Australian Financial Review, would lead to more job losses, mine closures and project cancellations.

Mining entrepreneur Clive Palmer, who is one of the LNP’s biggest donors, said the royalty decision would cost thousands of jobs and “kill” the state’s economy.

“Increased mining royalties on top of widespread sackings is hardly a recipe for growth in this state,” he said. “It is a recipe for disaster putting us on an uneven footing with the rest of the world.”

Recall the Campbell Newman, the Liberal-National Party Premier investigated the possibility of joining a High Court Challenge (The Australian, May 8 2012) to the Gillard Governments “carbon tax” but then decided it would most likely fail:

A HIGH Court challenge against the carbon tax will fail and Queensland won’t be part of it, Premier Campbell Newman says.

Mr Newman says he’s received legal advice not to join any challenge to the federal government’s tax on big polluters.

“We’re not going to waste taxpayers’ money given it indicates that, sadly, the federal drafters of this have done a good job of making it very bullet-proof,” Mr Newman told 2GB radio.

“I’ve also talked to at least one other state leader about this, and they’ve had similar advice so we’re not going to waste the taxpayers’ money.

“But I wish I could.”

He described the carbon tax as “economic madness”, saying he would have joined the legal action “if it had been 50/50”.

He said the tax would compromise Queensland’s ability to process resources locally.

“That’ll all happen overseas.”

Ahhhhh Queensland, beautiful one day: coal free the next… how’s the economic madness going Campbell?

Now if I may…

Recall, some time ago I said climate sceptics and conservatives were due for a lesson in realpolitk:

The “tax” may be tweaked or rebranded by successive governments, but its here to stay.

The coming disappointments

The denial movement is about to receive some harsh lessons in realpolitk as they grapple with two major disappointments.

The first disappointment: business opposition to the carbon tax will melt away within six months as it did in New Zealand and Europe (see above). They will lose allies and supporters (except for some very loud and eccentric billionaires).

The second disappointment: the tax is here to stay, regardless of who is in power.

Now this is where Australian politics is set to get messy.

As I said: a tax on fossil fuel industires is here to stay.

Inadvertantly, the Queensland LNP is helping the environment.

I wonder what Jo Nova, Alan Jones and the Galileo Movement will make of the Newman’s actions?

Can we expect rallies across the country?

Thundering opinion pieces from Andrew Bolt?

No?

I can hear Tony Abbott in Canberra right now….

“Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewman!”

I am all kinds of amused

79% of Australians believe “carbon tax” has had no or little impact

Latest polling below*. I’m also going to quote Greg Megalogenis from The Australian:

TONY Abbott appreciates the unpopularity of taxes. But he has yet to demonstrate a clear understanding of how taxes work in practice, let alone the difference between good and bad ones. 

Drill down to the essence of his opposition to the carbon and mining taxes and you’ll find a very uneconomic way of looking at the budget. 

These taxes hurt investment, the Opposition Leader told ABC1’s 7.30 program this week. “You’re not seriously telling me, Leigh, that the mining tax and the carbon tax have made Australia an easier place to invest in,” he said, in mock horror that anyone would dare suggest otherwise.

OK, here’s goes. 

Ignore Abbott’s attempt to score a cheap point off BHP Billiton’s decision to shelve the Olympic Dam project – even though Labor’s tax policy had nothing do with it – and focus on the governing principle here. If taxes are bad for investment, is Abbott saying tax breaks are good? Australian and foreign-owned companies have never needed an excuse in the past to demand a handout. Abbott is writing their special-pleading script without realising it.

*Note, polling is specific to Queensland which should have been made more explicit – Mike @ WtD

Source: Herald Sun

New World Order anyone? The video in which David Evans claims a world government “may” be coming…

The debate over the carbon tax has generated a great deal of controversy in Australia, and during 2011 this included a series of protests and rallies around Australia (including the notorious rally in Canberra). What was notable about these protests was some of the strange claims made by speakers and those attending.

In support of the argument that Dr David Evans is a conspiracy theorist I would ask people to view the following video. On March 23 2011 at a “anti-Carbon Tax” rally Dr David Evans makes the following claim (see 12.15 in the video): 

“Official climate science, which is funded and directed entirely by government, promotes a theory that is based on a guess about moist air that is now a known falsehood. Governments gleefully accept their advice, because the only way to curb emissions are to impose taxes and extend government control over all energy use. And to curb emissions on a world scale might even lead to world government — how exciting for the political class!

Sure, that has no relation to conspiracy theories at all. 

For years Evans has been publicly stating his belief in a global conspiracy to install a one world government (see Sceptic Conspiracies library here).

Evans statement at this rally is not an isolated incident: as supporting materials show, this is a claim he regularly makes. 

“You’re an absolute disgrace”: Tony Windsor puts Tony Abbott in his place about his fear campaign on that “Great Big Tax”

Tony Windsor the independent member of Parliament puts Tony Abbott in his place in what in a magnificent, plain speaking and direct way. Watch the video in the story

”The Leader of the Opposition knows that very well, because on a number of occasions, he actually begged for the [prime ministerial] job. Begged for the job. You’ve never denied that, Tony, and you won’t.

”He begged for the job, and he made the point, not only to me but to others who were in that negotiating period, that he would do anything to get that job. Anything to get that job.

”You would well remember, and your colleagues should be aware, that the only codicil you put on that was, ‘I will do anything, Tony, to get this job. The only thing I won’t do is sell my arse’.”

You know it, I know… we all know it.

Abbott is an opportunist that would do anything for power.

Tony Abbott, you’re a disgrace.

Make that a bumper sticker.

If Andrew Bolt rejects the Galileo Movement, what about it’s parton Alan Jones?

Can Alan Jones explain the statements by Malcolm Roberts?

Remember the Galileo Movement, the sad collection of cranks and conspiracy theorists?

Well it seems it’s too extreme for Andrew Bolt who has distanced himself from them: 

Malcolm,

Your conspiracy theory seemed utterly stupid even before I knew which families you meant. Now checking the list of banking families you’ve given me, your theory becomes terribly, shamefully familiar.

Two of the three most prominent and current banking families you’ve mentioned are Jewish, and the third is sometimes falsely assumed to be. Yes, this smacks too much of the Jewish world conspiracy theorising I’ve always loathed.

Again, I insist: remove me from the list of people you claim are prepared to advise you. I’ve never advised you, Malcolm, and would never want to. I am offended to be linked to you.

Andrew Bolt

The question remains: what about the movements patron, Alan Jones?

See Jones speaking for the group in this video.

Here is Jones speaking to Dr. Vincent Gray on his radio show.

Here is Jones speaking to Malcolm Roberts, the man Andrew Bolt just publicly called an anti-Semite.

The movement was also mentioned on Jo Nova’s blog.

We’ve heard a lot about “freedom of the press” lately Mr. Jones, but I think we’d very much like to talk about the responsibility that comes with that.

“Great big tax” scare campaign deflates: 52% Aussies say they are not worse under carbon price

Not a surprise really, latest opinion polls indicate the majority of Australian’s don’t think they are worse off under the carbon price (see below). But Abbott and the denial cheer squad knew this fact:

The latest Nielsen poll has found that the number of people dissatisfied with the carbon tax has fallen significantly since the legislation was introduced on July 1.

The Government has been working to sell the tax to voters while the Opposition has continued its claims the policy will increase cost of living pressures.

The latest Nielsen survey of 1,400 people is the first to be taken since the introduction of the tax.

It found 38 per cent of voters felt they were worse off under the tax, a drop of 13 points since the last poll was taken a month ago.

Fifty-two per cent said it had made no difference – an increase of 15 points.

However only 5 per cent of respondents believed they were better off under the policy.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet says the results show the reality of the tax is setting in.

“Now that the carbon price is in people can test Tony Abbott’s deceit against their actual experience and they are finding that Tony Abbott has been deceitful,” he said.

Locking in the march of folly: of herding, theories about greater fools and Australia’s coal rush (part 2)

March of folly redux

The end of the coal bubble

We are at the top of the peak for fossil fuel extraction and as a source of energy: coal included.

Prices may continue to rise for a decade or more as demand for energy intensifies, but this is nothing more than speculative bubble that will spectacularly collapse.

How do we know this?

Apart from diminishing reserves the mother of all market corrections is coming: the climate is changing faster than anticipated.

Picture the world in but three decades with an additional 2c warming, a future in which the current heat wave devastating North America will be regarded as a mild summer.

In this scenario, coal prices will slam into the reality of climate change experienced by billions and collapse. Coal’s one advantage, the perception it is cheap and plentiful, will be seen more as a curse than a boon.

In this scenario the state of coal reserves will not matter becomes irrelevant. There is little doubt climate change will generate a range of policy initiatives to quickly – desperately – phase out coal and fossil fuel usage.

Countries will abandon coal as part of a massive mobilisation endeavor to mitigate rising temperatures. Treaties will come into place to slow and halt the extraction of coal. Billions of funding will pour into alternative sources of energy.

And if market friendly mechanisms fail to spur countries to switch from coal to renewable sources, we can expect economic sanctions against countries refusing to cease coal production.

In years to come, those soon to be opened coal mines and their supporting infrastructure will be seen as nothing more than monuments to folly.

The greater fool theory at play: coals future is limited, but the rush to exploit goes on

Expanding coal production is like betting your future on the tobacco industry.

Perhaps you might choose to ignore the health risks, the suffering of those with cancer or strain on the public funds for the short term.

But ultimately reality catches up.

The IEA has warned we are “locking in” dangerous climate change by betting on fossil fuels as a future source of energy:

Yet, despite intensifying warnings from scientists over the past two decades, the new infrastructure even now being built is constructed along the same lines as the old, which means that there is a “lock-in” effect – high-carbon infrastructure built today or in the next five years will contribute as much to the stock of emissions in the atmosphere as previous generations.

We seeing is the last throw of the profit-seeking dice: “Hurray! Dig it up before we can’t sell it any more!”

Because for the next 10 years or so there will be enough greater fools willing to dig up coal and sell it. But that too will have to stop. It’s inevitable.

But this will be a problem for the future, and is in no way reflected in next week’s opinion poll or babbling anxieties and concerns of the last market focus group.

So where does this leave us?

Locked into the march of folly.

History is unkind to fools

Our political and business elites have chosen to not only sacrifice their interests, but a liveable climate.

Gillian King at the blog “Thisness of that” writes perceptively about that failure. Inaction is not the fault of scientists – they’ve simply provided information – but with politicians:

What more can climate scientists do and say? They conduct the research and publish the facts. Their institutions have prominent websites about climate change (CSIRO, BOM, PIK, Met Office, NASA, NOAA, and more) and individual scientists have published books, websites and blogs aimed at general audiences…

Let’s stop pretending that political failure to act is the fault of scientists. It’s not. It’s the fault of politicians who choose not to know, choose not to lead, choose not to educate their constituencies. 

As I’ve stated many times, the problem is not that of our leaders are suffering form a case of information deficit.

The most privileged members of our society – politicians, business leaders, sections of the media and yes, even some in academia – have consciously and willingly ignored the issue.

Here’s a fact: they have all the data, projections and information at their fingertips. They have the means to influence the debate and the ability to implement policies that address climate change.

But a choice has been made; to ignore, to obfuscate, to deny and to pass the problem onto future generations.

One only has to look at the antics of the Australian leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott to see the choices our elites our making.

Abbott is currently touring Australia, popping up in supermarkets and fish shops claiming Australia’s very modest attempt at climate change mitigation (the so called carbon tax) will be the ruin of us all and promising to “axe the tax” the moment he gets into office:

 

Is it possible for the “climate change debate” in Australia to become even more insipid?

Here’s a suggestion Mr Abbott: have a look at the 40,000 local temperature records that have been broken in the USA this year. Or perhaps the flooding that has displaced millions in India:

 

That’s what disaster looks like Tony.

Believe me; paying a few extra cents for my groceries seems a good trade off compared to the alternatives.

With that in mind, I cannot but help ask “Have men like Abbott no shame?”

History is unkind to fools, no matter how clever or successful they are in the short term. The passage of time and the unfolding of events will inevitably showcase the failings and poor decision making of elites who have sacrificed not only their interests, but those they claim to lead, in return for short term gains.

Across a broad spectrum of politics, business and the media we already recognise just who the fools are.

Hindsight will merely confirm.

We already know their names.

Locking in the march of folly: of herding, theories about greater fools and Australia’s coal rush (Part 1)

Bubbles past and future

The march of folly never ends

There’s a theory investors refer to called “The Greater Fool” theory.

Simply put, people will hang onto a bad investment in the hope they will sell it to a “greater fool” for profit. Indeed, some use it as a viable investment strategy to maximise short-term profits.

The collapse of the sub-prime market in the US is often cited as a recent example of the Greater Fool Theory in operation. Investment firms realised the entire repackaging of untenable loans into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) was a house of cards bound to fail.

And yet those same firms continued to pump out “financial products” to unwary buyers (usually national, state and local governments) in order to maximise short-term profitability.

We all know how that played out in the end.

Alternatively some academics choose to explain speculative bubbles in terms of sociology and  neuroscience, defining the actions of investors as “herding” behaviour. Rather than making rational decisions individually, investors will simply follow trends:

“Herding can be defined as the phenomenon of individuals deciding to follow others and imitating group behaviours rather than deciding independently and atomistically on the basis of their own, private information.”

Whatever the reasons for the emergence and collapse of speculative bubbles, it’s now widely accepted that markets and individuals are far less “rational” than was supposed.

And what is true in markets, is true for human nature.

Individuals, governments and organisations will often pursue courses of action that compromise their own self-interest.

History bears this out: the march of folly never ends.

Elites will frequently pursue policies contrary to their own self-interest, deluding themselves they “had no choice” or that it “really was in their interest”. Thus some argued – and continue to do so – the invasion of Iraq was in America’s best interest. The Soviet’s invaded Afghanistan believing it was in their national interest to do so.

The Trojans rather liked the look of that marvellous looking wooden horse parked just outside their walls, thinking it would make a splendid addition to their collection of public art. Irony or folly, sometimes there is little difference between the two.

In Australia the march of folly is playing itself out once again.

It is driven by the desire for short-term economic and political gain. In other instances it’s about winning the “culture wars” that have raged between the old left and right since the mid-1980s.

And this new march, both foolish and sadly predictable, is fuelled by coal.

Herd of greater fools: Australia’s coal rush

Currently we are witnessing a spectacular march of folly in recent Australia’s “coal rush”.

It’s all based upon a simple premise: we’ve been digging the stuff out of the ground and flogging it for the last 30 years. Ergo, we’ll keep digging it out and making a profit for years to come.

Thus we are now seeing conservative governments in the states of Victoria and Queensland expanding coal mining in the hope it will prompt economic growth, employment and refill their emptying state coffers.

In Victoria, the increasingly unpopular Premier Ted Bailleu has agreed to expand the mining of brown coal – 40 billion tonnes of the stuff – in the La Trobe valley:

The State Government says talks to export brown coal from the Latrobe Valley have progressed quickly.

Earlier this year, the Government announced it was opening up Victoria’s vast brown coal reserves to export, if a company is able to develop technology to allow it to be dried and transported safely.

The Government says it is already in talks with an international consortia about a project to dry coal for export.

It is estimated the project could create 3,000 jobs during the construction phase, on top of about 300 on-going jobs.

Resources Minister Michael O’Brien says the proposal shows there is significant interest in a potential brown coal export market.

“When we met with a consortia last year to discuss Victoria’s brown coal, the Exergen and Tata groups were very positive about it,” he said.

Martin Ferguson, the Federal Minister Energy and Resources and known climate change sceptic, is cheering it on:

ABC News reports Ferguson backed the plans at an international energy conference in Melbourne this week.

Victoria Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien also supported the plans and said there was a “massive interest” in VIC brown coal.

In Queensland, conservative Premier Campbell Newman is prepared to risk the health of the Great Barrier Reef in a rush to open up mining and ports:

A WORLD Heritage mission wants tough new environmental conditions placed on coal and gas port expansion applications, pending the outcome of a strategic review into the combined threat they pose to the Great Barrier Reef.

Developers could be forced to accept new “precautionary” environmental rules or withdraw their applications and resubmit them when the strategic review has been completed in 18 months.

The co-ordinator of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s marine program, Fanny Douvere, yesterday declared that the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most important environmental assets, was “at a crossroads”.

These governments are simply hoping to emulate their compatriots in Western Australia, where mining has not only been booming, but delivering handsome royalties to government coffers (and wealth for certain mining billionaires).

Nor is it the conservatives alone extolling the wonders of coal.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been touring Queensland in the hops of bolstering support for her flailing government by promising coal with have a long-term future:

Ms Gillard told Fairfax Radio coal jobs would increase under her plan.

“There will be growth in jobs in coal,” she said.

“The demand for coal will continue very strong. In terms of the impact of carbon pricing on coal mining the average impact is $1.40 per tonne.

“This is in the situation where coal prices have more than doubled, so we will see continued growth in coal mining.”

Across the political spectrum, it appears our leaders share the same set of assumptions.

How should we respond to climate change?

Dig up more coal.

How can we prompt alternative sources of energy?

Dig up more coal!

How can governments continue to fund essential services like education, healthcare and police forces?

Why, dig up more coal!

Is it me, or do our leaders seem rather unimaginative?

March of folly redux.

Permit me to mix up metaphors and popular culture: we’ve set sail on a ship of fools, herding us off the map, all the while drawn by the promises of coal.

Locking in the march of folly: the coming of peak coal

According to BP, there are enough global reserves of coal for us to happily burn through for the next 150 years.

And yet even now there are whisperings of peak coal with production peaking coming much sooner than anticipated, perhaps in the next few decades (2025 by some estimates).

Australian reserves at around 75,000 million tonnes are thought to be viable (that is the cost of extraction remains profitable) to about 2050. Indeed, some research suggests peak coal could hit us sooner 

Professor Geoffrey Evans and PhD student Steve Mohr from the University of Newcastle have developed a new mathematical model to predict the future of coal production.

Their research reveals that the world’s coal production could peak between 2010 and 2048, and Australia’s coal production sometime after 2050.

The researchers applied their new model to all coal-producing countries and, unlike previous models, took into account supply and demand influences.

And that:

“We need to start thinking now about the future supply of coal and how best to manage the resource. This is another warning that we cannot wait for coal to peak, we need to act now to plan for the future.”

Thus there can be no greater monument to folly than an open-cut coal mine or breaking ground for a new coal-fired generator.

That we continue to ignore coal’s environmental impact is madness.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warns we are playing a dangerous game, and that we should be alarmed about rising levels of investment for fossil fuelled power stations:

The world is likely to build so many fossil-fuelled power stations, energy-guzzling factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that it will become impossible to hold global warming to safe levels, and the last chance of combating dangerous climate change will be “lost for ever”, according to the most thorough analysis yet of world energy infrastructure.

Anything built from now on that produces carbon will do so for decades, and this “lock-in” effect will be the single factor most likely to produce irreversible climate change, the world’s foremost authority on energy economics has found. If this is not rapidly changed within the next five years, the results are likely to be disastrous.

“The door is closing,” Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said. “I am very worried – if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever.”

Despite these risks of locking in significantly dangerous levels of warming, governments continue to willfully turn a blind eye to the problem.

If I could stop one heart from breaking: carbon tax greeted with gnashing of teeth, claims of witchcraft and blood oaths

 

The face of denial: anti-carbon tax protestor in Sydney (source: The Age)

 

On 1 July Australia saw the “carbon tax” came into effect, and the nation’s response has been telling.

To quote Gandhi:

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

And what hearts we have; what a culture we have made.

In less than 48 hours segments of the Australian media and public have gone into a frenzy of panic, fear mongering and denial:

Piers Ackerman in the Daily Telegraph claims the tax unnecessary because the science of climate chance is undecided:

Despite the bleating of the government’s shills, there is no scientific certainty about the causes of climate change.

The Earth has been much warmer with less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, warmer with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

There is no concrete evidence that carbon dioxide is even a major climate determinant.

The constant claims of settled science have not led to any reassurance in science; they have led to an unprecedented distrust in scientific institutions, spurred largely by the disgraceful practices engaged in by contributors to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

No fact checking – Ackerman trots out a stunning series of falsehoods and lies.

It gets better.

This morning protestors converged on the steps of state Parliament houses in Victoria and New South Wales to protest the tax. Right-wing radio shock-jock Alan Jones made some startlingly claims about climate science:   

About 2000 people marched from Hyde Park to Belmore Park to hear Bronwyn Bishop speak against the government’s Clean Energy Bill, while a much smaller group in Melbourne heard the broadcaster Alan Jones refer to climate change science as ”propaganda”.

”The notion of global warming is a hoax,” Jones told a group of about 150 people on the steps of the Victorian Parliament. ”This is witchcraft. Commonsense will tell you its rubbish; 97 per cent of all carbon dioxide occurs naturally … 3 per cent around the world is created by human beings.”

That’s right; climate change is “witchcraft”. Let’s roll back the Enlightenment and declare anything we don’t like sorcery.  

“Won’t somebody think of the children!”

In addition to protecting the world from witches, tax protestors are deeply concerned about our children:

Ms Bishop and a Liberal MP, Craig Kelly, repeated the opposition’s line that MPs would swear a ”blood oath” to repeal the carbon price legislation immediately after the next federal election, should the Coalition win government.

Mr Kelly also accused the government of using ”fear tactics”.

”The worst thing that they’re doing is that they’re scaring our kids,” he said.

The protests were far smaller than last year’s rallies in support of a carbon price, but there was no shortage of placards.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was depicted as a Soviet army officer and a snake-haired Medusa, while there was also a sprinkling of other banners and signs referring to ”illegals” and ”boat people”.

Obviously the worst thing about climate change is it might scare the kids. And of course, conservative politicians continue to pledge a “blood oath” to repeal the tax.

Whatever the merits (or lack thereof) of the carbon tax, the response of the Australian media and large segments of the public has been telling.

When compared to the vast majority of our fellow human beings on the planet, the average Australian enjoy advantages in education, careers, entertainment, peace and security, access to consumer goods and travel opportunities that make our lifestyle the envy of the world.

And yet as extreme weather events escalate across the globe and temperatures continue to rise most Australians are in a state of panic about having to spend a few extra cents in the dollar after being compensated in billions of tax breaks.

The debate on climate change has revealed the soul of our nation. And now that our national soul has been laid bare, all I can do is but weep.

Stop one heart from breaking

Despite this, I will not dwell in despair.

Why?

I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone.

Across the globe there is a community of activists, bloggers, scientists and citizens concerned about the state of the environment. Millions of equally passionate, committed and concerned individuals who collectively through word of mouth, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, Facebook have a voice.

Thus there is one thing we can do today to counter the fear and panic being spread by conservative politicians and the Murdoch press in Australia: we can tell our fellow Australians “It will be OK”.

We can push back and tell the media and the organised campaign of deceit and denial by saying we will not succumb to fear.

The poet Emily Dickinson wrote about the experience of overcoming grief:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Nothing will have been in vain should you tell one other person that the neither carbon tax or climate change is the end of the world.

Yes – the scale of the present environmental crisis seems daunting and the vested interest groups too powerful.

But to quote Gandhi:

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.

I’ve told you: now go tell someone else.

Rearguard action: confusion and rendering climate change irrelevant is the goal of the “deniers”

Climate Central picks up an interesting infographic that tracks the changing perception of climate change by the general public within the United States:

As they note:

“As far as infographics go, this one appears, at first glance, fairly straightforward and it charts how American opinions of climate change issues have changed in the past decade. The message seems to be that people are losing faith in climate change news. For example, fewer Americans today think climate change is occurring than compared to a few years ago. Another part of the graphic suggests that the majority of Americans don’t think climate change is going to be a serious threat in their lifetime…”

What’s interesting is not the numbers of those denying the science in 2010 – roughly 10% – but the increase in those unsure.

In 2006 close to 65% of the population accepted the science, while <30% were uncertain.

By 2010 the number of those accepting the science had dropped to just over 50% while those unsure had grown to almost 40%.

I’d note that only 10% reject the science.

However the noisy denial machine consisting of think tanks, PR hacks and sceptical journalists is not really interested in that 10%. They just want to weave a cloud of uncertainty in order to stall action on climate change.

They want to grow the ranks of the “unsure”.

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

That’s the business they are in.

They are, as Naomi Oreskes so brilliant called them in her recent book, “the merchants of doubt“.

Because if you don’t think climate is an issue, you sure as hell won’t vote on it.

Doubt and uncertainty: reducing the sense of urgency

The chief strategy of the denial machine is to sow confusion, and in the US it seems they’ve had some success.

The largest polluter on the planet – with the largest per-capita emissions – is dragging it heals on climate change because growing numbers of Americans don’t believe it’s an issue of relevance.

But can we blame the average US citizen?

No: they are the victims of a deliberate campaign of disinformation. The US media has is either complacent or compliant in helping create this confusion.

The steady stream of think tank papers, op-ed pieces, television and radio interviews that denial machine produces or partakes in exist to convey the false idea the science is uncertain. Creating a climate of uncertainty is the goal of the “deniers”.

However, the strategy is far more cynical than one of simply confusing the public.

The intention is to make climate change an issue of little or no importance.

Ironically, while the deniers expend all their energy on denying climate change their goal is to make the public to think as little about it.

A desperate, cynical betrayal of humanity

We’ve seen this before.

When the medical community and governments around the world became alert to the effects of second hand smoke, tobacco companies engaged in a cynical campaign of confusing the public (see the brilliant Tobacco Wars).

The intent was to protect their market and revenue by denying the proven links between smoking and any adverse health effects. As early as the 1950’s, through their own research, the tobacco companies knew smoking posed a risk to an individual health. However, publically they either denied or down played the risks.

It was a cynical campaign that saw millions of preventable deaths for the sake of profit.

Today, history repeats itself as elements of the fossil fuel and energy industry are engaged in a simular campaign.

This desperate rearguard action conducted on their behalf by the denial machine exists to help maximise their profits for as long as possible.

Demand for energy is increasing, and the oil and fossil fuel companies have been experiencing year after year record profits. But it can’t go on. These salad days will come to an end with cap-and-trade, carbon taxes and a switch to renewable sources of energy.

The want to “squeeze” out a few more years of profit.

It is a breathlessly cynical strategy designed to delay action at the expense of every other human being on the planet.

It is nothing less than a monumental crime.

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