With the US Presidential election still undeclared and the ALP joining the Liberals in tearing itself apart on climate policies and support for renewables, I had two pieces published today.
The first in the Australian (ungated version here) observed how a Biden victory “will bring increased pressure on us to introduce more regulations, subsidies and other measures to reduce domestic emissions. One upshot, aside from higher household electricity bills, will be closure or contraction of Australian industries previously benefiting from low cost energy. A corollary is lower living standards.”
The second article in The Spectator concluded, “Donald Trump, in renouncing the carbon agenda, was poised to undermine its stranglehold over all economies. If the US now joins the EU in forcing others into a greater carbon abatement, Australia would need to incur even higher costs than the $13 billion a year its current climate-engendered energy policy imposes on the economy. Extracting ourselves from this yoke will be a long haul.”
These developments on climate matters here and more importantly in the US seem to confirm a new variation of the enduring political divide between those seeking central controls over the economy and those favouring individual actions based on pursuit of individual gain and accompanied by firm property rights and small government. The Russian Revolution came to represent one route and the American constitution (based on the ‘no taxation without representation” strictures in magna carta and the Parlement of Paris) the other.
Because claimed climate damage from emissions, though spurious, the emissions themselves are externalities, collateral global damage from the pursuit of individual gain. As with socialism, disproving the damage of emissions themselves and of the measures taken to reduce them takes decades. Human induced global warming claims therefor provides a heaven-sent opportunity for those seeking economic and political controls. Western nations’ educational and media institutions have embedded global warming as a cause for alarm among the young in particular. And overcoming this can be made attractive because it can be aligned with (specious) claims that resolving it may actually advance economic prosperity – as it will for those able to syphon off benefits from others. And visual evidence of people working on erecting wind farms and solar facilities can allow politicians and lobbyists to claim that the support for these facilities creates millions of “well-paying jobs”.
While other issues – fiscal matters, labour laws, immigration, and so on – retain their political importance, the dominant issues now surround climate change. And many government interventions have become re-clothed as measures to combat or adapt to this non-existent issue.
Energy controls (over fossil fuels) are, of course the best known. But we see the same process with agricultural policy: regulations preventing land clearing have been reinvented as measures to prevent emissions; controls over irrigation, formerly based on bogus concerns over salinity, have been redefined as measures to reorientate the activity to the confected new reality of a changed climate and redirecting water to restore a suppose environmental arcadia. We even see the long-standing planning constraints on new housing land releases, formally based on the need to combat “urban sprawl”, now redefined as a policy of adaptations approach to higher temperatures and lower rainfall.
The “watermelons” have been long recognised as a policy pressure that was amplified after the Fall of the Wall. But green ideology has come to dominate the great political divide. And it has brought whole new meanings, excitements and career paths to politicians, bureaucracies and NGOs. It has long created a fragility in the Australian Liberal Party seen on the Abbott/Turnbull schism and it is now causing rifts within Labor. Will we see these result in a formalisation of the existing political alignments?