Letting Climate Change Become Partisan Was Australia’s Big Mistake, Veteran Journalist Admits
Self-interested politicians, aided by a complicit media and intermittently abetted by “crony capitalists,” have thoroughly politicized Australia’s response to the climate crisis—to devastating effect, says an op ed in the Sydney Morning Herald.
While Herald economic editor Ross Gittins “readily agree[s] that climate change is the most pressing economic problem we face,” he admits that even he has “yet to remark” on the fact that his country’s recent budget, which is thousands of pages long, is virtually silent on the subject of climate change.
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While grimly honest about his own complicity in this continuing silence, Gittins contends the larger failure has been enabled by a political climate which forbids forthright, non-partisan discussion of the climate crisis.
“The biggest mistake” Australians have made, he writes, has been “to allow our politicians to turn concern about global warming into a party-political issue, and do so merely for their own short-term advantage.”
It hasn’t always been that way. “Global warming used not to be, shouldn’t be, and doesn’t have to stay a right-versus-left issue,” he notes. “In Europe, it’s bipartisan. Margaret Thatcher was a vocal fighter for action on climate change, and the Conservative Party is anti-denial to this day.”
Climate change denial is alive and well in Australia in 2018, however. “Apparently, only socialists think their grandkids will have anything to worry about. The right-thinkers among us know the only bad thing our offspring will inherit is Labour’s debt,” Gittins deadpans.
Such certainty about where probity (financial or otherwise) lies is woefully misplaced, he adds: “Our grandchildren will find it hard to believe we could have been so short-sighted as to delay moving from having to dig our energy out of the ground to merely harnessing the infinite supply of solar and wind power being sent to our planet free of charge.
Part of the blame will be rightfully assigned to a waffling private sector which, initially at least, “savoured the temporary relief of doing nothing” when Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberals “succumbed to the deniers,” Gittins writes. Now that “the electricity and gas industries are in such a mess,” he adds, the private sector—fossils aside—is increasingly “demanding certainty in the inevitable move to renewables.”
But the country’s current governing coalition is “utterly incapable of agreeing to anything” that would provide that kind of assurance.
Even so, “we can’t put all the blame on short-sighted politicians and crony capitalism,” he admits. “If enough of us did more to voice our disapproval, the pollies would change their tune PDQ.”
In that light, Gittins concludes that “history won’t be kind to the present generation—and particularly not to people with a pulpit like mine” who kept silent about the Australian government’s craven myopia. Even now, that government’s “latest, 2015 ’intergenerational report’, peering out to 2055, devotes only a few paragraphs to ‘environment’ and avoids using words starting with c,” he notes.