"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard P. Feynman

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Carbon tax wonder tonic proves tough sell!

Christopher Pearson of the Australian who is a climate realist wonders,in a good article, at the bad political judgement that has put Julia Gillard's Labor government on the skids. Having seen the demise of Kevin Rudd over the Global Warming issue she has elected to risk her future and follow the last bunch of Labor-lemmings over the very same cliff. Poll-wise she is now in a worse position than Rudd was at the time of his political downfall and the same  knives are being re-sharpened.

WHEN historians come to deliver their judgments of the Rudd and Gillard governments, even the most partisan of them will be constrained to acknowledge the series of ironic reversals that brought both leaders undone.
In April last year Julia Gillard and her deputy, Wayne Swan, persuaded Kevin Rudd to abandon his commitment to action on climate change. This year a motley collection of independents and Greens persuaded Gillard to break an election promise and commit her government to introducing a carbon tax and, eventually, an emissions trading scheme.
Insofar as Rudd can be said to be a conviction politician, his rhetoric suggests that he believed in human-induced global warming. I think we can take it as read that Gillard and Swan weren't true believers and their argument to him about the need to stop crusading on the issue was entirely based on considerations of realpolitik.
Admittedly the Climategate emails scandal in November 2009 had begun a rapid erosion of public confidence in the supposedly settled science. However, few observers doubt that had Labor called a double dissolution in February or March, when it was still comfortably ahead in the polls, with Tony Abbott only recently installed in the leadership, Rudd would have won comfortably and would in all probability still be prime minister.
It's a measure of Abbott's political skill that so early in the piece he left Rudd disinclined to contest an election and preferring the politics of drift, apart from the introduction of a mining tax that Swan had persuaded Rudd would be a populist masterstroke. Labor's support in Newspoll at the time registered a corresponding drift, from 43 per cent to 35 per cent.
Rudd's Newspoll ratings had always been inflated by the millennial hopes so widely invested in his leadership. A single decision - relegating climate change to the second-order agenda - cost him the moral legitimacy to govern and, in very short order, his job.
The circumstances in which Gillard succeeded him might well have prompted a more cautious politician to take the time to settle into the role and display the kind of competence in governing that would restore people's confidence in Labor. But Gillard, immune to self-doubt, expected a honeymoon with the electorate and a comfortable win. So she rushed to the polls, forfeited the honeymoon effect and lost her majority.
The arrangement she has cobbled together is precarious enough so that these days you'd expect her to be taking a broad range of advice and developing a deliberate style of government. But if she still goes through the process of consulting widely it's by no means clear that she listens to unwelcome advice.
The uncovenanted breach of faith with the electorate on a carbon tax, bereft of any detail on its costs and consequences, looks like a desperate decision by someone bereft of all conviction. Tuesday's Newspoll suggests that most people no longer give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she has acted in bad faith.

Although I referred earlier to the way historians would view Rudd's and Gillard's leaderships, it may be that the sociological perspectives are more instructive.
For example, I'm expecting the debate over anthropogenic global warming will collapse within the course of the next decade under the weight of its own internal contradictions, to borrow a phrase that so-called scientific Marxism once used in reference to capitalism. It's probable that quite soon the recent mild warming trend will come to be seen as par for the course and in no way a threat to the planet or mankind. The manufacture of statistical artefacts such as the hockey stick, with which a couple of ingenious climatologists hoped to erase from popular and scientific consciousness the whole medieval warm period, will come to be seen for the astonishing confidence tricks they are.
The development of the global warming debate will be analysed primarily in terms of what the sociology of knowledge calls plausibility structures.
What part did the Blair government and its friends at the Royal Society play in turning suspect computer modelling into the state religion throughout so much of the Anglosphere? How did Rajendra Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change get away with so many flawed and incoherent reports? Who were the first reputable scientists to express reservations, who were the late-comers and who can best be described as " still in denial"?
From about 2004 most of the Australian public were prepared to believe in dangerous, man-made global warming and willing for governments to legislate accordingly. Although there were several turning points in the debate, Climategate revealed in detail how small, powerful and manipulative a clique the anthropogenic global warming theory's advocates were.
The private NSW Liberal polling leaked last weekend captured the extent of disenchantment, where more than three-quarters of respondents said they weren't convinced a carbon tax would do anything to help the environment.
Graham Richardson isn't a sociologist but he does have his wits about him.
On Wednesday, after Gillard's ratings and Labor's primary vote plummeted, he told Sky News: "The tragedy is that, spurred on by the press gallery in Canberra, day after day, written in newspapers, everyone came to believe that unless she announced a carbon tax and did it quickly then it would look like she didn't stand for a thing. They were all wrong.
"You have to look where it got her. The worst result in the history of Newspoll."


  1. A sound and balanced analysis of a sad, but stupidly predictable situation brought on by nothing more than a opportunistic grab for power by a power hungry politician who simply could not resist the temptation that fell into her lap.
    She was far too clever for her own good in seeing herself as the one true saviour of her party and the Australian people.
    What else could explain her completely irrational desire to go the polls so hastily to legitimize her inexplicable actions.
    By acting with undue haste, she ended up in bed with the most ridiculous group of bedfellows and now finds herself dancing to the the mixed tune of this amazing mix of political 'Groupies' and 'Swingers'from both 'Camps'.
    I will be glad to witness her inevitable exit to left of stage.

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