Australians have just entrusted power to a party and a Prime Minister pledged to take dramatic action on climate change. And much more: “Australia‘s Labor Party leader, Anthony Albanese, was sworn in as the country’s 31st prime minister on Monday, promising a ‘journey of change’ as he vowed to tackle climate change, rising living costs and inequality.” But talk is cheap. And now they have to deliver on, for instance, a pie in the sky in which Australia is “a renewable energy superpower”. See all you have to do is… um… uh… give more lofty speeches and… and… well, to get a sense of the level of thought involved, Climate Home News chortles that “After nearly a decade of capture by climate deniers and delayers, Australia has a leader promising to get it out of the ‘naughty corner’.”
That brow-raising phrase is his not theirs. In a speech to the National Press Club days before the vote Albanese said “We are in the naughty corner at UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conferences. That’s the truth. We were there (in the naughty corner) under Howard. We’re there now.” And CHN didn’t help with its suggestion of “capture by climate deniers and delayers” because it suggests only malevolent forces are standing in the way of a short stroll to climate utopia.
All you have to do is get into The Lodge, their version of Number 10 Downing or 24 Sussex except not falling down on the PM’s head, chase out all those bad deniers and delayers and go OK, pass me the renewable energy superpower plan. At which point everyone looks at you blankly.
A month ago the New York Times’ “Climate Forward” looked forward to this election, asking “What do you do when your country feels some of the worst calamities of climate change but also enriches itself from the very fossil fuels that are responsible for climate change? Few face that question more acutely than Australians.” So then, these being postmodern times, the Times journalist interviewed another Times journalist who blamed everything including the imminent demise of the Great Barrier Reef on humans although he admitted that some people out back were concerned about inflation. “Polls show that climate is not necessarily the top issue for most voters. But it does seem like a low-level and constant source of anxiety, not just because of all the extreme weather we’ve been having, but also because Australians fear that they are losing out on an economic opportunity.” One politicians and journalists see with exceptional clarity although entrepreneurs are having trouble finding it.
Hence “Many Australians can see that — in a country full of minerals, with some of the best solar and wind potential in the world — not making climate change a priority means risking the loss of good paying jobs to other countries with a clearer plan for the future. Australia is currently the third-largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world, but it can be a renewable energy superpower if it decides to be, and a growing number of Australians seem to recognize that.”
Journalists obsessed with climate also perceive that voters are obsessed with climate even if they’re not: “One of the lessons from Australia, I think, is that climate change can be a very important political issue even if it doesn’t end up at the top of voters’ most urgent concerns. Here, it’s a constant, a low-level hum just below the political shouting.” And while even Albanese was promising to keep mining and exporting coal, “The independents are the big story of this year’s campaign…. They’ve changed the conversation because they are the public face of a grass-roots movement that is trying to pull the country back to the political center and focus on pragmatic solutions to big problems. Chief among them is the problem of climate change.”
So what have these famous independents suggested could actually be done without silly voters grousing about economic collapse or some such minor question? Awkward.
Still, if Albanese and his non-denying non-delayers want advice they could come to Canada which specializes in wheezing out sturdy air castles. As Climate Home News unkindly admits, “Targets are not enough. Justin Trudeau told us in 2015 ‘Canada is back’, only to preside over oil industry expansion and rising emissions.” Even though he gave short shrift to deniers and delayers, as well as skeptics, thinkers, economists, engineers and a bunch of other wicked naysayers.
As the Toronto Sun pointed out editorially, a Guardian feature recently gave the Canadian government some serious knuckle-bone shampoo not only for investing in “carbon bombs” that are “set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown” but because “Only the colonial mindset of political leaders in rich countries can make the brutal calculation that the interest of fossil fuel giants and their billions in profit is more important than the lives of people who are overwhelmingly black, brown and poor.” Oooh. Talk about the naughty corner. But now we’re convening panels to discuss what other panels discussed or something: “Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is set Monday to launch the second and last development phase for the national adaptation strategy that the Liberals promise will be ready by the end of the year.”
Now over to you there in the thoughtless corner.