Heartbreaking denialism

The majority of Australians support action on climate change. Yesterday, a faction of the Liberal party — a slim majority — asserted that it did not agree with that opinion and will likely today move to block action on climate change. Whether this is temporary or a permanent party position remains to be seen. What is clear is that there are enough on that side of politics that have convinced themselves that they do not believe in human caused global warming that they are willing to stake their own political futures on it.

The rhetoric, at the moment, is that the science is unconvincing to these people. But it is curious to me that there appear to be no such people on the left side of the political spectrum. If the science is uncertain and there is a range of views, why are the scientific and political views so correlated? This isn’t an issue like stem cell research that gets clouded with religious views (for which there is a correlation). This is pure climate science. And to prove this point there are plenty of those on the right side of politics that are convinced by the science.

This points to what is really going on here. The Abbotts, Michins, Joyces, Fieldings and their ilk are not climate change denialists. They are environment haters; pure and simple. I conjecture that even if they were presented with what they would consider 100% proof that global warming is human caused, they would still vote against any form of climate change policy because their fundamental view is that no quarter going to the environment is worth any cent of economic cost. They need to be exposed for what they are and not be allowed to hide behind scientific uncertainty (real or imagined).

A decade ago, a majority of Australians wanted a Republic and in a heart breaking manner, a split Liberal party managed to block that hiding behind concerns as to whether an alternative system would be workable (uncertain political science that is). It is happening again and we need to raise the core of the debate to the surface in order to keep it together.

20 thoughts on “Heartbreaking denialism”

  1. I don’t read economics.com.au to read hyperbolic crap like this Josh. You’ve descended into the Fox News style of argument. Calm the heck down and get back to writing a reasoned argument about why Abbott is wrong and deserves not a single vote, not why he hates life and wants us all dead.

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  2.  
    I heard Wilson Tuckey of all people on the radio.  He didn’t come across as a climate science denier, instead he came across as opposed to big government tax/redistribution and suggested there were plenty of alternative and effective mechanisms.  I was surprised since I had figured he was a Minchinite.
     
    Josh the other thing to remember is that there probably are those on the left uncomfortable with the science and uncomfortable with the policy, but Rudd has an iron grip on party discipline and no one will step out of line.  Various union leaders have made rumblings, but no one from Labor will cross Rudd.

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  3. I second Andrew1’s comments. hiding behind concerns as to whether an alternative system would be workable. This is a particularly risible statement. Such concerns are the essence of conservatism. Tread carefully before making major changes.

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  4. Joshua,

    it seems to me that there are several things going on here.

    The first is that left-wing denialists exist. Martin ferguson is widely believed to be one such. It’s just that they’re a smaller minority on the political left and are under more pressure to keep their traps shut.

    the second is that ignoring science that doesn’t agree with your ideology is hardly unique to the right.

    As for minchin et al, my take is that theyh don’t hate the environment, they hate environmentalists.in their worldview, greenies are commies and anything that comes out of their mouth is automatically bs.

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  5. I think it’s more subtle, in that there isn’t an standard of proof on this issue that they would consider to be 100%.  Even if we were somehow able to transport them 100 years into the future under a “business-as-usual” scenario and show them a significantly warmer world, they always have the <i>deus ex machina</i> explanation available: that such warming was just due to natural random fluctuations.

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  6. I think the issue is pure politics.  Abbott in his opening acceptance remarks just wants a fight to win back Govt.  Turnbull sought to work with Govt on this issue to make the introduction of the scheme less of a shock to the Nation which would give time for the framework of the scheme to become embedded. This would allow time for electricity producers to develop power stations that did not run on coal.  Given time the scheme could be adjusted to increase emission targets.  The Coalition in my view has sought in  the confusion surrounding the complex nature of the settings of the introduction of the scheme an opportunity to run a scare campaign to muster votes.  A bit like the scare campaigns previously waged on asylum seekers.  As a few others have said its going to cost money to introduce renewable sources of energy.  It will cost a lot more to nothing.  The longer we leave it the more it will cost both to the environment and our hip pockets…

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  7. it would be more accurate to say they hate the environment because it would annoy the environmentalist, spite is a powerful emotion, emotionally bankrupt, but powerful

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  8. It’s a matter of how an ETS meshes with prior ideological beliefs. Climate change is a gift for Clive Hamilton types, as it creates an intellectually respectable argument for their anti-materialist views. Taxation and regulation don’t create any ideological problems for other left-wingers; as a class they largely live off it. But for people on the right an ETS runs against their instincts, and that’s why this is where we are seeing most opposition. It’s about hating taxation and regulation, not the environment.

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  9. I agree with Andrew1. Andrew Norton – I agree that it’s more about hating taxation and regulation than the environment.

    And, Josh, I’m one ‘leftie’ who has actually become more sceptical of climate change over time.  My reason is the statistical regress fallacy argued by Nassim Taleb. 
    I personally believe there are plenty of other pressing environmental concerns that we could address now with direct (and certain) benefits to Australians.  

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  10. If the science is uncertain and there is a range of views, why are the scientific and political views so correlated?
    A very interesting concept. I for one believe it is because moral/religious views are wound up in this as much as they are with debates such as stem cells etc (the passion of some of the comments on this thread suggest that is so).

    Although on reflection I think that this comment cannot necessarily be a criticism of the conservatives’ tendency for denying climate science (if it was meant to be). Indeed, “[i]f the science is uncertain and there is a range of views, why are the…” left-wing so certain on the issue?

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  11. I was going to post a comment, but realised it was long enough to be a post on my own blog, so please check it out.
    Oh, and Andrew Norton …. tsk tsk tsk, such sweeping generalisations really are beneath you.

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  12. wow… *unsubscribe*… environment hater? because he doesnt want to ruin our economy by imposing a massive tax and before any of our major trading partners do anything?

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  13. An emissions trading scheme would not ‘ ruin our economy by imposing a massive tax’.  That argument is a nonsense, just as was the argument against a GST.  Moving ‘before any of our major trading partners do anything’ may give us a first-mover advantage, and at least see us lead by example. Suggesting that ‘100% proof  of climate change’ is possible fundamentally misunderstands the scientific method, which seeks to disprove an hypothesis, not to prove it. In the same way, you can’t ‘prove’ evolution 100%. Religious fanatics and climate change denialists argue otherwise because it suits their argument.

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  14. Andrew, you’re right to some extent, but I’d argue that a) the Liberals are very selective in what kind of regulation they oppose, and b) it’s gone well beyond disdain for Hamilton and command-and-control, anti-materialist types like him. The mindset for Minchin and his ilk seems to be that, as you put it, climate science provides a respectable argument for Hamiltonians.  They can’t stand Hamilton.  Therefore, climate science is bunk. Now, as it happens, a Hamiltonian program of self-denial is neither the only, the best, or even a feasible response to the global issues raised by climate change. Even if the developed world went on an anti-materialist kick, the developing world will emit more than enough greenhouse gases to screw the climate. But rather than making that argument, right-wing denialists seem to prefer to flail about arguing science with people who know a metric shedload more about science than they do. Let’s conduct a thought experiment in which Hamilton-style anti-materialism was the only effective course of action against some disastrous outcome.  Minchin and his ilk would sail their ship straight into the iceberg rather than consenting to that.  And that kind of inflexibility of mind, in my view, should disqualify them from elected office.

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  15. First mover advantage in imposing a tax? lol. I like that. Clearly, all non-leftists hate the environment. Further, they sacrifice babies and like to club baby seals. Now excuse me while I go and beat up some ethnic minority.

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  16. This post is Krugmanesque. I have no issue with you expressing your political views, but can I ask that you signal to the readers (in the heading or in a sub-heading) whether your post will be apolitical or political?

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  17. +1 on Andrew1’s comment. This is easily the worst post I’ve read on economics.com.au so far (and I’m not a climate change denialist!). For the sake of your readership, please revert to regular programming.

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