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WAR AGAINST THE HUMAN FUTURE June 13, 2014

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, Humankind/Planet Earth, US Politics.
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This is a provocative suggestion. However, for governments to allow the cutting down forests, the source of oxygen,thus destroying ecosystems we cannot recreate, and particularly refusing to take effective actions on climate change the case is clear.

The rhetoric by the Abbott Government is that coal mining is a job creator, and that it will reduce the deficit. On it’s face it seems reasonable: if budget revenues from coal exports are reduced, the deficit will increase. Not that I know anything about economics, but it might be suggested as typical of short sighted thinking that prevails.

No question, a disaster for coal producers and investors. But who is going to buy the coal, if not China, or if not India? I suppose you would have to make the investment decision over the lenght of the life of coal mines, by which time the effects of climate change, evident now in polar melting, will kick in big time, beginning with the expected enhanced El Nina this year.We are in effect exporting air pollution, and adding to global climate change.

Thus it would make sense to disparage climate science and encourage anti-intellectualism, if only in the latter case to encourage useful idiots who will act against their best interests on the basis of scapegoating or some other well tried mechanism.

Of course, there is a equal need for empathy and to realize where possible insight into our own shortcomings and mistakes. On a large scale there is likely to be a disconnect between responsibility and outcome. One of the virtues of compulsory voting is that it does give rise to remorse. There should not be any discernable difference between personal responsibility and social and political responsibility. That may be more realizable on a local level, but problems, particularly climate change are global.

Paul Krugman writing in The New York Times wonders, why is difficult to deal with the reduction in carbon emissions, the primary cause of climate change? He dismisses the proposition that mechanized long wall coal mining is a primary job creater:

“Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.

“Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost.”

The neoLiberalism of the Abbott Government has been a surprise. I must not have been paying attention. The suggestion may well be that the traditional media failed to perform an essential watchdog function that ensures truth. Now propaganda, rather than critical thinking is dominant, not only is money raising seen as the pre-eminent political purpose, thus the noble purpose of rendering to Caesar, rather that setting forth an honest policy on, for example climate change.

Paul Krugman writes:

The owners of coal mines and coal-fired power plants do have a financial interest in blocking environmental policy, but even there the special interests don’t look all that big. So why is the opposition to climate policy so intense?

Well, think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.

And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.

The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.

So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed.

No everybody is persuaded by the Krugman analysis presents the full story in summary, suggesting that money interests direct interest aggregation. This critique has sources in climate science and economics. I would go further than “pride and wilful ignorance”, governments such as Abbott’s are arguably engaged in criminal negligence. Is there any plausible basis for denial of the scientific conclusion regarding climate change? And if Paul Keating view in relation to carbon pricing, expressed in 2011, was accepted you might add, “economic vandalism”, not to mention short sightedness:

Postscript:

The proposition of criminal negligence is not as fanciful as might have been expected. In the USA, insurances companies are seeking damages against various public authorities for not having taken necessary precautions against severe storms. As yet there have been no successful cases. The public bodies are using public immunity as a defence, successfully deployed in the case of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Should the insurance companies be successful, those cases will doubtless to studied carefully, not least in Australia.

Comments»

1. OzFenric - June 13, 2014

I suspect that there are two elements at play in Tony Abbott’s dismissal of climate change concerns. On the one hand, we have confirmation bias: deniers have made up their minds, long ago, on the basis of economics or nice-sounding cherry-picked data or actual early scientific dissidence. Since then, all evidence to the contrary is dismissed and whatever skerricks of denialist support exist are enthusiastically adopted.
At the same time I think there has to be an element of cognitive dissonance by now. Abbott must be suspecting, deep down, that there might actually be some truth to the scientific consensus, but to admit this is to abandon his government’s view of the prosperous future of Australia. Apart from untrammelled coal mining, the Coalition has no answers for Australia’s decarbonised future, and that’s not something they can countenance. Thus climate change can’t be real, because if it is, it’s deadly for the Coalition’s raison d’etre and its immediate future. They’re committed to the denialist cause and every day that passes seals their own fate to that paradigm more strongly. Is it any wonder they’ll defend it?

wmmbb - June 13, 2014

I think you are right. First there is confirmation bias, and then cognitive dissonance.

I don’t it is especially rare for people, including me, to be wrong. Let’s follow a process by which we can identify where we are wrong with a commitment to truth.

Science is method for doing that. Democratic discussion is supposed to do the same thing. In science informed inferences are made on the basis of previously tested and understood precepts and observations and experiments are used to confirm the supposition, refine it, or disprove it. I would be have to suspect this would be reasonably approach even to complicated, multi-variant dynamic system that is the climate. Similarly, I would not concerned if mistakes were made from time to time.

Still, the history of science is not without those who persisted, were wrong, but still successful. The Michelson-Morley experiment is a case. I suppose human nature. No doubt social pressures come into it.

As for the paradigm change issue. We let technology change our lives and open up new economic possibilities, and close others, and we accept it as scientific progress. Such was steam technology. The conservationist case is the authentic conservative argument.

Thanks heaps for the comment.


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