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Climate denial in America and Australia

The Madhouse Effect: this is how climate denial in Australia and the US compares, The Conversation August 14, 2017 Michael Mann is well known for his classic “hockey stick” work on global warming, for the attacks he has long endured from climate denialists, and for the good fight of communicating the environmental and political realities of climate change.

Mann’s work, including his recent book The Madhouse Effect, has helped me, as a dual US-Australian citizen, think about the similarities and differences between the US and Australia as we respond to what has been called the climate change denial machine.

In both countries, the denialists and distortionists have undermined public knowledge, public policy, new economic development opportunities, and the very value of the environment. Climate policy is being built upon alternative facts, fake news, outright lies, PR spin and industry-written talking points.

From the carbon industry capture of the two major parties, to the Abbott-Turnbull government parroting industry talking points, to coal industry lobbyists as government energy advisers, to the outright idiotic conspiracy pronouncements of senators funded and advised by the US- based denial machine, the Madhouse Effect is in full force in Australia.

How we can expose and counter this denialist machine? To partly lay out the task, I will discuss three points of contrast between the US and Australia.

Political culture

There is a key difference between the two countries’ political cultures. As much as the denialists have determined Australian energy and climate policy, they have not been as successful, yet, at undermining deep-seeded respect in Australian culture for the common good, for science, for expertise and knowledge…….

Last year, when the government fired climate scientists at CSIRO, there was another huge public backlash. The government had to step back a bit, both on the actual science to be done and the radical agenda change away from science for the public good.

And again, when the government wanted to support the dubious work of Bjorn Lomborg, that caused an outcry from both the university sector and the public. Even though the government wound up paying more than A$600,000 on what The Australian called his “vanity book project”, they couldn’t import him and plant him at any Australian university.

As Mann says, the main issue in implementing good, sound climate policy is no longer simply the science. The main issue is the cultural understanding of, and respect for the role of science in informing political decisions.

That’s not to say there are no attacks on science – clearly, these continue (such as the recent challenges to normal Bureau of Meteorology practices). But, overall, climate denialists and their enablers are outnumbered outliers in Australia, rather the norm.

The power of the carbon industry

My second point of comparison is not quite as positive.

The problem in Australia is less a culture turning against the Enlightenment, and more the direct political power and influence of the carbon industry. ……

even here I think there is some hope. We have seen, over the last few years, an incredible coalition grow – one focused on the end of carbon mining, on protecting communities, on creating real jobs, and on supporting renewables.

Once-unthinkable coalitions of farmers and Aboriginal communities are fighting new mines, new attacks on sacred and fertile land and water.

We have intensive household investment in rooftop solar – and as the feed-in tariffs are undermined, those folks will increasingly invest in battery storage. And we’re finally seeing states move in this direction, with increasing development of utility-scale renewable and storage projects. As hard as the federal government and its allies resist, renewables are growing and the public supports this – even conservative voters. https://theconversation.com/the-madhouse-effect-this-is-how-climate-denial-in-australia-and-the-us-compares-81822

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August 16, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, USA

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