Australia’s Election Shock Shows the Perils of Moralizing Climate Change

Climate-based politics appeal primarily to those insulated from the potential economic consequences of climate policies by their high incomes, and shielded from even seeing those effects by their urbanized lifestyles.

Heading into last Saturday’s election in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was a dead man walking.

Polls showed the left-wing Labor Party pulling away from his conservative Liberal-National Coalition in what newspapers across the globe were calling “The Climate Change Election.” Polls were being thrown around showing that more and more Australians were prioritizing climate action as their top issue, and opposition leader Bill Shorten was being heralded as the next prime minister.

Fast forward 24 hours to Sunday morning: Morrison’s shock re-election has made him a conservative folk-hero, while Shorten has resigned the leadership of Labor in the face of a humiliating defeat.

So, what happened?

For one, it appears that the polls were just plain wrong, with the Australian media noting that polling as a science is struggling to keep up in a world without landlines, and increasingly relying on robocalls rather than live operators.

That said, polling failure only explains why Morrison’s re-election was a shock, not why it happened.

Among the big takeaways from these results is the massive swing against Labor in industrial and working-class areas. Australia’s national broadcaster profiled several towns where the bottom fell out of Labor’s vote, and the first two towns listed were (respectively) centers of mining and sugarcane farming. These were places where people actually do the type labor that give the Labor Party its name.

Perhaps even more illustratively, the night’s only real breakthrough for climate activists was the defeat of conservative former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his campaign for re-election to Parliament.

Abbott has represented the wealthy suburban-Sydney seat of Warringah since 1994, a seat that has been held continuously by conservatives since the foundation of the Australian Parliament. Yet, Abbott was ousted by a centrist independent Zali Steggall, who ran a campaign on climate change and described her win as a repudiation of Abbott’s conservative stances on climate policy.

So, what makes Warringah different from everywhere else?

Well, one answer might be that Warringah has the single highest median household income of any electorate in Australia. Abbott himself mentioned this in his concession speech, which oddly came on a night when his party won big on the exact issue he lost on.

“It’s clear,” he said, “that in what might be described as ‘working seats,’ we are doing so much better. It’s also clear that in at least some of what might be described as ‘wealthy seats,’ we are doing it tough, and the green left is doing better.”

More importantly, he went on to say that where climate change was a “moral issue, we do it tough. But where it’s an economic issue, we do very, very well.”

The tilt of Australia’s high-income urban areas to the left on climate issues is not new, and not limited to Warringah. The parliamentary seat of Melbourne—which encompasses only Melbourne’s downtown—is also the only seat held by the Green Party. The Greens also poll well in the richer seats immediately bordering Melbourne, and climate plays a role in some of Sydney’s wealthiest electorates.

One post-mortem on the election from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation pointed out the wealth issue thusly:

In [Warringah’s] case and in other inner-city seats, support for climate action looks broadly consistent with a “post-materialist” sensibility. … Here the emphasis on quality of life over immediate economic and physical needs encourages a focus on issues like climate change. But this is a sensibility that speaks to those in higher socio-economic brackets, and principally with higher levels of education.

Put more bluntly, climate-based politics appeal primarily to those insulated from the potential economic consequences of climate policies by their high incomes, and shielded from even seeing those effects by their urbanized lifestyles.

Those not materially blessed enough to live as “post-materialists,” however, still make their decisions based on what it takes to put food on the table, pay the rent, and provide for their families.

This sort of growing rich-poor political divide is not unique to Australia. In Israel, working-class Israelis have solidified behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while wealthy areas swing strongly against him.

In the United States, Donald Trump won states like Michigan and Wisconsin while some of Brooklyn’s trendiest neighborhoods elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the House.

It’s not just that the working class is drifting right. The upper classes, especially in gentrifying inner cities, are gravitating hard to a left that is increasingly focused on perceived moral issues and less interested in bread-and-butter economics.

However, there is one key difference that makes Australia unique. Perhaps more than any other nation, Australia has seen climate change loom over its politics for over a decade.

Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made it the signature issue of his premiership from 2007-2010, with at least one costly program literally going up in flames. Rudd’s plan to re-insulate Australian homes for energy efficiency failed to account for the flammability of the new insulation and led to the deaths of four workers.

In 2009, Rudd’s cap-and-trade proposal caused a massive split in the Liberal Party when then-party leader Malcolm Turnbull tried to force the party to support Rudd on the issue—leading the party’s legislators to remove him and replace him with anti-cap-and-trade leader Tony Abbott.

Australia has been through “climate change elections” before, and experimented with environmental policy as much as any nation on Earth. The results illustrate what happens when politics becomes centered on creating a “better world” by making life harder in the real world.

Such ideas may gain traction among those who know they can afford to weather the storm, and the rich can condemn the poor for their “materialism” in rejecting the new order, but working people (rightly) prioritize feeding their children as a higher moral goal.

Given that Australia’s ever-shifting politics has sometimes drawn comparisons to “Game of Thrones,” perhaps it’s worth noting that Australian Labor and Daenerys Targaryen learned the same lesson in their big finales this weekend: No matter how lofty your aims, there’s little morality in burning the world down in the name of building a better one.

Commentary by Adam Brickley.
Originally published at The Daily Signal.
https://www.dailysignal.com/2019/05/22/australias-election-shock-shows-the-perils-of-moralizing-climate-change/

I Told You So: US withdrawal from Paris climate scheme unlikely to impact emissions

LONDON (Reuters) – The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate pact is unlikely to have a direct impact on the expected decline in global carbon emissions, BP’s chief economist said on Tuesday.

“Nearly all the improvement in (carbon reduction) comes from the developing world, it isn’t coming from OECD or America,” Spencer Dale said during a presentation of BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy.

The reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in recent years has been a result of cheaper natural gas pushing out more polluting coal rather than regulations, he said.

 

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by David Clarke)

 

‘President Trump believes the climate is changing’: Ambassador Haley

Contact the White House!  Tell President Trump to DROP his belief in liberal hoaxes! – Donald Ferguson

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump “believes the climate is changing,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Saturday after Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate accord sparked dismay across the world.

“President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation,” Haley said during an excerpt of a CNN interview released on Saturday. The interview will be broadcast on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Trump “knows that it’s changing and that the U.S. has to be responsible for it and that’s what we’re going to do,” Haley said.

On Thursday, Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate change pact, tapping into his “America First” campaign theme. He said participating in the pact would undermine the U.S. economy, wipe out jobs, weaken national sovereignty and put his country at a permanent disadvantage.

“Just because the U.S. got out of a club doesn’t mean we aren’t going to care about the environment,” Haley said.

Later on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said that remaining in the accord would have proved costly to U.S. economic growth and to the working-class Americans at the core of Trump’s political base.

“By withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump chose to put the forgotten men and women of America first. And he always will,” Pence told a political rally in Iowa.

On Friday, nobody at the White House was able to say whether Trump believed in climate change. In recent years, he has expressed skepticism about whether climate change is real, sometimes calling it a hoax. But since becoming president, he has not offered an opinion.

The decision to take the United States out of the pact prompted a negative reaction around the world, and world leaders redoubled their commitment to an accord agreed to by every country on the planet save Nicaragua and Syria.

China and Europe on Friday pledged to unite to save what German Chancellor Angela Merkel called “our Mother Earth,” standing firmly against Trump’s decision.

The vast majority of scientists believe global warming is mainly the result of human activities, including power generation, transportation, agriculture and industry.

A small group of skeptics, some of them in the White House, believe the Paris pact threatened business.

 

(Reporting by Mike Stone; additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

 

BetterEconomy.org: ‘Paris withdrawal good start, but we want more’

WASHINGTON — Americans for a Better Economy President Donald Ferguson released the following statement Thursday:

We hope today’s announcement is a total and immediate withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement as a participant, funder and signatory. The U.S. must have no involvement whatsoever with this agreement, starting immediately.

Thousands of Americans for a Better Economy supporters signed our petition at BetterEconomy.org demanding total and immediate withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement. We hope today’s announcement by President Trump fulfills that demand made by thousands of voting conservatives.

The U.N.’s own figures show the agreement has virtually no impact on global temperatures.  it would, however, cost 400,000 Americans their jobs and send electric bills skyrocketing by between 13 and 20 percent.

In fact, the existential threat posed by U.N. climate agreements requires even further steps.

Total and immediate withdrawal from the Paris agreement is only the first step.  So long as the U.S. remains in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, these threats to our jobs, our economy and our personal freedoms will always loom over us.

President Trump and the United States Senate must fully withdraw the U.S. from the U.N.F.C.C.

We urge President Trump submit this request for the Senate’s consideration and vote.

-30-

Americans for a Better Economy (http://www.BetterEconomy.org) is the nation’s most effective grassroots opponent of liberal environmentalism. 

Urban ‘heat islands’ seen doubling city costs for climate change

By Alister Doyle

OSLO (Reuters) – Heat trapped by dark-colored roads and buildings will more than double cities’ costs for tackling global warming this century by driving up energy demand to keep citizens cool and by aggravating pollution, scientists said on Monday.

The “urban heat island effect”, under which cities are often several degrees warmer than nearby rural areas, adds to air and water pollution and can make sweltering workers less productive, it said.

“The focus has been so long on global climate change that we forgot about the local effects,” co-author Richard Tol, economics professor at the University of Sussex, England, said.

“Ignoring the urban heat island effect leads to a fairly drastic under-estimate of the total impact of climate change,” he said. About 54 percent of the world’s population lives in cities, which cover just one percent of the Earth’s surface.

Overall, costs for cities to limit climate change including the local heat impacts could be 2.6 times higher than without the urban heat island effect, the survey in the Nature Climate Change journal said.

For the worst-off city, accumulated losses could be up to 10.9 percent of a city’s gross domestic product by 2100, they wrote of the survey of 1,962 cities including Tokyo, New York, Beijing, Lagos, Sao Paulo, London and Moscow.

The study did not try to identify cities most at risk but lead author Francisco Estrada of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, told Reuters they were likely to be “close to the tropics and with the large populations”.

Some past studies have said cities in colder climates, such as Stockholm or Anchorage, could have net benefits from warming because of lower winter heating bills. But Estrada said such effects were likely to be short-lived as temperatures climb.

The report said that cities, which often set more ambitious goals for themselves than governments to tackle climate change, could limit much of the damage themselves with measures such as lighter-coloured asphalt or more trees.

New York, for instance, has a “cool roofs” plan to coat rooftops with a white reflective surface. It says black rooftops can reach temperatures of up to 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88° Celsius) on days when air temperatures are 100F (38C).

The new study estimated that changing a fifth of a city’s roofs and half the pavements to cooler versions would make economic sense and reduce city air temperatures by 1.4F (0.8C).

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

Two more GOP governors push Trump to stay in UN climate scheme

Click here to sign our petition to remind Trump to keep his promise!  Get us OUT of the UN climate scheme! — ABE

By Emily Flitter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two Republican governors urged U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday to ensure the United States does not withdraw from a pact that requires countries around the world to lower greenhouse gas emissions in a bid to slow global warming.

Vermont Governor Philip Scott and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said a U.S. government decision to remain in the Paris climate accord would demonstrate the “leadership” necessary to help states reduce their carbon emissions.

Nearly 200 countries have signed the 2015 agreement.

“There are shared costs that need to be addressed to cut carbon pollution,” the governors wrote in a letter to Perry, a Republican former governor of Texas. “It also allows us to maintain our global economic leadership.”

An Energy Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump suggested during last year’s election campaign that he would pull the United States out of the Paris accord. At least two meetings in which Perry and other officials were to discuss the matter this year have been canceled.

Last week, the White House said Trump would announce a decision after he returns from the May 26-27 Group of Seven summit in Italy.

Several officials close to Trump, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, have pushed for a U.S. withdrawal from the accord. Perry told a conference in New York last month that he thought the United States should “renegotiate” the agreement.

More than a dozen governors and just as many state attorneys general have urged Trump not to pull out of the agreement, as have European officials.

(Reporting by Emily Flitter; Editing by Paul Simao)

Bishop and Labrador Express Concerns Over Obama-Era Climate Change Programs at Interior

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-ID) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing concerns and requesting information on two climate change adaptation programs established within the Department of the Interior during the Obama administration.

The Climate Science Centers (CSCs), which are led by the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), which are principally managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have both been identified as having insufficient internal controls, lacking transparency and potentially funding duplicative research.   

“Despite a significant federal investment of at least $149 million,  their effectiveness, management, and levels of oversight remain serious concerns to the Committee. Since their inception, the CSCs and LCCs have lacked necessary internal controls, failed to develop effective communication policies, and have put taxpayer dollars at risk by acting in contravention of guidelines issued by Interior and the Office of Management and Budget,” the letter states.  

“Most recently OIG issued a program evaluation in which it found that taxpayer dollars are further imperiled due to the fact that the ‘CSCs and LCCs had no formal process to coordinate the prevention of duplication in research grants…’ In its review, OIG found that the CSCs and LCCs lacked a written policy for coordination, and that the LCCs failed to adequately keep track of their projects in a centralized database that could be utilized and accessed program-wide.”