Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Yet another Aussie academic attack on Democracy, Mark Diesendorf, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, UNSW, UNSW Australia has demanded wide ranging social changes, a “wartime response” to the climate emergency, including vesting the government with extraordinary powers in order to overcome resistance from “vested interests”.
…in practice there are several big, non-technical barriers. These include politics dominated by vested interests, culture, and institutions (organisational structures, laws, and regulations).
Vested interests include the fossil fuel industry, electricity sector, aluminium smelting, concrete, steel and motor vehicles. Governments that receive taxation revenue and political donations from vested interests are reluctant to act effectively.
To overcome this barrier, we need strong and growing pressure from the climate action movement.
UNSW PhD candidate Laurence Delina has investigated the rapid, large, socio-economic changes made by several countries just before and during World War 2.
He found that we can learn from wartime experience in changing the labour force and finance.
However, he also pointed out the limitations of the wartime metaphor for rapid climate mitigation:
- Governments may need extraordinary emergency powers to implement rapid mitigation, but these are unlikely to be invoked unless there is support from a large majority of the electorate.
- While such support is almost guaranteed when a country is engaged in a defensive war, it seems unlikely for climate action in countries with powerful vested interests in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Vested interests and genuinely concerned people will exert pressure on governments to direct their policies and resources predominantly towards adaptation measures such as sea walls, and dangerous quick fixes such as geoengineering. While adaptation must not be neglected, mitigation, especially by transforming the energy sector, should be primary.
Unfortunately it’s much easier to make war than to address the global climate crisis rapidly and effectively. Indeed many governments of “democratic” countries, including Australia, make war without parliamentary approval.
The reason it is “difficult” to convince people to support extraordinary incursions of government into everyone’s lives, is nothing bad has happened. Not only has nothing bad happened, greens have a long and growing track record of predicting bad stuff which doesn’t happen.
If I thought there was a climate emergency, I would support extraordinary measures to stabilise the biosphere. But until someone presents more substantial evidence than a bunch of broken models with no predictive skill, I’ll hang on to my democratic right to vote for politicians who ignore radical greens.