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Climate Change – Left or Right, who is right?

The Beagle Editor, Climate Change – Left or Right, who is right?

I think most people have a view on climate change. Some believe it can be simply explained as a predictable cyclical phenonomen, others are of the view that human activity has dangerously accelerated the rate of this change, while still others aggressively challenge the climate change evidence. Very few of us fully understand the complexity of climate science, but social media discussion (more like argument) points to already formed and committed views unlikely to be altered by any counter argument.

What interests me is that opposing views seem to be lining up according to political allegiance. I’m not sure what politics has to do with the condition of our planet, but conservative or right-wing leaning social media contributors are sceptical that human activities are causing global warming (or that warming is occurring at all) while those who lean to the left strongly support the established scientific view regarding climate change.

A CSIRO poll found that 82% of Australian Green voters and 63% of Labor voters believe human activity is to blame for global warming, while 59% of Conservative voters think it is all part of nature going about its business.

In Canada, 80% of Liberal and New Democrats believe that climate change is fact. Only 35% of Conservatives agree. Over the border in the United States, 92% of Democrats believe in climate change compared to just 52% of Republicans.

So, voters appear motivated by the political party they most sympathise with, and further persuaded by the news and commentary outlets that are aligned to that party.

But why are the political parties lining up their policies seemingly exclusively on either side of the debate? Why do the Labor and Green politicians agree so strongly with the climate change science while Conservative politicians express scepticism to much of this widely accepted science? 

It wasn’t always so. Way back in 1990, Maggie Thatcher took the threat of increasing greenhouse emissions seriously and committed her country to reversing this rising trend. Andrew Peacock as Opposition Leader and his Liberal Party promised to cut emissions by 20%. His replacement, John Hewson, followed suit. Liberal leaders John Howard, Brenden Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull and even Tony Abbott supported an Emissions Trading Scheme. In 2019 it would be difficult to corner one Coalition politician with a kind word to say in support of a climate emergency policy.

Governments listen to the most persuasive and most generous of lobbyists. None are more persuasive or generous than the fossil fuel industry.

A recent post on the Batemans Bay Notice Board Facebook page directed me to an interesting article on the respected Smithsonian Institute website. The article suggested that the recent powerful groundswell against what had previously been accepted as unchallengeable climate science can be explained by simply following the money trail. There exists a shadowy well-funded, well-orchestrated climate change denial movement. The article’s author, Colin Schultz, has identified the source of these funds, and the motivation of the climate change countermovement, in a long list drawn from official records. Over a billion dollars a year has been made available to 90-odd world-wide think tanks and climate change denial advocates to reverse institutional and public thinking in a similar manner followed by the tobacco industry decades before.

The main backers, according to Schultz, are associated with the fossil fuel industry and include the Koch brothers (Koch Industries), long-term climate change denialists and oil multi billionaires. David Koch while he was alive established, funded and guided the activities of the Americans for Prosperity network whose objective was to disrupt most major American pro climate change rallies.

Here in Australia, the debate is likely to follow, as it often does, American trends where the central issue gets buried in the noisy but effective rhetoric of the self-interested, the uninformed and the ambitious.

I hope we are better than that.

Kim Odgers

October 2019

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