Greenpeace says that its Newspoll on greenhouse issues shows Kevin Rudd would make himself popular by taking radical steps to reduce Australia’s greenhouse emissions:
[Greenpeace head of campaigns Steve] Campbell said that this week Mr Rudd had the opportunity to show leadership at the Bali climate talks and help gain consensus on the 25-40% range of reductions.
“This poll shows that such a move would be extremely popular with the people of Australia, who delivered Mr Rudd a firm mandate at the last election, and want him to take even stronger action by reducing Australia’s emissions within his first term,” he said.
Actually, the poll (which to Greenpeace’s credit they make available in full) again shows how tricky this issue is for any governmment.
There is the usual overwhelming endorsement of action to reduce greenhouse emissions. It’s when we get to how this is to be done that, also as usual, things start to get complicated.
One question asks:
Do you agree or disagree that government should begin phasing out existing coal-fired power stations and replacing them with renewable energy generation within the next three years?
77% of respondents agreed with that. But of course there are some problems with this idea. The first is that the federal government doesn’t actually own any coal-fired power stations, so they would have the very tricky task of phasing out privately or state-owned generators. That would put some rather large holes in the NSW Labor government’s electricity ‘privatisation’ plans.
The second, even larger, problem is that there aren’t any viable renewable energy sources that would allow a phase-out of coal-fired power stations in three years. At best they can be supplemented with more expensive wind or solar power. As we have seen before, the public is in a delusional state about about our current options, preferring solar power to the price increases that are necessary to both reduce consumption and encourage investment in alternative technologies.
Then there was the question on whether the government should adopt policies to increase coal exports, keep them the same, or decrease them. 10% wanted to increase coal exports, 22% decrease and 51% keep them the same. So seemingly we should reduce our coal consumption, but it is ok if China keeps burning our coal for us.
This is the greenhouse ‘denialist’ problem – not a few conservatives arguing that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy, but a public that accepts the theory but rejects the consequences of their beliefs.
While public views on means and ends are so far apart expect the new government to act very cautiously, for fear that ‘working families’ will take revenge at the ballot box as they find their energy bills skyrocketing, instead of the financial pressure easing as Rudd led them to believe would happen if he won.