Last year Guy Pearse, adopting the pose of a Liberal dissident, authored a 417-page conspiracy theory called High and Dry. The book argued that John Howard’s climate change stance was the result of the fossil fuel lobby and ‘neo-liberal’ think-tanks. Pearse’s imagination was running so wild on the CIS’s role that I was incorporated into the conspiracy, despite my silence on the issue.
I’m now wondering who will feature in the Labor version of High and Dry. Yesterday in Crikey (here for subscribers) Pearse said:
Kevin Rudd may not look like he’s following John Howard on climate change, but he may well be. The strategy and rhetoric are more polished, but the confusion between polluter interests and the national interest seems much the same.
While the CIS isn’t featuring in this version of the story (though perhaps when Rudd turned up a the CIS to give a speech attacking our beliefs it was really just a cover, and we control him too), the argument that this is about polluter lobby groups is still there.
I’ve little doubt that the fossil fuel lobby told Howard what he wanted to hear. But like most conspiracy theories, Pearse’s argument misses a far more obvious explanation – that taking action on climate change threatens thousands of jobs and the living standards of every voter in the country.
No democratically elected leader is going to impose such costs on his electors unless he is absolutely convinced that it is essential. And as many people have pointed out, climate change is particularly tricky because even if Australia shut down tomorrow the effect of global emissions would be small. The main reason for Australia acting is to encourage other countries to act as well; the sacrifices of Australians won’t actually do much to solve the problem.
For all his genuine commitment to reducing emissions, Rudd is as aware of all this as Howard, and is not moving as far or as fast as the climate change true believers would like. You don’t need any conspiracy theory to explain democratic politics.