High Stakes Gambling

Feb 14

High Stakes Gambling

Posted by: George Grundy

So, Scotty – hell of a summer eh. You spend the spring happily debating religious discrimination and cutting medical care for refugees, hop on a plane and all hell breaks loose. ‘Events, dear boy’, and they’ve made you look a bit foolish.

Kipling said that you should ‘trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too’. Wise men learn to question their assumptions, so perhaps time will show that you are the one with the wisdom, and climate change will become the Y2K of our generation.

Perhaps you were right to wave a piece of coal in parliament and tell us there’s nothing to be scared of. After all, they say, the climate has always changed. First settlers told of creeks running dry. Coalmines employ people, and we can’t afford to lose jobs. Perhaps it is logical to argue that Australia’s emissions are so small, globally, that no action we take is of any consequence.

Perhaps your colleague Karen Andrews is right to say it’s ‘time…to move on’ from the climate change debate. Maybe ‘hysteria’ is a good description of Australians protesting climate inaction. Perhaps Craig Kelly is correct, and the carbon tax (the only policy in modern Australian history to reduce emissions) was indeed a ‘toxic, poisonous tax’.

And it may just be that the LNP’s gerrymandered climate goal of a 26-28% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 is adequate, even as we open the largest new coalmine in the world.

Just one question, Prime Minister. What if you are wrong?

What if the fires are just as bad next summer. And the one after that. What happens to our already devastated tourism industry if more of our most treasured natural wonders are burned. Who is going to book a summer holiday to Sydney if the city is regularly blanketed in smoke?

What if the loss of 800-million animals is just the start. If the Australian koala becomes an ‘endangered’ animal. If endangered species become extinct.

What if the winter rains again don’t come, the dams don’t fill, the crops again fail and the price of food goes up. Again. What if the creeks remain dry and the Murray-Darling continues to serve up only dead, floating fish. How will you explain allowing a Chinese company to bottle 96-million litres of water each year in an area suffering crippling drought, while country towns are forced to truck in drinking water.

How will this new future of ours impact your dream of unfettered capitalism and infinite growth. Where are we going to make up the estimated $100 billion in recovery costs from this year’s fires alone. What measures do you plan to offset the $700m in insurance claims, the $4.5 billion lost by our tourism industry, or the $1.1 billion lost each year by cropping farms.

And what if 97% of the world’s scientists are right. And Ross Garnaut (in 2008 and 2019). And the CSIRO. And the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. And the Bushfire and National Hazards CRC. And the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (which your government axed). And Tim Flannery, Australia’s leading climate scientist.

And….well, let’s just go with pretty much every organisation that isn’t involved with or lobbying for the resource industry. What if climate change is truly an existential threat to human life, and our Prime Minister – with his degree in economic geography and background in marketing – is dead wrong.

We’re seeing the effect of a 0.8C rise in global temperatures. Climate scientists say anything over two degrees above pre-industrial levels would be catastrophic, yet Australia is failing to take any meaningful action that might help mitigate what is now projected to be an even higher increase in world temperatures.

What place in history, Mr Morrison, do you think you will occupy if climate change truly ravages this dry, barren continent. At the very least your smirking self-assurance is playing a very high stakes game of chicken with our future. Perhaps you are right. But what if you are wrong?

Surely risk mitigation is the responsibility of any competent manager. Surely it is a leader’s job to listen to every voice in our community, and to take actions that represent all Australians, not just one powerful lobby.

This isn’t a normal political issue. Prime Ministers of the past have chosen to subsidise industries in the hope of prosperity to come. Tax and interest rates have been manipulated in order to stimulate (or slow) growth. But climate change isn’t car manufacture. A mistake won’t result in redundancies and re-training. Getting this one wrong condemns our children (and, as is increasingly clear, us) to a future of failed crops, dead rivers, devastating fires, lost homes and industries destroyed.

Complacency in the face of this level of risk would be criminal enough but the Morrison government isn’t standing still, it’s often running in the opposite direction. Faced with warnings of dire fire seasons, the LNP cut budgets for firefighting and rejected calls for more aircraft. The ABC has proved invaluable this fire season, despite it’s slashed budget. Land clearing continues apace. Despite almost unanimous scientific consensus that we have to dump coal, Scott Morrison still plans to open Adani, even though the mine will be almost fully automated and offers few new jobs.

There’s still time for a change of heart, but like the rain it’s in preciously short supply. The fires are still burning, the first summer of this new age still isn’t over. Scott Morrison may be right, but if the Prime Minister is wrong he is putting the immediate future of all Australians in dire jeopardy.

Kipling also said that there ‘is not a single excuse’ for failure. History is unkind to men who got it wrong.