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The battle over climate change continues

Written By: - Date published: 3:28 pm, February 11th, 2016 - 20 comments
Categories: australian politics, climate change, Environment, global warming, science, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, us politics, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Earth climate change

Some thought the battle to persuade humanity that climate change was occurring has been won. After COP21 surely there could be no further dispute and we should all knuckle down and prepare to adapt and do our best to minimise the damage being caused by reducing the production of greenhouse gasses.  But a couple of examples from overseas suggests that conservative forces have not given up their fight to trash the planet while at the same time denying that we are facing an immense problem.

The first comes from the United States where the Supreme Court has stopped at least temporarily Barak Obama’s attempt to use executive powers under the Clean Air Act to regulate the production of carbon dioxide.

Obama, handicapped by indifferent and oppositional houses of representatives and senates decided to use his executive power to determine minimum standards for environmental pollution to set national standards addressing carbon pollution from power plants. The Court has not ruled directly that Obama’s actions were unlawful. Instead they have relied on a jurisdictional argument to impose an injunction on the measure until the issue can be fully considered.

From the Guardian:

The supreme court agreed to block Barack Obama’s clean power plan on Tuesday, raising fears that the centrepiece of his climate change plan could be overturned.

The unexpected decision creates instant uncertainty about the future of Obama’s climate plan and the historic global agreement to fight climate change reached in Paris last December.

The White House registered its immediate disapproval, and said in a statement that the administration would continue taking “aggressive steps” to reduce climate pollution. “We disagree with the supreme court’s decision,” the White House said.

But officials told reporters in a conference call that they remained confident this was a “bump in the road”, and that the plan would prevail.

The officials also said Obama had been briefed and would speak on the decisions soon.

The surprising vote by the justices put a temporary freeze on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules cutting carbon emissions from power plants until the Washington DC circuit court of appeals hears challenges from 29, mainly Republican-led states, and dozens of corporations and industry groups. Arguments are scheduled for 2 June.

The 5-4 decision for a stay came as a shock to the EPA and environmental campaign groups, and was widely seen as a sign that opponents of the power-plant rules have made a strong argument against the plan.

The decision is a setback and a sign that the conservative part of American Society will continue to fight for their right to burn coal and ignore the damage it is causing to the environment.  But the set back is not a permanent one.

The second example is from Australia where the Liberal Government has chosen to respond to the international acceptance that climate change is occurring by not researching the subject any more.  I kid you not.

CSIRO has decided to get rid of its climate change scientists.  350 of them.

Suggestions that other Australian institutions could take over the work have been derided and Australia’s Chief Scientist has complained that he did not know about the changes until they were announced.

in Australia the decision has been panned.  For instance John Birmingham in the Brisbane Times got stuck in:

The cuts announced to the CSIRO divisions concerned with studying our oceans and monitoring the climate of Antarctica are not simply damaging.

They will destroy the nation’s ability to critically analyse the deep changes wrenching those environments and climate systems into something new and ultimately threatening.

It would be hyperbole to say the cuts will reduce our climate science to the crude and primitive levels of Lieutenant Dawes tenure at Observatory Hill [during the late 18th century].

But it would not be a stretch to imagine Dawes himself appalled and struck dumb by the shortsightedness, the arrogance and even the wilful stupidity of people who have been gifted so much by the scientists who came before them, only to cast that bounty to the wind with a shrug and a collective, “Meh. Whatevs.”

The reported statement by the CSIRO boss, Larry Marshall, that the science of climate change was settled and that “cuts to Australia’s decades-long monitoring of the changing climate were appropriate” was astounding.

They’ll be roaring with laughter around the board table at Big Oil as they light themselves another fistful of stogies and wonder whether whether they can afford their own cutbacks to all of the pseudoscientific climate change denier foundations and institutes they’ve been funding for years.

The International response has also been scathing.  From the Guardian:

More than 600 climate scientists from around the world have signed a letter to the Australian government protesting against the cuts to climate research at the CSIRO, calling for the lost capabilities to be re-housed elsewhere.

As the letter circulates building signatures, Australian scientists gathering at the country’s largest climate conference in Melbourne made a similar call.

Jean Palutikof, who is director of national climate change adaptation research facility at Griffith University, said the CSIRO strategy of focusing on how Asutralia should adapt to and mitigate climate change, without studying what those changes were, was illogical.

“Headless chickens comes to mind,” said Palutikof, who has worked with the UN on climate change adaptation. “How can you understand what you have to do if you don’t understand what you’re adapting to?”

COP21 may have given the climate change movement some momentum and given the issue some urgency.  But do not underestimate the desire of conservative forces to do whatever they can to prevent urgent action from being taken.

 

20 comments on “The battle over climate change continues”

  1. Bill 1

    Well, since nations are now signing up to the likes of TPP and TTIP, there’s no point in wasting money on any climate science that might have informed government policy or legislation.

    In the new world that’s kinda dawning, corporations will use ISDS to claim huge sums in compensation should any CC related policy or legislation impact on their potential future profits. Many governments will now choose to not even formulate or propose any such policies or legislation. I’m saying that while acknowledging that governments weren’t exactly acting on the information given to them by CC scientists anyway.

    Thing is, now they’re off the hook. Happy days, aye?

    • mickysavage 1.1

      Yep taking climate change out of drafts of the treaty shows the extreme cynicism at play.

      • Bill 1.1.1

        Not to mention that there is no mention of fossil fuels in the Paris doc…

        No mention of dealing with shipping and aviation sectors (emissions equivalent to UK + Germany apparently…and growing)

        No mention of the fact that the entire doc is predicated on tech that doesn’t currently exist.

        No mention that the most popular sequestration technique (biomass) would involve an area up to x3 the size of the Indian subcontinent being planted with various grasses, trees etc and harvested, transported and sunk in geological formations every. single. fucking. year…

        The cynic in me says that our glorious leaders already know they have no plan for saving millions who currently live in huge cities and so are willing to ride out the ride. Possibly easier for them than for some of course 😉

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      The insurance industry’s response will be interesting.

      For example, the Insurer Climate Risk
      Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard (pdf)
      . Quite apart from the reputational damage, Australian businesses can probably look forward to increased premiums in the near future.

      Can anyone say “competitive advantage”?

      Mit der dummheit kämpfen götter selbst vergebens.

  2. B 2

    Again, establishment politics takes the focus away from actual climate change and creates controversy. Lets hope Sanders makes it into office without having a ‘heart attack’ and the rest of the world follows.

    Thanks for the post – meanwhile on stuff, the main story is about a mercedes crashing into a lambo. The insanity is real!

  3. JonL 3

    CSIRO boss, Larry Marshall, who believes in water divining, is a venture capitalist who ran a $100m company into the ground and is now being sued by irate investors, who “said the reaction to his planned cuts to climate science in the organisation is more like religion than science, and compared climate science with the oil lobby in the 1970s.”
    Aaaaaah, but he is a physicist….as if that exonerates all..
    Another plant by the “back to the 19th century” brigade in charge of Australia!
    Jesus wept!

  4. alwyn 4

    I understand you are a lawyer Micky.
    Can you briefly explain what the jurisdictional issue is?
    Is it just that he has to wait until court action is complete or is it that he has no Constitutional right to over-rule the State Governments?
    The latter case would be serious.
    However even if he put in his rules via executive powers couldn’t a new President just scrap them if he was of that mind this time next year?

    • mickysavage 4.1

      I don’t know enough about American law to comment properly Alwyn. The reports suggest that the opponents were saying that Obama exceeded his powers and was acting ultra vires. The law was originally passed to deal with air quality standards and pollution so the use of the law is potentially contentious. There is some more detail at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/10/us/politics/supreme-court-blocks-obama-epa-coal-emissions-regulations.html?_r=0

      • alwyn 4.1.1

        Thank you. It does rather look from that that the Supreme Court may take a States Rights view on whether the Federal Executive can force rules on the States doesn’t it? They will never get anything done if that turns out to be the case.
        As the Times said the Supreme Court doesn’t normally get involved until a case has gone through all the lower levels. Making a ruling now certainly seems to be suggesting what they will do in the future.

        • Macro 4.1.1.1

          At the present time around 56% of Republican Congressmen deny Climate change .These are the people who are holding up any real action by the US on Climate change and ipso facto the whole developed world, because by denying any legislation to take direct action, they also limit the ability of combined Nations coming to any agreement with any meaningful programmes eg COP 21 at Paris.
          Thus Obama has had to try to use the back door – the EPA legislation of the Clean Air Act – passed in the 70’s to combat Acid rain, and emissions from industry to cut Carbon Emissions.
          History – if we get to have any – will judge these imbeciles harshly.

    • Sacha 4.2

      “couldn’t a new President just scrap them if he was of that mind this time next year?”

      They could, I imagine.

  5. bearded git 5

    As I posted yesterday, South African power companies are budgeting to burn 2 billion tons of coal over the next 35 years.

  6. Lloyd 6

    Since New Zealand has been given the finger by the Australian government with respect to shipping back New Zealand Maoris and Polynesians who haven’t spent $6000 to become Australian citizens and have been caught having beers with bikers or jay-walking, there is a wonderful opportunity to increase the 100% green image of New Zealand by offering all these climate scientists a job with a crown institute in godzone.

    Oh damn. FJK is PM. Bugger!

  7. esoteric pineapples 7

    The unpleasant irony is that Australia is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change.

  8. Ad 8

    Used to be that Auckland would get two weeks of humidity, in January.

    Now apparently it’s two months.

  9. William 9

    Closer to home, it’s happening in NZ. From this morning’s Dompost (12/2/16) :

    “Tech staff laid off

    The government has revealed that climate-change research staff lost their jobs during a restructure at crown institute AgResearch late last year. A total of 16 climate-change science staff – including nine scientists and seven technicians – were laid off during a shake-up due to the agency’s funding challenges.”

    I can’t find it online, it’s a short story in the ‘Briefs’ column on page three .

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    How the Overwhelmingly White Donor Class Stops Action on Climate Change

    Although the Paris Climate Deal certainly represents a step forward for the international community, there are still many potential pitfalls to addressing climate change. New data suggest that the overwhelmingly white donor class may be one such obstacle.

    As I say – the rich are the problem and we can no longer afford them.

  11. johnm 11

    We still behave as if Climate Change is controllable; it isn’t. All we can do is prepare and sit back and watch year by year as it progresses. Therefore what the U$ or their vassal state Australia do is like King Canute ordering the tide not to come in.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 11.1

      The amount of extra CO2 we’ll add to the atmosphere is a decision that will directly impact the eventual new equilibrium.

      Canute’s example is apposite, although perhaps not in the way you think.

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