Labor vs science #Polycrisis #EcologicalCrisis #ClimateCrisis #EconomicCrisis #PoliticalCrisis #IPCCReport #auspol #nswpol #nswelection

Labor vs science


It is demoralising watching Labor reject the findings of the global scientific community.

It has been a typically exasperating Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report day, after the UN body put out another dire warning for the world to act now or suffer irrevocable damage. A Greens motion to acknowledge the IPCC report, which calls for coal to be phased out by 2030, was deferred, with Climate Minister Chris Bowen arguing that MPs could vote for the safeguard reforms if they want to see action. (Never mind that those reforms in no way match what the UN is calling for.) Former Labor leader Bill Shorten told Sky News that the party would not be changing its policy, despite calls to fast-track net zero. “[The IPCC report] says that it is possible to keep global temperatures within an increase of 1.5C,” he said, as he advocated for Labor’s policy, ignoring the fact that the report says we must act much faster to have any hope of achieving that goal. Carbon Market Institute chair Kerry Schott used today’s appearances to call for the Greens to fall into line, misrepresenting their demands, as did independent senator Jacqui Lambie. All this, despite the fact that, as climate consultant Ketan Joshi writes, the IPCC report shows Labor’s approach to be “deadly and reckless”. It prompts the question: does Labor think scientists are only to be listened to when it’s convenient?

After nine years of Coalition government, we are used to watching our leaders respond pathetically to these UN reports. But there is something especially disheartening about watching a Labor government reject the findings of the world’s top climate scientists, in the first of these reports to be released under its watch. The Albanese government is not quite mocking the IPCC, as the Coalition did when it was in office. (Senator Matt Canavan labelled a previous report “fear porn”, while former minister Paul Fletcher referred to the UN secretary-general’s criticism as the “chattering classes of the UN”.) But it’s interesting to recall that when it was in Opposition, Labor was the party moving motions to acknowledge IPCC reports and their findings. The Morrison government knocked them back. How the tables have turned.

It would have been naive to expect the Albanese government to change tack on the safeguard mechanism following this report, especially considering, as Shorten noted today, that it’s not exactly new information. We already knew Labor’s reforms didn’t align with the science, as did Labor. Report after report has shown that the safeguard mechanism won’t do what’s needed, with a new report today showing that the 116 new fossil fuel projects in the pipeline would emit 4.8 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030 – 24 times the total 204 million tonne reduction set out by the safeguard mechanism. Scientists have repeatedly called for an end to new fossil-fuel projects if we are to have any chance at success, while our Pacific island neighbours continually beg us to stop, as they did again yesterday, with Vanuatu’s climate change minister suggesting the nation won’t back Australia’s 2026 COP bid while we continue to open new fossil-fuel projects. But it’s nonetheless galling to watch Labor, a party that supposedly believes in climate science, disregard a dire IPCC report and refuse to let those warnings alter its policy – “giving the United Nations the middle finger,” as Greens leader Adam Bandt put it today.

It’s not as if stronger action doesn’t have the public onside. GetUp polling on the safeguard mechanism found that 80 per cent of Labor voters want it to require corporations to actually cut emissions (rather just “offset” them), while 60 per cent of Australians want the Greens and independents to make sure this happens. New Australia Institute polling has found the majority of voters in metropolitan seats support stopping new coal and gas projects, as the Greens are advocating for. And analysis shows we have enough coal mines to meet demand through to 2040 (although the UN would rather we stopped 10 years sooner than that), so there is no good reason for the government not to at least rule out new coal. The only thing lacking is the political will from Labor, which remains wedded to a policy that business loves, but climate scientists abhor.

It’s not all bad news, however. As UN secretary-general António Guterres tweeted today, alongside his references to Oscars darling Everything Everywhere All at Once, “We have never been better equipped to solve the climate challenge”. And as Nine’s damning analysis notes, “We have everything we need to fix the climate crisis. But we need to do it now.” Indeed, we do have everything required to avert catastrophic warming – everything except, as cartoonist for The Saturday Paper Jon Kudelka observed, “a government with a spine”.

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