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Abbott, Trump, Brexit: What happens when the dog actually catches the car

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The dramatic result and the stunning fallout of the Brexit campaign and vote have been truly fascinating. To borrow an old phrase: never have so many false promises made to so many people been retracted so quickly in the face of such an unexpected victory.

Within hours of the vote, the Leave campaign was already admitting that two of their key campaign promises were complete lies.

farage bus

There would be, they admitted, no sudden influx of funds into the National Health Service (see their campaign bus above). There would be, they admitted, no reduction in immigration. There wouldn’t even be bigger quotas for the fishing industry.

Indeed, the whole idea of leaving was immediately downplayed. There would be no rush to sign article 50, which triggers the stopwatch of the UK’s departure.  The Brexiteers even suggested they might be able to retain their trade links if they could close their borders. The EU told them to go jump in the Channel.

The Brexiteers clearly were not anticipating a victory, just as a dog does not usually expect to catch a car it’s chasing. Now we know what happens when the dog does in fact catch the car. It’s not pretty.

Meanwhile, as retractions abounded, the pound collapsed, more than $2 trillion was wiped off the value of international equity markets, Scotland and Northern Ireland talked of secession, prime minister David Cameron quit, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn received so few votes in a no-confidence motion he barely had enough people to fill the shadow ministry.

foyster election

The implications for Australia, as the election looms, lie elsewhere than the obvious thoughts of working visas, trade impacts, and opportunities for local wine makers.

Brexit’s main protagonist is Nigel Farrage – and the man whos star is rising, even after his NHS backflip, is a boastful, far right politician who rails against immigration, dismisses climate change as a pan-European hoax, and doesn’t think we should be closing down coal fired power stations. He opposes wind farms, describing them “ugly, disgusting, ghastly windmills”.

Sound familiar? It should. Because who were the biggest cheerleaders for Brexit in Australia, people who have said pretty much the same thing as Farage on climate, coal and wind energy, and those of a similar mind, and political persuasion: Ruper Murdoch, who declared the result to be wonderful, the right wing think tank Institutional of Public Affairs, Alan Jones, and the bevy of like-minded far right commentators in the Murdoch media, such as Andrew Bolt, Rowan Dean, etc etc.

If Tony Abbott had been off his leash, along with his admirers in the conservative rump of the Coalition government, they would likely have welcomed it too. Indeed, when the Far Right finds its voice again after an eight week election campaign, you can be certain they will promote the same tribal nationalism that underpinned the Abbott era, the Donald Trump ascendancy and the anti-Euro sentiment.

This is particularly true of climate and clean energy policies, which is the major concern of this web-site.

The failure of climate policies – despite increasing evidence and warnings from the science community – to respond to the science has often been attributed to the “tragedy of the commons,” where individuals – be they people, companies or nations – act independently according to their own self-interest, and behave contrary to the common good.

This has now become the defacto policy of the Turnbull government, forced by its right wing to adopt the Abbott-era policies, and steadfastly refusing to take any further action before other countries, despite the fact that all independent analysis shows that Australia trails the world in climate action.

Despite some nay-sers, the UK withdrawal from the EU will not cause the Paris climate agreement to unravel, but it will have an impact. Europe’s own targets will need to be adjusted, as will that of the UK, which was seen in some quarters as one the main “anti-renewable” bastion in Europe.

Indeed, the European power giant Siemens has already suspended all new investment in the UK, and plans to export wind turbines from a new, Euro-financed manufacturing plant in Hull are up in the air.

The city of Hull voted Leave, and in doing so may have killed its major new industry. The absurdly expensive Hinkley C nuclear reactor now appears even less likely to be built because UK’s departure from Euratom will mean it will have no access to its cheap loans.

Australia’s climate policy is headed down the same path. Any push for more ambitious climate targets, any talk of carbon pricing, any suggestion that Australia should reach for higher renewable energy targets, are routinely dismissed as costly and economically destructive.

The Coalition has no renewable energy target beyond 2020, and no defined policy to meet its own modest carbon abatement targets, yet the scare campaign about the costs of emissions reductions and renewables – prosecuted with equal enthusiasm by Turnbull, his environment minister Greg Hunt, and the climate denying opinion writers in the Murdoch media – contrast with actual experience.

Similar claims were made about the Kyoto targets. But a new report, the first detailed analysis of the Kyoto Protocol, shows that the targets were met by all 36 countries at one tenth to one quarter of the price estimated by experts after the agreement was reached in 1997.

“There is often skepticism about the importance of international law, and many critics claim that the Kyoto Protocol failed,” says Professor Michael Grubb, editor-in-chief of the Climate Policy journal and co-founder of research network Climate Strategies.

“The fact that countries have fully complied is highly significant, and it helps to raise expectations for full adherence to the Paris Agreement.”

The Paris agreement was reached because – unlike at Copenhagen in 2009 – it was clear that the falling cost of technologies, particularly wind, solar and storage, would make the task that much easier, and that much cheaper.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in its recent New Energy Outlook, estimated that renewable energy would account for $US7.8 trillion out of the $US11.4 trillion to be invested between now and 2040.

But to reach the 450ppm target, which equates to average 2C warming, another $US5.3 trillion will be needed. This money would not be delivered on the basis of power generation economics and current policies and targets, but would require more ambitious policies set by the world’s major emitting countries.

That, clearly, requires a combined global effort. Equally obviously, that is not what is desired by the far right, be they they from the Abbott camp, the Trumps and the other Republicans, or the Brexiteers, who want coal generation to continue unabated, and for corporations to be unburdened by green or red tape.

And that’s the problem that the rest of the world faces. The dog caught the car in the UK, quite possibly in time for it to be able to stop. That luxury won’t be available to the rest of the world as it deals with more intractable issues such as global warming.  

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  • Tim Forcey

    I have heard it said (repeatedly) that we can’t do anything about climate change because someone’s electricity bill will go up.

    Then again, a friend of mine (in VIC) just rang up her retailer to complain about bad service and was given a 38% discount. I do not know if my friend will reward this retailer – for providing bad service and withholding discounts – by staying with them, or whether she will take action to move to a better supplier.

    Inertia is a strong force…

    • Brian Tehan

      I strongly agree. You shouldn’t reward retailers who’ve been ripping you off with the “lazy tax”. Get a better deal but change retailers. I’m with Powershop for the price but also because of their renewable credentials. My large retailer offered me a much better deal than they’d been charging me but who’s going to stay with the knowledge that they’ve been charging you way too much. They should be forced to send you a list of their deals at regular intervals.

  • Maybe the dog will lick the car clean? Who knows.

    • Richard Mason

      If you think lack of action on decarbonizing is a problem
      Heip community projects encourage your friends and neighbours to fit solar purchase a phev or ev add storage to their solar system
      Make investments in energy efficiency lighting heating and cooling
      Help trim shrubs away from there system work on self help rather than
      Complain about government lack action
      Encourage group self help

      • Jo

        Good on you. However keeping your area in order is not enough. We do need a political solution to take sufficient action on climate change if we want to leave a livable world to our children and future generations.

  • Mark Roest

    There is another way to look at this. Consider that the number of years before an investment in renewable energy and battery storage pays for itself in savings (hence retiring the financing) is continually and rapidly falling, and will continue to do so far beyond current expectations. Whatever time that is, after it is over, that project is supplying nearly free electricity, probably for the next 25 to 40 years. (Even batteries will have longer, and longer, cycle lives year by year.) The money that is freed up is on the order of 10% of GDP, globally! That is trillions of dollars.
    If we plan to control that cash flow so that it underwrites financing both the rest of the conversion from fossil and nuclear power to renewable energy and storage, and the whole range of new technologies and business practices that can take advantage of clean energy, or reduce the amount of energy used, we don’t actually need to use government funds to do it — just public community development banks with the same rights to loan multiples of deposits that the dominant banks have.
    If we run intelligent foreign policies and afford the same kind of support for transforming economies to the developing world, including the Middle East, we can defuse the conflicts that plague the world today. That means we can also drastically reduce our military budgets, and spend the money on cleaning up the messes we have made — and on providing everyone a living wage for 30 hours of work a week, encouraging people to spend another 10 hours or more doing nice things for other people and nature.
    That will make it possible to move to ever-higher levels of automation (which needs only a tiny fraction of available workers to support it) without creating whole destitute (and indentured / enserfed / enslaved) populations.
    It will also make it politically feasible to do away with any current technology which cannot be made environmentally, socially and financially sustainable, for which a replacement is available that is superior, and cost-effective in light of its combination of production & distribution costs, and environmental & social externalities.

    • MaxG

      The problem is: money is shy. If the climate is not positive for investment, it will not happen; this will worsen the outlook further; significant (in this case) government policy needs to change to lure investment. With the clowns in power it ain’t going to happen.

      • Mark Roest

        That’s why God created Impact Investors! And people who sell investments! 🙂

    • RobSa

      Its unlikely that the money saved from lower energy costs will be sitting in a bank account untouched. That money saved will be spent on other goods and services which require energy to be consumed for their production or delivery. even if it was saved in a bank, it would be loaned out to others consuming energy.

      • Mark Roest

        If it is deliberately placed in a Community Development Bank, structured to direct funds to targeted opportunities, a high percentage can be directed to technology-based and needs-based opportunities to disrupt and replace wasteful and / or antisocial businesses.
        A priority use of funds could and would be overhauling energy-wasting sectors, and maximizing the rate of increase of the exponential increase of the speed of the renewable energy and energy storage systems rollout, by investing strategically, as we did in the 6-month redirection of American production capacity at our entry into WWII.
        Check out the GigaFactory’s planned levels of production, and take Musk at his word when he says that to Tesla, factories are products, to be reproduced like the products they make. Once the template is set, multiple teams could fan out over the world, buying land and negotiating permits. (Assuming they can harvest enough of the raw materials they need.)

  • Mark Roest

    If the dog bites a fast-moving tire firmly, it gets either its teeth or its neck broken and torn up.

  • Coley

    The car in question was filled with unelected technocrats who have forced Greece into penury and have allowed and encouraged fences to be built across Eastern Europe.
    But in line with with the main theme of RE, if this vote scuppers Hinckley, than it’s worth the uncertainty.

  • john

    Here is the type of information that is being looked at and believed.
    3.3 Current Trends
    The cooling trend from the millennial peak at 2003 is illustrated in blue in Fig 5. From 2015 on,the decadal cooling trend is obscured by the current El Nino. The El Nino peaked in March 2016. Thereafter during 2017 – 2019 we might reasonably expect a cooling at least as great as that seen during the 1998 El Nino decline in Fig 5 – about 0.9 C
    It is worth noting that the increase in the neutron count in 2007 seen in Fig 8 indicated a possible solar regime change which might produce an unexpectedly sharp decline in RSS temperatures 12 years later – 2019 +/- to levels significantly below the blue trend line in Fig 5.

    As to just how this pans out I would not put money on the conclusions.

    If the real outcomes follow the near term forecasts in para 3.3 above I suggest that the establishment position is untenable past 2020.This is imminent in climate terms. The essential point of this post is that the 2003 peak in Fig 1 marks a millennial peak.

    With this kind of information being lapped up and believed despite the obvious fact 2003 is not the peak situation all i can say is god help you all.

    • Jo

      what are you talking about?
      Or is this just a cut and paste job?

      • nakedChimp

        I searched a bit part of the text via google and landed here:
        http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com.au/
        .. an anthropogenic climate change denier.

        • john

          Correct that is the site.
          That is the kind of stuff that is being lapped up and leads to delusional conclusions as witnessed in England where a period of instability is in place, not exactly very good at all.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Why is that not a surprise?

      • john

        Jo it is the kind of information that is feed to people who have a problem with being told that humanity is causing a problem.
        Yes the quotes are cut and pasted.
        It is extremely difficult to move forward with a western governmental system, which is so polarized on every item of discussion.
        Blind opposition to anything the other mob says is not very fruitful.
        The end result is for instance the wasteful years when the inquiry was held into the REC scheme.
        The result of which was a finding that Renewable Energy has a beneficial outcome, however the loss of confidence resulted it the halt of any development during this period.
        This kind of outcome is not how a mature society should function and the Bretix result underlines what happens where blatant untruth is put up as fact.

        • Dr Norman Page

          Most of the stuff that is fed to the British people re climate is the BBC and Guardian fear mongering and the politically correct leftish British scientific establishment so called consensus. Fig 5 in the link shows the peak in the natural millennial cycle trend at about 2003/4. The trend is currently temporarily hidden by the recent El Nino which has declined rapidily. The forecasts referred to above will soon be tested by new data so their success or failure will be obvious .

          For a simple account see http://climatesense-norpag.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-epistemology-of-climate-forecasting.html

          .

  • MaxG

    As usual: a great article Giles.
    But who is listening? The folks who should, don’t. The folks who must, will not.
    I have the fear that Australia will look much the same after the election; and so does the world: full of stupidity and greed. Mix that with the endless supply of wilful ignorance, and I am afraid to say: common sense, innovation and change are nowhere to be seen.
    Sorry, for my depressing note.

    • nakedChimp

      Yeah.. get out more and read RE less, seems to pull you down.
      Last couple of weeks I usually start browsing RE and CT with the words in my mind like so: “let’s see what bad news we got today for me”.

      • MaxG

        🙂 I am not depressed… I apologised for my potentially-depressing-for-Giles comment. He does the good work and poor crap on it by saying who is listening.

    • Ian

      For a Maverick off grid energy man, you are surprisingly supportive of Elitism and anti democratic sentiment.

      Off course there is inertia towards renewables but change is happening and at an accelerated rate. No one political persuasion can lay claim to the science of climate change, it’s not a leftist thing and it’s not an anti right wing thing or a pro- immigration or a one world policy. Europe does not need a central government or even a loose common market to work out its renewables deployment.

      The people of Australia have one of the highest deployments of home solar in the world, you have to be very pigheaded to think that they did not consider renewables in their election choices.

      If it wasn’t for democracy the powerful pro fossil fuel advocates would have completely suppressed renewables deployment. That’s the whole point about the Coalition government, it was firmly in the pocket of the Elite, Labor has not been immune to this persuasive and pervasive lobbying group, so voters like me say stuff-it a vote for the underdog is a vote against the Elite.

      The whole point of this site, I believe , is to inform and educate people about renewables and the urgency and practicality of their deployment. Why bother unless people’s opinion and vote counts. It’s the Mom’s and Dad’s children who will inherit the Earth not some government Bureaucrat or smart university professor.

      • MaxG

        Thank you for your reply… what puzzled me was the simplistic and furthermore incorrect claim by putting me into an elitist and anti-democratic ‘space. I ‘sit’ quite in the opposite space 🙂
        Your views scratch only the surface, and do not show an understanding of the underlying [root] causes. The world has changed significantly over the last seven decades; and if you have seen posts of mine elsewhere in this forum, you would know my stance on “there is no democracy, it is a plutocracy’; and ‘neoliberalism destroying the very fabric of society’; ‘corporates running the world’, etc.

        I think you misread my post, which is partially my fault, because I was very brief, without explaining the wider reasoning for my post (since I am aware that regulars on this forum understand from where I am coming from.

        The present election result is clear evidence of what I said initially; to translate a German saying: ‘one swallow does not make it summer’ applying it to “having a high penetration rate of solar PV does not make us innovators, or game changers, or environmentalists, etc.

        I also understand the point of this site (and appreciate its existence); unfortunately it is mostly ‘believers’ who read this site, which does not imply its efficacy on a wider audience.

  • Phil Shield

    I think it’s a mistake to see the Brexit as a victory for the far right, even though many of it’s biggest cheerleaders were right wing politicians. Jeremy Corby lost support from his colleagues because he failed to convince enough Labour voters to stay in the EU.
    Large corporations love the EU because it is a one stop shop for their lobbying efforts for favourable treatment and to circumvent democracy.

    • nakedChimp

      Who said the far right in Britain is in cahoots with large corporations?

      They did say the Brexiteers were mostly white, marginalized people..

      That’s the case everywhere – even in Iraq or Syria.
      If people have food, shelter and a positive outlook on life they won’t vote like that or worse.
      It’s just that the current monetary and economic system doesn’t care about that and so we get this outcome.
      All over the world.
      And it’s not going to get better.
      Get used to it.

    • MaxG

      The vote was based on lies! It is a testament to how easily the sheep; ahem, majority is duped based on their wilful ignorance. If people want democracy, they have to participate in it; rather than discussing the footy for hours in a week, if that time would be spent on politics the populace would be far better engaged, educated, and would vote with purpose, rather than ticking boxes, because they have to (or where there is no obligation: simply do not show up to vote.

    • Tom

      Thanks Phil – I think the Brexit is fantastic. I was really hoping a Grexit would happen last year but it didn’t eventuate.

      We elect our decision makers. The decision makers are accountable to us – if they fail us then we vote them out. Fair enough.

      What if the decision makers were not allowed to make the decisions we ask them to make because of treaty obligations and rules made by decision makers not elected by the people? This could be the ECB in Greece’s case, or some trade committee in Brussels in England’s case. This is not democratic at all.

      And if you were a multinational corporation, these binding treaties would be your primary target.

      I hope that the EU, the TPP, and all the other multinational treaties fall apart, and we go back to having 200 bilateral trade agreements with 200 countries. That’s what the DFAT is for.

      It’s a shame that a few racist overtones were used to help gather some of the “Leave” voters.

      • Ian

        I like your thinking Grexit, Brexit hopefully a frogxit and a clogxit. Why does everyone think that democracy is inherently evil and rule by the Elite wise and noble?

  • Miles Harding

    I saw an annotated graph on a financial website that had an arrow, captioned “brexit freakout” pointing to last week’s dip in the FTSE100 as fear overwhelmed greed for a few days. The drop in the pound is actually good for UK manufacturing, something that globalisation had been doing its best to kill.

    In the absence of a monetary union (the UK never took its parachute off when boarding the EU), I see the ultimate outcome of the exit being a virtual non-event, with the most likely effect only to limit the free movement of labor somewhat. (how will the UK cope without Polish electricians and plumbers?) I can’t see trade being impeded, as the EU would also be the loser in any trade war.

    One driver for brexit seems to have been the idea that UK sovereignty was surrendered. Maybe this is the only valid point in the whole ‘exit’ manifesto. The EU was programmed to solve a problem that no longer only existed when it was formed and now does appalling job on today’s problems. This isn’t why the voters voted they way they did.

    I think it’s a very predictable response to a decaying situation – that of blaming the ‘other’.

    I think that Giles is pointing to the fundamental fault in business being conducted for the bottom line, something that results in greed and short termism being rewarded, while ignoring the long term sustainability of the venture.

    It has been refreshing to see that not all business leaders are trapped in a cycle of greed and immorality. Some understand the arc of the future and are willing to do what is necessary to ensure that civilisation has a place in this future.

    The fact that Ian Dunlop, formerly the chair of the Australian Coal Association, but now a member of the Club of Rome, has penned an eminent persons’ open letter urging the Australian government to declare a Climate Emergency and address this grave threat urgently gives me some sense of optimism.

    Link:
    http://climateemergencydeclaration.org/
    Would all please read and help them.

  • Radbug

    The world moves on. It works on a ratchet. To support coal is to support a world seen in the rear view mirror. In a world that works by the survival of the fittest, a nation that does not continually strive to embrace the new will not survive. I like the story of 17th century Spain and 17th century England, and of the tiny, compounded, productivity difference between Spain and England. Despite a civil war, plague and a Great Fire, England, with its 0.25% greater productivity entered the 18th century as G.B., while Spain ended up in the dustbin of history, incidentally, giving rise to the fear amongst English intellectuals of a new Dark Age, giving rise to Gibbon’s “Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire”.

    • neroden

      Productivity was not Spain’s problem. The influx of gold from the New World ruined Spain — essentially they had a problem of *currency appreciation*, where having large quantities of a valuable or “strong” currency destroyed their export industries, while simultaneously causing inflation in their domestic economy.

      Which is an important lesson to remember…

  • Michael G

    What, precisely, was the economic advantage for the UK being in the EU?

    The UK gets back about 50% of the 12 billion pounds it sends to the EU. The bus ad shown simply points that out and implies that the UK could use the other 50% for other purposes such as the NHS. It doesn’t *promise* it will be used for that. That will be up to the UK Parliament – not the EU – which is *really* the point.

    Spain formally announced it would veto any application from Scotland to the EU – doesn’t want Catalonia to get any ideas – so that is going nowhere.

    By political party, this was a Labour majority vote. The limousine-liberal Labour pols will find Corbyn supported by the Labour base.

    The Pound and Euro dropped compared to the dollar. So did the Peso and Yuan. Better to say the US Dollar rose in a flight to safety by currency traders. (Are we concerned that currency traders make money?) Central banks around the world have been going crazy trying to cheapen their money to increase exports and decrease imports. This is great for all economies except Japan and the US where the currency rose.

    After the initial shock, the FTSE 100 is at the highest in 10 months since the devalued pound will stave off a rise in interest rates by the UK central bank and help business.

    The Pound vs Euro has varied from 1.5 to 1.0 over the last 10 years. That 50% swing totally swamps the 2% tariff they will now pay if they get the same deal as the US and China yet business goes on and has gone on. If the UK *doesn’t* get the same deal as China and the US, the WTO will want to know why.

    If you look at N. Ireland’s vote by district, the Catholic rural areas voted to stay, the urban protestant areas voted to leave. Splitting off N. Ireland to Ireland and the UK along those lines would right a great historical wrong and should be applauded regardless of the EU’s existence.